As regular readers may be aware, I could have been the current AFC Wimbledon goalkeeper right now if I hadn’t been crippled by an unfortunate childhood condition… a chronic lack of talent. Even now I wonder what could have been as our custodian strides towards the Tempest End, raising a hand to salute the supporters. I would have been a mental goalkeeper – saving penalties one minute and scoring late equalisers in cup games the next, bantering with supporters and fighting in tunnels, always controversial but retaining the support of the fans throughout, as they knew I was one of them.
Yes, it truly is my dream job. Or was, now that I appear to be too old and fat to even contemplate it. I still have bizarre dreams where I find myself on the Kingsmeadow pitch fending off shots left, right and centre, all the while thinking ‘I shouldn’t be here, I’m not good enough, I’m going to get found out in a minute…’ Still, at least I now have the perfect excuse to tell the grandkids one day to explain away why I wasn’t, courtesy of Stuart Cash. In his interview with Cherry Red TV he mentions his father was a goalkeeper but never made it because of ‘poor eyesight’. I wear glasses, plus I imagine they’ll only be little kids so would swallow any crap I feed them, at least until they get old enough to understand what ‘contact lenses’ are.
Never mind, I get the impression that most Dons fans would be horrified if we had a goalkeeper like the one I described myself to be earlier. Especially me. Fortunately, aside from Jack Turner who is just a youth learning his trade despite the apparent interest from Reading, we have two experienced and capable goalkeepers at the club in Andy Little and Jamie Pullen, albeit keepers who are facing very different pre-seasons.
Jamie was in fantastic form towards the end of the season. In fact I’ll go as far as saying, without in any way meaning to criticise Andy, that he was the difference between our winning the title and having to settle for the playoffs. I’m thinking last minute penalty saves at Weston Super Mare for example. I didn’t give Jamie the credit he deserved for that, partly because I was still firing expletives at that hopeless dickwad of a linesman, and partly because I hadn’t got around to creating the blog back in those days (it was the last game before I started The Anonymous Don – it seems so long ago now…).
Plus as you would expect Jamie is extremely chipper right now, a regular interviewee for Our Local Guardian over the last couple of weeks. In particular he has hit back at ‘critics’ who have thrown doubt on his ability to cut it at a higher level… well actually I can only think of one person who has been stupid enough to voice an opinion like this, and that was Paul Parker on Setanta. Which probably goes a long way towards explaining why Setanta are going bust and Parker is heading for the scrapheap. Apart from that I can’t think of any high profile critics, especially anyone knocking Jamie himself.
In absence of any media criticism I wonder whether these critics Jamie refers to are actually his inner demons coming to the surface. Having first team experience at Ipswich at just seventeen meant he has always had expectations surrounding him, which he admits had a negative effect on his early career. This coming season is a chance for him to show not only is he good enough for the Conference, but he deserves a shot back in the League as well.
Andy Little on the other hand, doesn’t even have a deal at the moment. In fact he faces months on the sidelines after ripping his knee ligaments back in February, before he even gets the chance to prove his worth. Twelve months ago Andy found himself starting the season as number one while Jamie recovered from a shoulder injury, with a chance to cement his place in the side and move closer to Anthony Howard’s appearance record in the AFC era.
While first team appearances were shared following Jamie’s return, his injury, at 34 years old, raises questions that his Dons career might be over. A subject the man himself isn’t afraid to ignore. In a recent interview with the SLP, Andy mentioned that the manager may be on the lookout for another keeper over the summer. Whether he moves straight away will probably depend largely on Jack Turner. If Jack performs well in pre-season, the manager may well decide to rely on him as a backup. If he fears Jack won’t be ready he could bring someone in on a short term deal… or if the right man comes along, he could sign someone outright. If this happens Andy will surely have played his last game for Wimbledon, as its unlikely Terry will want four first team keepers taking up the budget.
I would imagine any newcomer will only receive a years contract to prove their worth, a situation Jamie admitted suited him in the following comment –
You cannot afford to sit back. You have to perform week in, week out if you want to earn another deal. Some of the saves and performances I made last season may never have happened had I been on a three or four-year contract and that is the same for the other players.
Which is brutally honest, but confirms the policy we have kept under Eames, and Anderson has worked. Even when we give two year deals its always one year with a further years option, meaning a player has to turn it on all year to earn the possibility of the club picking up the second year option.
As Wimbledon fans we have always had a close relationship with our goalkeepers. Whilst the likes of Beasant and Segers were legends anyway, even the likes of Paul Heald and Kelvin Davis were incredibly popular. During our time as AFC Wimbledon, it took time to find someone who could live up to that reputation. Initially Glyn Shimmel filled those boots, however his departure lead to a number of unsatisfactory candidates until Andy Little’s arrival. Whichever goalkeeper emerges as the man to take us into the Football League, be it Pullen, Little, Turner, or someone else, they can rely on our full support.