Daily Archives: August 5, 2009

A Heartfelt Plea To Everyone Fortunate Enough To Have A Ticket For Saturday… And For The Season Beyond.

Entering this season, one thing I noticed about the poll I ran earlier in the summer (which has now been backed up by a similar measure of fans optimism in the South London Press) was how restrained we are in our hopes for our first Conference campaign. Most people are expecting upper mid-table, perhaps a decent cup run.

The danger is, once the season begins one or two of us get a little overexcited. I mentioned last season on several occasions how braindead and counter-productive vocal criticism of our own team can be. I will probably never understand what goes through the mind these people. After all, they pay money to watch their team, presumably they want the lads to win? They wear replica shirts and buy programmes. All that money is wasted as soon as they open their mouths.

We are watching young players who came to the club for the support a big crowd can offer. Since we started at Kingsmeadow, I have chosen to stand in the John Smith Stand. I started watching the game from beside the pitch back at Plough Lane, and was delighted for the opportunity to stand next to the pitch after years of hell in the Whitehorse Lane End and the Holmesdale Stand at Selhurst Park.

The abuse from the John Smith Stand has grown over the years, until last season when I finally grew fed up with it. Watching the game wasn’t fun at times. In what was a title winning year, I witnessed supporters loudly boo their own players, criticise the manager for picking them/bringing them on/not substituting them. On one occasion after a young player had misplaced a pass, a group of idiots began to chant ‘Off! Off! Off!’ at him.

I’m not a violent person, but that made me feel physically sick. I felt the anger rise in me, I clenched my fists and my teeth very hard and did whatever it took for me not to lose it with them. This wasn’t a one-off either… I felt that several times last season. Let’s remind you once again, this was a title winning season. That’s just not right.

On Saturday a new season begins, with the chance for all of us, as supporters, to turn over a new leaf. For example, I’m going to be more vocal in my support, I’m not going to use my note-taking for match reports as a reason not to sing, or shout encoragement. If you are a supporter who has in the past criticised our players, please, make an effort this season to stop. By being so negative you are doing nothing to help the club you claim to support.

The fast takeup of season tickets this year has led to certain areas becoming season ticket only areas for the entire season, in other words some supporters who previously held season tickets and stood on the Tempest are now overspilling into the John Smiths. More than anyone you are in an ideal position to change the poisonous atmosphere in this part of the stadium.

As newcomers to this area, not only can your positive support dilute the existing troublemakers, your behaviour will spread to more impressionable sections of the fanbase. Remember what I said about the ‘Off! Off! Off!’ brigade? Only a couple of people started that. These people stand close to the home dugout, and are of the opinion that they know better than our manager. I’m not sure how many Conference sides these guys have actually managed, but it must be a few to believe they are more knowledgable than Terry Brown. Sometimes Terry makes decisions that surprises me, but it only serves to trigger curiosity in me, especially when it seems like a bit of a gamble.

If it goes wrong? I may use my blog as a mouthpiece to criticise if required, if I didn’t have the blog I would mention it to friends after the game or post on the guestbook perhaps. There are outlets for criticism, and nobody is asking for freedom of speech to be removed. But loudly criticising during the game? These are grown men, who have presumably been watching football for quite a while now. Have you learnt nothing during this time?

We also have a section of our support (and these people are by no means young supporters) who haven’t been watching Wimbledon for long. They joined up in the Premiership days, or the early years of AFC Wimbledon. I absolutely believe that some people come to games with the impression that its ok to barrack their own players. Perhaps they have seen on the TV, the likes of Alf Garnett (that going back a bit, there are more contemporary examples, but none I can think of right now!) slagging off their own team, perhaps in those ‘football special’ versions of sitcoms or when a character is a football fan. Christ, even our own Alun Armstrong was featured moaning about a 0-3 home defeat to Spurs in a friendly!

This is, and alway will be used for comedic effect, it’s more a reference to a fault in character. Don’t ever believe it should be acceptable, or even normal for you to abuse your own players at a game. The player I mentioned earlier had made a number of mistakes earlier in the game. The first time he misplaced a pass, what do you think will be the most supportive way of helping him recover. Tutting? A long audible groan?

I can absolutely guarantee the player can hear you, if not every word then at least the gist it. These players are professional, they earn good money to play for us, and therefore abuse from opposition supporters slips off like water from a ducks back. However put yourself in their shoes… if you had just misplaced a pass, how are you going to feel if a hundred people shout ‘Awwww, bloody hell!’ or something stronger…

These new young players have talent, that much is for sure, but we are in a division where we will face a strong challenge week in, week out. They will make mistakes. More importantly a couple of them will make mistakes that cost us points. That is an absolute given. But these guys are very young, even the 22/23 year olds have a good four or five years learning left in them.

I got the impression that certain players with us last year had lost the passion for learning the game ahead of time. These are players who perhaps had been there before and thought they could walk through certain games. I guarantee Terry saw this as well, and thats why they aren’t with us this year. Tom Davis and Tony Finn were talented footballers, but Terry knew they weren’t in a position to take their game to another level this year.

The likes of Steven Gregory and Ricky Wellard are already good players. But with our support and their own desire to learn, they could become great players. They really could be the players who help us into the League. But a small part of their development will depend on how much they enjoy playing in front of us, at Kingsmeadow.

You may remember yesterday, I wrote an article about Luton, and how annoying it would be if any of their supporters had managed to get tickets in our section of the ground. Well, it certainly would be, but even if the most vocal of Luton fans gets in and manages to stay in, as far as I’m concerned it would be much better for us for one of them to be there than any of our own who dares criticise a player in a blue shirt. In fact, I’d much rather have an extra ten of them, at least then we could recognise them as the enemy.

Their behaviour is not only shameful but an embarasment to our great club. This abuse is like a cancer to the wonderful support the majority of our supporters give. It may happen at other clubs – but quite frankly what other clubs supporters do doesn’t concern me. It shouldn’t happen here. We are better than that. If you consider yourself a Wimbledon supporter you should be as proud of the team after the most dismal of defeats as you are during the good times. In fact you should be more so. Never forget AFC Wimbledon are a unique club, they are your club in more ways than just simple ownership. We are the club – so lets make sure we show just how special we are.

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A Cursory Glance At Luton Town FC

The idea for the Conference Files was a good one, in theory. I had loads of spare time over the summer, there wasn’t much happening and I wanted to stay in the habit of writing stuff for the blog. To start off with it went pretty well. It kept the number of people viewing the blog at a respectable level, and it won me a lot of new friends in places like Altrincham and Barrow.

Unfortunately, unexpected press speculation (i.e. Plough Lane/Greyhound Stadium) kept me busy in other areas, and then we started getting involved in long running transfer sagas and the like, so before I knew it pre-season had started and I’d only got as far as ‘E’. My only option was to shelve it and hope no-one noticed…

Of course, we now enter the week of the big kick-off and I have barely mentioned our opponents. That’s the way it should be as far as I’m concerned, after all when I first started writing this blog I don’t remember creaming myself with excitement at the prospect of writing extensively about the likes of Eastleigh or Dorchester (no offense intended… to one of those clubs). Plus if you really want to know about Luton Town, you couldn’t do any better than go to the BBC Football Non-League page, which should really be named the BBC Football Luton and Oxford Plus Some Other Clubs page. Not that it’s really the clubs fault, or even BBC Sport, most stories seem to originate from their relevant county affiliates.

And while we are on the subject, when was the last time BBC London knocked out a story about us? No, they’re too busy trying to court the supporters of everyone else’s clubs with their admittedly valuable Non-League Football Show. Sorry, I’ll get back to the point for fear you may think this is going to end up as another 3000 word epic largely spent insulting the opposition (although this time I suppose its the point of the article…).

Anyway… Luton Town, eh? Didn’t we play them back in that there Premier League? Well, no actually. Luton had the dubious pleasure of politely declining the first year of the EPL, but we did play them the season before at Selhurst Park, which turned out to be the lowest crowd ever in the top flight. Not really surprising as both sets of fans had to travel to Croydon. Sadly the record was beaten a year later in the sixth out of fourteen meetings between Everton and Wimbledon that season. Of course, if the amount of people who actually claimed to have been at that game had turned up on the night, the game would have been a sellout…

Around that time Luton were getting over a five year period that involved them seemingly hell bent on pissing everyone in football right off. They angered opposition fans by banning them, the players by laying a plastic pitch, and their own fans by turning a stand into a pitch-length row of private boxes (and a giant washing machine). I have now mentioned all three contractually obliged subjects you must include when writing about Luton Town FC.

Now I can move onto a subject I had originally intended the article to be about (and to some extent I’m playing devils advocate here…). That is ‘Luton Town Will Walk This Division. Discuss’. Now to be honest, there are a number of other big clubs in this division. Oxford have been pissing around for years now, but supported by their huge, almost Wimbledonesque attendances (well you have to remember we have been constrained by the size of our ground…), and having hired what looks like the right man for the job, in my opinion it’s theirs to lose.

Having said that, when they do eventually finish their traditional awful start to the season Luton, and perhaps half a dozen clubs will be so far ahead Oxford can probably look forward to 7th place again (and now I’ve tipped them they have no chance…). What about Cambridge? Don’t make me laugh; they can’t even keep hold of the right manager for much longer than a week, although at one point last Sunday they had three of them…

Wrexham? They’re good for the playoffs I suppose, as are Stevenage who are probably well due a season where they run out of elaborate plans to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Let’s not forget, we also have a title winning squad down at Kingsmeadow this season (sadly they probably won’t be the title winning team until 2013…).

I do think the Luton hype has gone a bit OTT though. No club has successfully returned to the League since… well, since ever? Colchester had a couple of years here, and I think Lincoln did too. Did Darlington bounce straight back? I can’t remember. And if I did remember it would ruin my point entirely, so I’ll quickly change the subject.

The other point I want to make is… if Luton hadn’t lost thirty points last season, where would they have finished? 16th, if for fairness sake we remove Bournemouth’s 17 point deduction too. Now I know Luton have strengthened over the summer, but I felt last season that there is a lot of deadwood at the bottom of League 2, clubs like Accrington, Macclesfield and Barnet, that only survive thanks to the unnatural 2-up, 2-down system between the Conference and L2.

Those clubs would have had real difficulty staying up had 4-up, 4-down been in place. Can you imagine how much stronger L2 would be if clubs could find their level a little easier? Surely it would be a stronger division if the likes of Cambridge and (lets just say by winning the playoffs) Oxford had gone up as well? Plus how many teams are promoted from League 2? And how many relegated from the Conference? Exactly… Although the Conference will lose a bit of its mysticism with eight new clubs entering each year, and the barrier between League and Non-League will be more blurred than ever before.

But back to Luton. I’ve been looking for reasons to dislike them for weeks now until the fixtures were released, it’s far more important to whip ourselves into a frenzy this year as we start the season at home. No five hour coach trips this time round – we have the luxury of getting up normal time, practicing our usual matchday routines, and standing in our regular positions. The temptation to sit back and soak it all up will be tempting, but as with the Wycombe game (in fact more so – Luton have the entire KRE) we will need to be at our noisiest… and I’ll write more about this in a separate article in the next day or so. Back to why we should dislike Luton… 

Firstly I thought, why not drag all that racism stuff up when (lets get the wording right here) some people in Luton polo shirts turned up at a right wing march in the town. Of course, that’s far too passé for someone like myself to bring up now, and without trying to sound like a Nazi sympathizer what about the thousands of Luton fans who didn’t turn up on that march? Eh? Plus I can absolutely guarantee that if the same march took place in, say Mansfield, more than half the clubs regular support would turn up. Don’t worry about that offending the Mansfield fans – they probably take it as a complement…

It’s actually really difficult to come up with reasons to dislike Luton, they’re just too nice (the club I mean – for a reason to dislike the town search ‘Luton’ on the Urban Dictionary…). I don’t know what it is; perhaps it’s their perennial underdog tag, which is what first attracted me to support my local team, which gives me such a soft spot for them. Even their attempts to get hold of tickets in the Wimbledon areas of the ground for Saturdays game just makes you think ‘Aww, bless. They only wanna go and watch their team…’. And… They have Mick Harford as their boss.

Actually we should have some self righteous indignation about the Luton fans efforts to infiltrate the John Smiths. After all, I’m sure we all know someone who wants a ticket for the game but hasn’t been able to get one (although in my case it’s my wife, and she doesn’t deserve a ticket above another Dons fan!). There’s bound to be a couple who squirm past undetected, so keep your eyes open people… perhaps the club could organize a waiting list for the last dozen who applied to wait for the inevitable, and take the tickets of those Luton fans (or very, very unfortunate neutrals) as they are hooked.

Before anyone says it, yes I do feel there was some hypocrisy in the paragraph above. But to clarify – Wallingford, Bromley, Staines Town, Hampton and all those I forgot had no chance of selling their own generous allocation. On Saturday, anyone who considers themselves a Dons fan is going to want to be there, and I hope all of you who deserve tickets the most will get them.

If any Luton fans are in the John Smith, just keep schtum, watch the game, and you’ll be ok. Any noise or bravado will see you go by a largely self-policing Dons fan base – the best case scenario will be you get turfed out…

While there are plenty of spurious reasons to dislike Luton, perhaps the best one is the very same reason Luton fans will be disliked at most Conference grounds this season – downright jealousy! Yes I know we are above all that, but think about it… they are still miles ahead of us as a club despite their recent problems and our dramatic rise in recent years. Plus after this season we probably won’t get a chance to play them for a good few years yet. Let it take you, Wombles! In the words of Alex Ferguson – ‘Let’s knock them off their fucking perch!’. Or in the words of the Anonymous Don – ‘Let’s knock these Billy Big Bollocks bastards down a peg or two…

Oh yeah. Good luck to Luton for the season. With the exception of our two games against you of course.

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