WUP 8.5

This article was first published in the December ’10 (Christmas) edition of WUP…

Ah, Xmas!  A time of drinking and eating excessively and football. Memorable Dons matches on Boxing Day include… uhm… ahh… erm… well off the top of my head recent Dons Xmas games haven’t entirely been memorable, so I initially presumed my lack of recollection has been affected by the ‘drinking’ element of Xmas excess… But no! After conducting something the book ‘Writing Fanzine Articles For Dummies’ refers to as ‘research’, I can confirm Dons Xmas games down the years seem to have been far from memorable. On the whole we seem to have a pretty good record in our first game after Xmas Day, after all it was only fifteen years ago that we defeated both Chelsea and Arsenal between Xmas day and New Year, it seems precious few Xmases have been ruined by poor Dons showings. The only potentially traumatic experience we had was back in 1992, a 0-2 defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace, a defeat I have no memory of largely because there are no memories to have… I turned up at Kingston station only to find it locked up, no trains running on the holiday back in those days. My teenage knowledge of bus routes not being as honed as it is these days, and with no tfl website at my fingertips, I just gave up and went home to stuff myself with boiled ham, mashed potato and leftover turkey.

There are bound to be those who have particularly fond memories of games down the years however, and as my memories only stretch as far as the late 80’s I am perhaps ignorant to any particularly satisfying drubbings we might have dished out in the pre-Anonymous Don era. Also, there will be those of you who harbour memories of games that might not have stood out in the mind of everybody in attendance, but have particular relevance to you based on your activities before, during, or after the game. I for example will never forget our game at Dorking a few years back, not because it was a particularly fine performance – it was a functional result on a surface that would have reduced any passing Health and Safety official to a gibbering wreck. No, my memories of this game are largely tinged by the recollection of the finest Lamb Madras I’ve ever sampled, to the point I’m slightly shocked at occasionally coming across folk who found the afternoon ‘cold and a bit miserable’…

And you have to ask, what classifies as an Xmas game? Does the last Saturday game before Xmas count? Is Wrexham an Xmas game, for example? Or should it just be any game where the date begins with a 2 (i.e. Wrexham 18th December 2010 NO Newport County 20th December 2008 YES? I have to say the Newport game didn’t feel like an Xmas game, the reason being I hadn’t actually started my work Xmas holiday at that point. Yet if that was a reason not to class it as a festive fixture, then what about all those people, myself included back in the day, who have to work on Xmas/Boxing day? Under those rules there would be no Xmas games, as the prime movers in these occasions, the players and management, are all technically working on those days (just as an aside – do you reckon they get double-time? Perhaps an extra special Xmas win bonus??? And not of the Steve Evans variety either…). I don’t consider New Years games as being part of the festive package, they should be considered separately (I’ll come back to the New Year later…).

No, the festive fixtures are really the modern equivalents of the Christmas Day/Boxing Day fixtures of days gone by. By the late 50’s these two fixtures, normally relatively local games, had shuffled back a day to the 26th and 27th, throwing up ‘interesting’ combinations of results… I’m sure Fulham fans are still wondering how in 1963 they could have beaten Ipswich 10-1 one day, then lost 2-4 the next… Eventually, common sense and presumably security dictated that the two rounds of games tended to fall on the 26th and 28th, against different sides. Down in the Conference, things are done differently and most clubs are handed fixtures against their closest opponents on Boxing Day and New Years Day. That means we end up coupled with Hayes and Yeading, who although are very close but not exactly mouth-watering, and like last year the potential for massive victory exists in equal probability to embarrassing defeats.

As for the New Year (and ultimately moving to the point of the article) here are the hopes and fears of The Anonymous Don, 2011… Firstly, because I don’t want to leave on a negative note (especially not on Xmas), here are my fears… Now beyond unrealistic paranoia such as the stadium falling down , my first instinct would be to suggest dropping out of the promotion picture, however things are a little different this time around, and only a dunce of the highest order would compare a slide down the table this time around to last year, no matter how disappointing that would be. Perhaps a bigger problem could be when we start to realise that Their forum ‘Concrete Roundabout’ is actually entirely populated by Us pretending to be Them in order to strike discord, and online debate about precisely how shit they are spills into the real world, causing a split in the fanbase between those of us who hate them and want them to die, and those who want them to go out of business and dislike them immensely.

No, my biggest fear is we receive an offer that’s too good to refuse for one of our young players. Interest in Danny Kedwell has caused us all a few tense moments over the last year or so, but there must be a few moneyed league sides eyeing our players potential and thinking the likes of Jolley or Harris could be worth the risk, maybe not in January, but in the summer. Of course when moves like this come about there is normally a period of rumour beforehand that is easy to dismiss, indeed it is difficult at this stage to separate the real rumours from the rumour rumours. But then they don’t go away, and the rumour moves on to its second stage, where someone ‘in the know’ posts on a guestbook that representatives of club X have been spotted emerging from a recent game/the boardroom/Elys. Again, these are indistinguishable from your random wind up merchants and wannabes, so its only when a deal has been struck it really hit home. I’ll never forget when the news appeared on the O/S about Chris Hussey, I cried for days… Seriously though, we haven’t been a ‘selling club’ since the 90’s when a big name left every summer to balance up the books, and losing a player to ambition is almost as hard to take as losing them for financial reasons…

The problem might not be losing one, or maybe two, but if we start losing more we will end up next summer in a similar position to this year, i.e. having to source more young players, disrupting the balance of the squad, etc. And lets face it, even in our own division there are clubs who can offer our players a lot more than we can. While some of these lads might love playing for the club right now, as TB has mentioned in the past some of our lads are mixing with players at other clubs on international duty, thus finding out how much their clubs are paying… In the past we have been in divisions where we might offer slightly less than rivals and it wouldn’t matter too much because of our size, now if one of our young players becomes aware a Cambridge or a Rushden will add a couple of hundred to their weekly wage, and that’s a different matter altogether. I mean you must have a real love and absolute faith in the project we have here to stay under those circumstances…

Before I worry any of you too much, on to hopes. Well, obviously winning the league would be nice, maybe taking the Trophy… Hell, let’s be greedy. I want the double, and I want it this season. Before all our players bugger off to big spending rivals. And that’s normal, every football fan at every club wants to win the league, wants promotion, wouldn’t say no to a cup or two either… But at our club its slightly different. Yes we are demanding, and yes we do want a return to what we consider our rightful place, the Football League. But on the whole, we do seem to be aware that if it doesn’t happen this year it will happen soon. As far as individual games go we get frustrated, yes, we don’t like it when our players give up possession cheaply or we perceive they aren’t putting the effort in, and that’s normal. But compared to some other clubs, we have patience, and that’s a virtue rare in the game.

My big hope is, with rumours swirling around the club may have identified a site for a new stadium, that we receive positive news on that front this term. And by positive I mean a site that the vast majority of Dons fans will find acceptable as our long-term home. That might be akin to asking for the moon on a stick, but the right site in the right place will be a catapult for our club. A lot of us consider regaining our league status will be enough to bring what we consider to be a large dormant support that normally only turn out for our largest games to come back on a regular basis, but an iconic home is what the club has been crying out for the past twenty years while we have been playing in ‘someone elses ground’. I’m sure that’s an Xmas wish we can all agree on.

Further WUP articles can be found in the Features Index

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