Congratulations all of you who travelled to Newport. I’ve just watched the highlights and I have to say standing fifty yards from the nearest goal in blizzard conditions doesn’t sound like my idea of fun, especially as I would imagine the first the majority of you saw of the action would have been when you returned and viewed the aforementioned highlights on Youtube.
Not having been at the game, my immediate reaction was… good result Dons. This goes a long way to answering those critics (and to a point I would consider myself among them) who suggested the side may struggle against big tough sides on poor pitches in inclement conditions. However, I will say that despite recent positive performances there has been a noticeable shift in our ambitions as supporters over the last couple of weeks. Perhaps its the difficult nature of our January fixtures, or maybe noticing Crawley’s early January spending has caused us to re-evaluate our position. But lately I have noticed even the most optimistic of Dons supporters comment along the lines that although we find ourselves in the middle of a title race at the moment, that won’t necessarily be the case come April…
One person who will agree is Terry Brown, who has presented the image of a man extremely happy with his lot in recent interviews. One statement even went as far as suggesting should he have the sort of January transfer window he expects, he will end up with the most talented squad he has ever managed. Yet Brown isn’t talking about the title, at least not publicly. To be fair, he never has. It’s always been about the playoffs as far as he is concerned, as that was the target he set at the start of the season.
It wouldn’t be fair on the manager to change the goalposts now and suggest a top three finish (or better) would be in order. The playoffs, if it happens (and lets not count our chickens) would be a fantastic achievement – not only a potential route back to the Football League right now, but an excellent launch pad for future promotion efforts should this turn out not to be our year after all. And that’s just it – the reason the manager isn’t going to talk about it, the reason we have started to play it down, why Evans was pretty much laughed at for even attempting mind games last week… we aren’t going to go broke if we don’t gain promotion this time around.
There are however one group of people associated with AFC Wimbledon who will not give up believing they can win the league, and that’s the players. It speaks volumes that the likes of Ricky Wellard are prepared to come out and stand up for themselves in the press. You could argue he’s playing into Evans hands in terms of mind games, but I would argue the opposite. This wasn’t an angry response. Evans clearly hasn’t got Wellard’s back up. His reaction was more mildly annoyed, the sort of reaction you would expect of someone bugged by a fly while trying to eat a sandwich on a sunny day.
This is now a determined Wimbledon squad. While January might be a tough month for us, if the squad show the sort of fight and determination they showed at Newport over the next few months, then Crawley and Luton will have to beat us on the pitch, not the press, if they to finish above us. I’ll tell you what, if the season goes the way the money spent suggests it should, whichever one of those sides who doesn’t make it up as champions will dread the thought of facing off against us in the playoffs.
Fortunately, money doesn’t always dictate in football, our history tells us that much. It gives a massive advantage, it would be naive to think otherwise, but think of the massive satisfaction we would take if the unlikely happens. It is after all the Wimbledon way…