Monthly Archives: June 2011

Gregory Goes

I’m not entirely sure whether its hay fever finally hitting home or maybe I’ve picked up a virus somewhere down the line, but despite having a million things to say, my desire to communicate them here losing a battle with my reluctance to sit in front of a computer longer than absolutely necessary… already I can feel my eyes straining and head pounding… but despite all this I’ll struggle on for a few agonising paragraphs, after Steven Gregory won his race with Kedwell out of the exit door this afternoon. Or possibly this morning. Its been a long day.

So we’ve all followed the denial-anger-acceptance path… Right now I’m sad to see Gregory go, and I’ll have a flutter of regret when the inevitable Kedwell news comes through tomorrow. But to be honest I’m quite glad the whole thing seems to be coming to a resolution relatively quickly, with training starting tomorrow and plenty of time for TB to source replacements. Ignoring the fact Brown may go out and find replacements of equivalent quality, the rational side of my brain is telling me losing Gregory and Kedwell was probably just the difference between 10th and 15th next term.

By the time Bristol Rovers come to town those two will be mere memories, in fact give it a week and the dust will have very much settled, the bigger picture back in view. Right now though despite everything I can’t help but feel these two departures have been a bit of a kick in the balls in what should have been a triumphant summer.

I feel the club went about the sale of both players with a fair amount of dignity, but then again there are a couple of aspects I’d like to ponder on how we go about our dealings in future, which I’ll hopefully get the opportunity to do over the weekend, For now, a darkened room and damp cloth awaits…

Another Quiet Monday Down At Kingsmeadow

Today was bound to be huge on the news front, as I’d planned a summer mini-feature that was due to be typed up and published tonight. As you might imagine, there isn’t normally enough day-to-day news to satisfy the Anonymous Don’s thirst for becoming the Dons… no wait, the Leagues most prolific bloggers, if I can’t be the best I have to be number one at something.

Having said that I am one of lifes perennial second place men, one of my fondest childhood memories was coming second in the school skipping race, and a playing career spent in the beer leagues resulted in a fair haul of runners-up medals. Ironically, I realised the other day whilst polishing them up on the ‘football shelf’ here at ADHQ that I had lost one of the few winners medals I had earned; the fact it bothered me little is probably better discussed with my therapist than such a public forum.

Anyway, my plans for an evenings writing thrown more and more into chaos every time I checked NewsNow. Until I realised this was all Bloggers Gold, for once I don’t have to worry about fabricating subject matter… I’m not even sure where to start on a day like today, so I’ve decided I’ll approach the news on a sliding scale, from those coming to those going, with those who have simply confirmed they are staying put filling the gap.

First up, Charles Ademeno has joined from Grimsby. An interesting one this, Ademeno seems to have suffered a little last season, suffering various injuries to the point that despite still having a year on his contract, the Marriners new management team basically seem to have told him if he could find a new club he could go. The O/S was quick to point out Mike Rayner had given him one of his particularly stringent medicals, for the second time in the space of a week a player with serious question marks over fitness has been cleared to sign… although the same article advised Ademeno’s contract ‘reflects his recent injury record’.

Lets face it, if Ademeno had spent last season banging the goals in he probably wouldn’t have looked twice in the general direction of Kingsmeadow… even if we could afford him. So what are the benefits of signing such a player? Ademeno has sat on the sidelines for much of the last season, and will be keen to get back to scoring goals. We might picture strikers as mercenaries, eager to top up their pay packet by any means possible. And that’s absolutely true in the vast majority of cases, lets not be in denial about that. Yet the only way they can boost their value is by scoring goals, something Ademeno didn’t do a lot of last season. In short, the reason we signed this undoubtedly talented but injury prone forward is because we got him on the cheap, with the club bearing little risk.

Our second new signing, albeit one returning after a loan spell last season, is Chris Bush. I think if I had told you our loanee left back from last season was going to sign for us, you would have presumed Gareth Gwillim was poised to put pen to paper. And to be fair, I thought Gwillim was just about the better of the two, perhaps you did too. Yet I felt a bit of a rush when I read he agreed to join permanently… Towards the end of his loan spell I highlighted the admittedly few errors Bush made in a match report, wondering whether we could justify playing a guy who was here to make mistakes, learn his trade, but to do so for the benefit of another club.

Yet now he’s ours, hopefully we can see the tangible results of such potential. We are slightly fortunate that Brentford have quality in his position blocking his way to the first team, the opportunity to play League football must have been a huge lure, to the point I don’t think he would be here now had we lost at Eastlands. Then again, you could probably say the same about half our first team squad…

I think most of us will sleep a little easier knowing we have at least one permanent left back in the squad, even if Bush was regarded as more of a centre back at Brentford. On the subject of the Bees, apparently there is no truth in the rumour their office has been besieged by requests for information regarding where their new Development squad will play their games next season from Dons fans eager to see our stars of the future…

Oh, and how strong would we be defensively if we could also sign Gwillim up?

James Mulley has been a Don but not been a Don for the past six months… if that makes sense.. What I mean is, his non-contract status meant however many interviews he gave saying how much he was enjoying himself at the club, you still had a sneaking suspicion he might take off at the first sign of a better offer, I’m glad we’ve finally tied him down, Mulley’s goals were vital last season, if it hadn’t been for a silly dismissal at Crawley he would have played a much bigger part in the run in. At Eastlands he looked our best player when he came on, although admittedly this was amidst tired players cramping up left, right and centre.

Possibly the biggest signing of the day was Seb Brown, I’m not going to say too much about Seb… remember that feature I spoke of earlier, the one coming later in the week. Well I’m sure it won’t ruin the surprise for you to find out now Seb features quite prominently in the first part. But, yes, once again, a massive signature. Seb proved last season he was the best goalkeeper outside the League, next time out he can prove he’s the best in the lower divisions. Quite honestly, the longer we keep hold of Seb the better…

Finally on the new signings front, Ryan Jackson converted his old contract into a spanking new Football League version. I think we are all looking forward to seeing how the younger, less experienced players such as Jackson cope with the step up, especially as Ryan didn’t quite manage to hold his place towards the end of the season. Still, his dynamic start to the campaign was enough to convince me he deserved a chance, it’s probably sink or swim this time around…

Moving on to the exit door, and fortunately that has remained firmly closed of late. Steven Gregory was the subject of a third, improved bid by Bournemouth, but with previous bids reported to be around the £40,000 mark I’m hoping a negative response will end their interest, Yet this might not be the end of the story, check out paragraph eleven of this report for a quote from Lee Bradbury, or for those of you unwilling to click on links and count into double figures… “I think he has got interest from other clubs as well so we are looking to secure his services as soon as possible before those other clubs try to snatch him.”.

And what of Keds, the man who last week seemed certain to be on his way imminently? Well there doesn’t seem to be too much interest outside of Gillingham, but questions relating to their desire to pay the Dons asking price, and from their support as to whether he is worth it. I can answer that one for them – No, I don’t think he is. I can’t understand why anyone in League Two would spend a six figure sum on anyone when there seems to be so much quality floating around for free. Thats a potential extra two grand a week on a free transfer signings salary. In this climate, only those guaranteed to bring goals are worth that money.

I’m wondering whether there is anyone prepared to match the Dons valuation, whether Keds might really start the season a Wimbledon player. Maybe with interest tailing off, Erik and Terry might offer a small increase in his already generous salary (by Wimbledon standards). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel the player should be rewarded for asking to leave, just a small morale boosting gesture to get his mind back to what, deep down, we all want to see… Kedwell leading the Dons line into League Two…

Aw, who am I kidding? As soon as Gillingham’s interest dies Evans will be on the phone and Kedwell will be a Crawley player at a knockdown price. Please let me be wrong…

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News Round-Up 26/6/11 – Friendly Fires

The thing is, I already knew I would be missing the game on 9th July, whoever we were playing. One of my friends decided to get married that day, the knowledge that at kick off time I would be elsewhere, directing people to their seats, my first and last piece of stewarding for the foreseeable future…

So forgive me for being slightly underwhelmed at the news Fulham are coming to town. In all other respects it’s a decent first game. Obviously the commercial aspects of playing a Premier League side with a large local fanbase has been slightly undermined by Fulham’s Europa League campaign kicking off – if you were only going to watch one game in a week would you choose to pay a fiver to see your first team ease past a bunch of fishermen, or double that to see a ‘mix strength’ side face the Dons in what is effectively a training exercise?

The fact there are large pockets of Fulham fans in the area, added to the fact its our first game, means the attendance may trouble last seasons final warmup against the Arsenal kids. On the pitch, perhaps facing a full strength Fulham side wouldn’t have been entirely helpful, unless Seb requires practice at picking the ball out of the net four or five times. Fair enough, the first few games are all about fitness, and results are never that important, but there’s not too much to be learnt from playing a side that’s on a different planet to you – preseason is frustrating enough as it is, I mean it’s dressed up like football, there are eleven blokes on the field trying to knock the ball in the other teams goal, but comes nowhere near satisfying our urge for proper football to return.

I know of people who completely ignore preseason and I can understand that – if you were starving you wouldn’t hang around outside restaurants watching the diners tuck in, would you? I’m as guilty as forgetting that as the next man, even though I acknowledge it now I’ll still set myself up for a letdown prior to Sutton or whoever we are playing on the 16th.

This has been a strange, truncated summer, where through a combination of playoff euphoria, transfer speculation, and an earlier start to the season than we have been used to, the end of last season and the start of next seem to be merging together. The Dons warmup schedule seems a little lightweight as a consequence, effectively six games, with a seventh following shortly after the season begins (Tooting, and that’s if you count that weird League Cup pre-qualifier at Crawley as the start of the season…).

I’ve always wondered whether we needed to play so many games in years gone past, we may well find with six games we have reached the optimum… we would have played an extra game (as so many fellow League clubs will) had it not been for the aforementioned Crawley game. We don’t really find ourselves in a position where we need to field half a dozen trialists, we will probably see a couple in the opening games but there’s no need for us to go to the extents Charlton did last year, when they turned up a Kingsmeadow with a whole teams worth.

Elsewhere in the preseason schedule, the reserves are heading over to Guernsey to face the islands CCL side. Nine years ago the Ryman League turned our application down, with various doubters suggesting we were simply a protest club who would fade away before too long. Yet the CCL were only too glad to have us. The Guernsey experiment is slightly different to ours, being sponsor driven rather than fan power alone, yet the reasons behind forming the club seem to be based on a desire to improve the standard of football on the island rather than parachuting a club into the upper echelons of the pyramid simply for the sake of having a club.

There is obviously no guarantee the people of an island never previously considered a hotbed of football will turn out in numbers to support the new venture, it may take a few years and a few promotions before the club is even remotely viable – if it ever is. But the Guernsey people who have spent years preparing deserve their chance to test themselves in the pyramid – and once again it is the CCL who deserve credit for welcoming them onboard.

Admittedly, there is plenty in it for the CCL and its clubs – increased exposure and the chance for a free trip to Guernsey to play in front of what should be larger than normal CCL crowds. And it remains to be seen what will happen in the event of large-scale postponements. There may need to be a learning process, but the whole project is an interesting one that I’ll keep an eye on (perhaps even venture to one of their local games), and I’m glad our club could play a small part in their early development.

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News Round-Up 24/6/11 – Gregory, Mitchel-King

It’s all been about Kedwell of late, especially here on the blog. Even my wife noticed the other day, whilst leaning over my shoulder as I was writing. ‘Sometimes I think you love Danny Kedwell more than you love me’, she pondered, but I don’t think ‘No, not any more I don’t’ was the answer she was looking for…

With Keds returning from his holiday I think we all half expected a bit of news to emerge today, and news was forthcoming in the form of a club statement… but this time relating to a Bournemouth bid for Steven Gregory. This was in response to an initial, shocking report on the Sky Sports website simply advising a bid has been made. Rumour has it the bid was £50,000, which won’t even buy you a Danny Kedwell, regardless a midfielder in his earlier twenties the team was effectively built around.

As the Anonymous Don prepared to go to press news filtered through Bournemouth had improved their initial bid, yet I’m not quite sure what difference this will have made unless it was significantly higher, a six-figure sum beginning with a ‘2’ might seem slightly more appealing…

Yet we await the clubs reaction to the second bid, the money will allow us to rebuild but will mean we head into the season with the spine of the team (Brown, Johnson, Gregory, Kedwell) torn in half. Then again, its easy to forget even the Kedwells and Gregorys of this world are easier to replace than first seems.. these being no Messis or Ronaldos or Ursells.

I’m sure this won’t be the last we’ve heard of the Gregory situation, even if it is just the club telling us he’s going nowhere, in the mean time the club still haven;t received an acceptable bid for Kedwell, despite actively seeking replacements. We now know a hotlist of seven strikers exists (I’m no tactical genius, but wouldn’t all those strikers unbalance our 4-3-3?…), and some of the evidence as to who these guys might be seems to be a little more solid than a twitter account of dubious authenticity…

Firstly, the BBC themselves suggested Nathan Elder might be on his way back to Kingsmeadow. Now I’m not sure how many of you would feel about that, I’m having mixed feelings myself. He had a great start, before being sucked into the tedious mundanity that was the end of that season, at a time no-one in the squad was really covering themselves with glory. Coupled with THAT miss (remember, the Anonymous Don rarely uses capitals…), its fair to say his signing might receive something of a mixed reception.

Another man documented in the media is Alan Connell of Grimsby. Now I know he isn’t as physically imposing as Kedwell, but what we lose primarily from Keds departure is someone who holds the ball up well and scores goals. Does Connell hold the ball up well? Yes. Does he score goals? Yes. Boxes ticked were it not for the fact whatever offer the Dons might have made was considered ‘derisory’ (ignoring for a second this is probably media guesswork – if the Dons know not how much they will receive for Kedwell, how can they yet put in a decent offer for a replacement?). Either way, Connell will probably end up costing too much in what is already a hot contest for his signature.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the pitch, we finally learnt today the replacement for the right-sided centre half with Football League experience who was released three weeks ago for fitness reasons and has since joined Newport, and welcome Mat Mitchel-King, another right-sided centre half with Football League experience, the exception here being Mat was, hang on, released from his last club over doubts over his fitness… On the face of it it seems like changing a ten pound note for, uhm, another ten pound note, we can only presume the difference here being he is just better. Either that or he’s cheaper. Same difference. Trust in Terry, guys, trust in Terry…

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News Round Up 20/6/11 – Kedwell Departure Closer

Well, according to the press it is.

It seems Gillingham are in pole position for his signature, with reports suggesting the deal is all but done, the player has agreed terms and all that is required is the clubs to agree a fee. This might not be as closed as the Kent media are suggesting, especially as Jacob Murtagh at the Surrey Herald decided to bother asking someone at Wimbledon rather than accepting what Steve Evans thinks. Evans himself has ruled Crawley out of the running, but you wonder whether he might nip in with a late bid, considering his documented admiration of Kedwell and habit of stockpiling strikers. Then again, he might just be telling the truth…

The fact is, this deal is far from done. The Herald article suggests a fee in excess of £60,000 is being sought, do Gillingham have the funds and desire to make the deal happen? Who else is waiting in the wings for Gillingham to drop the ball? There has been a lot of interest in the money we might get for Kedwell, we are all interested in how much he is going to go for, but I think the correct thing for the club to do will be to ensure the fee remains undisclosed if at all possible.

For now at least, it’s not as if we won’t find out later down the line when the accounts are published, but publicly flouting how much money the club has burning a hole in their pocket won’t help when negotiating with Kedwell’s potential replacement. One replacement we know won’t be coming to the Dons is Marvin Morgan – also interestingly linked with Gillingham – but he’ll now be lining up with Shrewsbury next term.

On the subject of prolific twitterers, former Swindon, Portsmouth and, erm, Juventus forward Vincent Pericard has claimed he is in talks with the Dons, but the rumour mill is in overdrive this summer and at least that one was from the horse’s mouth (sort of…). Some classics already doing the rounds involves Celtic eying up Keds, Neil Sullivan coming back to challenge Seb for the number one shirt, and former Dons forward Delano Sam-Yorke joining Auxerre on trial… although I actually just made that last one up off the top of my head as I write, yet it somehow seems about five times more likely than the former two.

Presumably while he was on the phone to Cash, Murtagh also found a new centre half is in the pipeline, although this article is a little short on detail. What we do know is the target is a right-sided centre half with Football League experience… so didn’t necessarily play for a Football League club last season… For example the club have just released one right-sided centre half with Football League experience (albeit one still with serious question marks over his ability to play more than once a week…), and Yakubu was today unveiled by Newport County.

Lastly, the club announced our opening League fixture with Bristol Rovers has been selected for live coverage on TV, presumably causing a sharp intake of breath from those accustomed to such announcements involving the game being switched to a Thursday. Fortunately, Sky at least have the sense to schedule games in a decent time slot, and we should at least be grateful this time around we are involved with a sports channel whose desire to saturate the market with football is at least realistic, mostly because Sky provides decent money rather than inconvenience people and expect them to be grateful just to be on TV… It really is a case of better the devil you know.

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News Round Up – 20/6/11

At last, the club feel they are in a position to reveal more information on pre-season games! I suppose we can’t blame the club, they have a policy of announcing fixtures only when contracts are received, mainly to avoid ‘games that never were’, such as the Leyton Orient game announced on their website… and subsequently cancelled. Having said that, couldn’t someone at the club have posted a short notice, along the lines of ‘we know you have all waited to hear news on pre-season games, but we can’t announce them yet and this is why…’?

With the first game (which was planned to be a home fixture) being delayed, the club were able to advise we would travel to a local rival on Tuesday 12th. Although unnamed at the time Sutton United have since announced the fixture on their website (whilst there I also noticed they are playing a two-legged pre-season fixture with Carshalton and it got me wondering whether we should arrange our own with Kingstonian… no?).

A League side has been lined up to replace Leyton Orient on the 16th, with Beckenham on the Tuesday after and a trip to Kevin Cooper II’s Bedfont Town. Saturday 23rd sees the visit of Watford, as previously planned, with Tooting to follow on 26th, before the Crawley game kicks things off. All in, with a couple of League sides (sorry… fellow League sides…) and a smattering of local non-league rivals, a decent enough preparation for our first season in the League. Under the circumstances we probably just about got away with it…

We are, I suppose, fortunate that the body of last seasons squad is still in place, so we don’t need vast amounts of game time to gel. I was going to describe TB’s summer squad sculpting as ‘cosmetic’, but that probably doesn’t apply in a situation where our best XI has effectively had its head chopped off with Kedwells bombshell. You can add one of the shoulders to that, now Kaid Mohamed has decided to take an offer closer to home and joined Cheltenham.

I have to say the loss of Mohamed hasn’t really hit me in the same way as Kedwell’s announcement did. I think he is talented, don’t get me wrong, but I think last season’s Wimbledon side really played to his strengths. It would have been nice to see whether he can kick on and finally make the breakthrough in League football, but it’s not to be. I get the impression finding a replacement for him might not be as difficult as rooting out the man to step into our former skippers boots…

As for Kedwell, well we might have held out hope that circumstance might lead to him staying but WHAK seems to have put paid to that thought. With news that there are ‘several’ clubs interested, there is a chance this might be resolved quicker than I feared, and for decent reward. The more money the club can squeeze out of Kedwell, the more funds available for his replacement… and lets not forget, Kedwell’s current contract wouldn’t exactly have been peanuts.

You may have seen in last weeks news update I linked to the blog Jack Midson is currently writing for The 72. Now he has signed for the Dons, Midson gives his side of the story in his latest blog. Interesting that Wrexham were able to offer a much better deal than we were, I can only imagine the money Andy Mangan must have been on, indeed how much Fleetwood must have offered to lure him there. No wonder Kedwell is so keen to get away. Nonetheless, I’m feeling pretty grateful that Midson came to us under the circumstances…

Finally, the ongoing blog makeover continues, with the features now in their own index for easy reference. Like the links section, this is an ongoing project… I’ve been looking around some of the other bloggers in League Two, and the bar has definitely been raised….

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Legends Of Yore #2 – Marcus Gayle

As the Dons search for a new forward, one or two of us have noticed Jason Euell is out of contract, and asked the not unnatural question of whether he could come and do a job for us, even for a year or two, and help fill the hole that Kedwell will probably leave. Wanting to sign former players is not unusual at any club, but perhaps holds more meaning for ex-WFC players coming to AFCW. In reality, TB will be looking at any and every player, regardless of their history… Euell would be a nice story in the unlikely event he came, yet if he did he would have some fairly big boots to fill thanks to the last former Don who came to Kingsmeadow for a swan song season… Marcus Gayle.

Marcus started his career at the Bees in 1989, making 158 appearances, as well as 22 while on loan to Finnish outfit KuPS while learning his trade in 1990. It’s fair to say Gayle is as much an icon to Brentford fans as he is to us, and fortunately he got to bookend his career with a spell at both clubs, making 30 appearances for them in 05/06. They apparently had a song based on him that went along the lines of ‘Marcus Gayle, has a fucking huge cock…’. Not sure how they knew this for sure, it sounds a bit like lazy racial stereotyping to me, but I could be doing the great man a disservice!

Marcus song at Wimbledon was ‘Marcus Gayle My Lord’, perhaps due to his religious convictions, perhaps his name just lent itself better to this tune (Wimbledon fans weren’t that clever in those days. I remember when we stole a Cantona chant from Man United to use for John Fashanu- complete with French national anthem. I mean we could have been clever like we are these days and fitted it to ‘God Save The Queen’ in reference to Fash’s England caps, or even found out how the Nigerian anthem went…).

I vaguely remember an early Gayle game against Manchester United where his strong run down the left wing left whoever was playing right back for United that day for dead, delivering a perfect cross for Fashanu. Fash seemed to be preoccupied by his physical tussle with Pallister, and if he got a touch at all it was probably an arm – but a goal it was. Of course Marcus carved his name into Wimbledon legend for a rather more important goal against the same opponents a few years later…

Gayle was the first of the new wave of players that came through in the mid to late 90′s, big, strong and quick, but with great ability to go with it. Combined they played fast counter attacking football combined with an unbeatable spirit. There’s no coincidence that Gayle’s ‘career season’ was probably the greatest in terms of football played we ever saw from a Wimbledon side in the Premier League, 1996/97.

Plus he scored in that memorable 4-2 win at Stamford Bridge. Yes we had taken great pleasure in battering the Blues 4-0 and 5-2 there in the old Division One days, but this was New Chelsea. Gayle put the icing on the cake, the result only tarnished by the dodgiest of dodgy penalties given in the last minute for a non-existent foul outside the area. But the pace and movement of Wimbledon’s performance, especially Gayle and fellow front-man Efan Ekoku, meant Wimbledon had earned a place at the top of the Premier League, even if league form was to slip away after that.

But the Dons were to prove their worth in the cups as well, reaching both semi-finals. In the League Cup Marcus made a habit of beating dozy keepers at their near post from a tight angle, smashing the winner against Aston Villa in the 4th round, before repeating the trick in the semi-final second leg against Leicester. Heartbreak was to follow as the Dons crashed out on away goals (just rubbing salt in the wound – we didn’t actually play a ‘home’ game for nearly fifteen years during that period). The season petered out after a 0-3 surrender to Chelsea at Highbury in the FA Cup Semi-Final leaving us only with memories. But what memories they were.

Plus lets not forget Marcus, along with Robbie Earle, was one of the first Dons players to see action at a World Cup. Although Robbie gets a lot of attention for his goal (and Robbie will get the ‘Legends’ treatment himself one day…), lets not forget Marcus did more than just make up the numbers in 1998.

My personal favourite Marcus moment was set against a backdrop of unpleasantness. I found myself close to the front of what must have been C block in the Holmesdale, only to my horror to find myself sitting next to a Liverpool fan who not only felt he had the right to be there, he had the right to loudly support his team… Naturally, I was slightly annoyed, and this lead to several arguments with the plastic scouser, an argument with a steward, and worse still an argument with my dad, for taking my argument with the previous two too far.

Just as I was about to snap (and bear in mind I’m the sort of person who normally avoids confrontation at all costs…), Wimbledon won a free kick, Gayle floated it into the top corner, bouncing off the inside of the post and into the net after travelling across the goal line and off the opposite post. An absolutely brilliant free kick, and our joyous celebrations persuaded our illegally positioned friend to find a different seat for the second half…

If anyone deserved a move to a big club it was Marcus. Sadly Wimbledon were desperate for money by the time he left, post relegation in 2001 to Rangers, and it’s probably fair to say they were the wrong club at the wrong time. He moved back to England with Watford, and it was here he made the transformation to centre half, a move that effectively extended his career by several seasons.

Normally a pace merchant will leave the game the moment their legs go, but Marcus was always too good a player for that to happen. His footballing brain was put to use at the heart of the defence of not only Watford, but Brentford, Aldershot (where he finally managed to score his first hat trick after coming on as a substitute against Kidderminster), before finally returning home to Wimbledon.

He didn’t have the pace that made him a Premier League star, but it all seemed a bit too easy for Gayle at times. To have him with us just for one season was a dream come true for most Wimbledon fans, one last link to the glory days. Our playoff win at Staines must have been a brilliant way to finish a career, walking off the pitch, knowing your job was done.

Except Marcus Gayle wasn’t finished with Wimbledon just yet. He took over the running of the reserves midway through the very next season, placing an emphasis on youth and guiding the side to a Suburban League Cup win over Bedfont, a game they dominated despite facing a stronger and more experienced side in the final. In future it will be his job to bring promising young players from a successful youth programme, and turn them into footballers, a role he has already performed with Ryan Jackson, with Brendan Kiernan next on the conveyor belt. What does the future hold for Marcus Gayle? He has mentioned previously it is his ambition to become a manager, and there is no reason why he can’t move through the ranks at Wimbledon, as first team coach, assistant manager and perhaps even as successor to Terry Brown?

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Days Of Yesteryear #2 – Wembley ’88 (The Not Really Live Match Blog)

I’ve tried live match blogs before, notably on one occasion whilst listening to the game on radio two hundred miles away (a huge success, as the three readers who joined me for the afternoon will attest to). So what about trying a live match blog for a game that took place twenty-three years ago? Especially a game I haven’t watched all the way through for over a decade. Well I’m all for experimenting… I was only ten years old that sunny afternoon at Wembley, and its fair to say even if I thought of blogging from the stadium the technology wasn’t quite there at the time. Armed with my rapidly diminishing memories of the day, a copy of the DVD, and a packet of biscuits, here goes nothing. The Anonymous Don time machine has been put in gear…

12:00

I remember nothing about the morning of the game. I would imagine I was quite excited, and I can guarantee sugary drinks would have played a part (not Ribena though, that gave me nosebleeds…). I do remember the night before being like Christmas Eve, so its likely I would have been up for several hours by now.

Back in the 21st century, I didn’t feel the need to go to such levels of authenticity. If I did I’d be on the Metropolitan line right now. Instead the sofa beckons. A minor technical difficulty threatens to spoil the experiment… or at very least turn this ‘live’ blog into an examination of Sam Raimi’s campy 2009 horror ‘Drag Me To Hell’. In other words that was the DVD occupying the 88 Cup Final box. A ‘Brass Eye’ disc was in Drag Me To Hell’s box, with a season of ‘Ever Decreasing Circles’ having found its way where Brass Eye should have been. To cut a very long story short, the Cup Final disc was finally located in the ‘Game On’ box, along with a copy of ‘Love, Honour and Obey’ that doesn’t even belong to me, my copy of Game On presumably long since stolen…

14.45

Balls. I forgot the DVD copy uses Brian Moore’s vastly inferior commentary, so no ‘Crazy Gang beating the Culture Club’ stuff today. According to him, Dave Beasant lives ‘a mere Dave Beasant goal kick from here’, which considering some of Lurch’s clearances could easily have meant he lived in Slough.

By this stage, the ten-year old Anonymous Don was flouting Wembley rules by standing on the step behind but leaning forward to the crush barrier, effectively taking up two spaces and doing exactly what the stewards had told me not to do ten minutes earlier, but if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have seen a thing. In fact, coming in at this point is ignoring our journey to the stadium… which was relatively trouble-free and forgettable. As regular visitors to the stadium for England games, we had a regular spot we knew we could park in, simple.

Wembley Way was packed even hours before kick off, and the heat of mid morning meant the concrete burnt like hell if you touched it. Rather more Liverpool fans than Dons, some desperately searching for tickets, fended off easily by my large group of family and friends. It seemed to take forever in the queue for the turnstiles, various ticketless fans littering the place either desperately searching for spares or resigned, head in hands, propped against walls and in doorways obviously not really sure what to do next.

Still, that wasn’t my problem, we finally got ourselves in the ground… Old Wembley was as different to new Wembley as day is to night. Much was made of the new stadiums toilet facilities, partly as those who ever visited the old ground could ever forget the sight (or indeed the smell…).

14.55

Lady Diana is being presented to the players, and in the background you can make out the Liverpool support. Those younger fans who caught sight of Harry Enfield’s scousers with thick moustaches and perms might well have thought it was an exaggeration, that their stereotypical presentation was an insult to the fine city of Liverpool. As far as most Dons fans who were there are concerned, it’s a fairly authentic historical reenactment of Cup Final day. And this DVD is proof…

15.00

The teams change ends so the Dons will be attacking where I’m standing this half. Or back in the twenty-first century, kicking right to left. Bruce Grobbelaar runs like a chicken.

15.01

Hang on. New England manager Steve Nichol (who looks about twelve) blasted the ball back fifty yards to Grobbelaar, who just picked it up, the most blatant back pass you’ll ever see, and the ref just ignores it…. oh, wait now I remember… This isn’t the only Back To The Eighties piece of nostalgia I’ve picked up on, I’m forgetting it took at least another five years before the TV companies decided it would be a good idea to stick a clock in the corner.

15.02

Dennis Wise plays a thirty yard ball on the floor forward to Fashanu. Moore decides to describe this in commentary as ‘the first long ball of the afternoon’. No wonder we had such a reputation… Meanwhile, from the resulting move, Fashanu shoots tamely from an angle into Grobbelaars arms.

15.05

Aldridge heads over under pressure. Meanwhile Wise is hacked down on the edge of the box by McMahon but Wise drifts his freekick just over. This is already a better game than I remember…

15.08

Jones barrels through the side of McMahon with a late challenge. More recent examination of the game on ‘talking head’ type shows such as ‘Footballs 100 Greatest Moments That Just Happen To Be In The BBC Archive’ would have you believe Jones should have been sent off for this, but it was no worse than McMahon’s effort on Wise a couple of minutes earlier. In fact, it probably had a lot to do with that. Everyone just gets on with the game, including McMahon, the TV people don’t even bother showing a replay until a minute or so later. In fact the incident is so unremarkable, the ten-year old Anonymous Don soon forgets all about it.

15.14

Corky nods one wide. The Dons fans can be heard singing ‘We’re Gonna Score In A Minute’…

15.26

A moment I still remember to this day. Houghton’s cross is steered goalwards by Aldridge, his effort seems to take Beasant by surprise and the ball bounces up off his knee, with John Barnes bearing down to knock it into the empty net. Lurch somehow gets a hand up to tip it away before Jones knocks it away for a corner. A miracle save, somehow the TV pictures don’t do it justice. Liverpool forced a couple of corners on the spin from there, I remember mentally preparing myself for the inevitable goal that would follow…

15.30

Beardsley tricks his way to the byline before rifling into the side netting. An absolutely nothing piece of play watching back in 2011, but at the time it was enough to give a nervous ten-year old the fright of his life…

15.33

Beardsley is fouled on the way through to goal, the referee’s whistle goes, but Beardsley carries on and puts it in the net. My younger self hasn’t heard the whistle, and the relief I felt when I realised the goal hadn’t stood was unlike anything I’ve felt in life until Eastlands…

15.34

Phelan is tugged back by Nichol down by the left corner flag. As Wise prepares to take, we know whats coming next…

15,35

1-0 Wimbledon

Once I realised the ball was in the net, and the goal had been given, I remember jumping around so much I have no recollection of what else was going on around me. Presumably other Dons fans were doing similar. For the first time in the afternoon, I believed (although that belief was to be tested during the half time interval…).

15.40

As the ball is floated in by Nichol, Aldridge collapses under no pressure from the lurking Eric Young. What a fucking cheat. I said I wouldn’t go down the ‘these days you would have…’ route, but that would have been a card in this day and age, and quite rightly too. It just shows how desperate Liverpool already were.

Meanwhile, down the other end, Grobbelaar goes walkabout and drops a cross at Terry Gibsons feet, who can’t steer into the net with goalkeeper stranded. To be fair Nichol was lurking, and the angle was really tight. Brian Moore’s measured response to this is to scream ‘No foul on the referee!’. I should have hoped not, Brian…

15.42

Moore’s repeated references Little Dennis Wise and Big John Fashanu makes me wonder whether, in his head, he actually thinks he’s commentating on Liverpool v The Bash Street Kids.

15.46

The half time whistle goes. A happy Anonymous Don relaxes in the space created by those nipping off to the gents. Until my dad leans over and tells me he thinks Wimbledon need another goal, that one wouldn’t be enough. Bear in mind, at that stage of my life I believed pretty much everything my dad told me, especially regarding football.

16.00-ish

The second half kicks off…

16.11-ish

Corky makes way for Laurie Cunningham RIP. Even now its surprising how contained Liverpool are, they haven’t even threatened in this half so far.

16.15-ish

Penalty to Liverpool

Aldridge runs on to a ball dinked through the Dons back four, Clive Goodyear spots it and slides in, diverting the ball back to Beasant. Aldridge tumbles over his outstretched leg, the referee points to the spot!

From my vantage point, behind the goal, I could see this wasn’t a penalty. I knew it was a great challenge. I was as furious as a ten-year old can get, more furious than I was two years earlier when England played a friendly against Germany in the USA but I got sent to bed (I subsequently sneaked down and tried to listen through the door, this worked for ten minutes before my parents spotted me – partly because England scored and I celebrated. Fortunately they decided this show of determination on my part needed to be rewarded, and I was allowed to watch the rest of the game… but that’s a story for another day).

Back to TV land, and Brian Moore has immediately determined it was a penalty, hesitated on being shown the replay before to his eternal credit Ian St John, Mr Liverpool himself, bailed him out by telling the nation it wasn’t. I wasn’t fully vindicated myself until hours later, on my return home, where my mum confirmed to me it definitely wasn’t a penalty. And what mum said went in our house.

16.16

The Save

Theres only been one penalty missed in FA Cup final history, and you have to go back to 1913 for that.

A ten-year old Dons fan is believing again… surely, after all this, we can’t lose?

16.30-ish

Now I can see why neutrals don’t rate this final. Literally nothing has happened since the penalty. Liverpool have largely held possession in the Dons half, but have created absolutely nothing. Still, the clock is going backwards as far as I can make out, with fifteen minutes to go I was set for the longest quarter-hour I’ve ever experienced…

16.40-ish

Now I might have only been young, but I already knew that heartache and agony in football could come out of nowhere. The previous seasons FA Cup campaign had taught me as much. I was convinced Wimbledon’s name was on the cup, until our defeat to Spurs. So the fact that Liverpool hadn’t done anything so far in the half was if anything more worrying…

Three minutes to go, every Dons clearance is greeted with ever louder cheers from the Dons end.

16.45-ish

The last few minutes or so has seen Liverpool resort to the long ball game. Fortunately they aren’t very good at it. The Dons fans erupt at the whistle… but it’s only Fashanu caught offside.I have no recollection of this happening, but the real whistle comes not long after…

Big Dave Beasant lifts the cup for Wimbledon, before Dennis Wise shouts the infamous ‘Oi oi you bastards!’ at the Dons fans… three sides of the ground had departed, leaving Dons fans to celebrate, to pinch ourselves, was this real? I don’t remember leaving the ground, my next memory was turning into our street, standing up through the sunroof on my dads car, cheering my head off.

Then the next morning, heading to Wimbledon to see the open top bus. So many people were out on the route, cheering the lads home, for one day the people of Wimbledon remembered they had a football club. What became of them? While on my return to school a few of my schoolmates had become Wimbledon fans overnight, it lasted only a couple of weeks, until the new season started and it was all about Man U and Everton once more. Crowds remained the same next season, people had forgotten again.

Still we had our moment. Ever since that day, on meeting people and revealing I was a Dons fan, they would ask ‘Were you there?’, and I could proudly say yes, yes I was. It was one of the greatest moments in my life, and probably always will be.

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Fixtures

Those of you who didn’t sleep through Friday will be aware the Fixtures/Results section of the O/S has been updated with all our lovely league fixtures for next term, capped by that Frankenstein fixture in the Carling Cup at Crawley – although no PSFs as yet (which is starting to frustrate even the more patient of Dons fans…). I’m starting to wonder whether we’ve even managed to arrange any more than those we are aware of… part of the problem could be the game previously announced on the Leyton Orient website has now disappeared, replaced by a short tour of Finland, and coupled with the Crawley game it does seem as though we are being messed around left, right and centre.

Now this blog has never featured a fixtures page, I’ve never really seen the point. They take way too much time and effort to update. Which is a good thing, as our return to the Football League once again pits us against the fixtures copyright, and the aggressively litigious DataCo. Much more significant websites and fanzines have come a cropper at the hands of their lawyers, yet still the militant side of me wonders how the copyright can be sidestepped.

Simply typing the fixtures out in a large block without punctuation is unlikely to work, for example ‘sixthaugustbristolrovershomethirteenthaugustdagenhamaway’ not only because, well, obviously it’s not avoiding the copyright, merely masking it, but also as its likely to give anyone attempting to use it a migraine within thirty seconds. Picking out the all important Christmas and New Year fixtures in the middle of that is nigh on impossible.

Then I thought, maybe you could simply list the fixtures as a series of anagrams, e.g 8th August – Striver or slob (home) 13th August Mega hand (away). Again, this probably wouldn’t be considered safe by experts in copyright law. I did enquire out of interest, just how much DataCo would charge me for reproducing the Dons fixtures here, and the quote came back as £266.00 (exc VAT). I don’t often use swear words in this blog, not because I’m anti-swearing but because using certain words frequently reduces their impact… but regarding that fee… no fucking way!

Instead if you want to refer to this season fixtures you can view them on the O/S here.

Bristol Rovers become the first club to visit Kingsmeadow for a Football League fixture, the first of three fixtures against clubs that spent last season in League One. The fact the game represents our first game back in the League would be enough to comfortably sell out regardless of our opponents, but our visitors travelling support, particularly on opening day, should comfortably fill the small visitors section at the north end of the JS (not that any of them will actually see much of the game…). Which with the moderate ground improvements should see a capacity, and therefore record crowd.

Our first away game gives us our first League London derby since our trip to Millwall in February 2002. Dagenham have thoughtfully built a 1200 seat stand for visiting fans, which we should sell out. In fact given the amount of season tickets we have sold, and the relative proximity of the fixture might mean its a case of getting in the queue early.

Completing the trio of relegated clubs, we visit one of the divisions largest the following Tuesday, when we make the long trip down to Devon to play Plymouth Argyle, and its fair to say you probably won’t be needing your season ticket vouchers for that one. Annoying considering my personal history with the city that we head down on a midweek, as predicted a couple of weeks back. Still I’ll make the journey all the same, although the sheer number of new grounds we visit gives me a headache.

I know for financial reasons I’ll only make one or two away games a month, so Dagenham and Plymouth (which will also cost me two days holiday) means I won’t be travelling to Macclesfield at the end of the month. It’s a little harder to second guess further than that due to participation in cup competitions, although our second trip to Devon for the Torquay game in October will probably be a no go. And wouldn’t the fixture generator give us Rotherham away the week before Christmas, just days before I travel up to South Yorkshire for Christmas with the family. Hey, maybe I could just stay up there and travel back on Boxing Day so as not to miss the Oxford game? I can’t see the folks going for it, so with Doncaster Rovers away my festive football fix will be a local non-league game or feet up in front of the telly, depending on how cold it is.

Other holiday fixtures of note (and I see there are no August Bank Holiday fixtures in the League this time around), Southend come to us for a rare New Years Eve fixture before we travel to Swindon on January 2nd. Easter will see Rotherham at Kingsmeadow on the Saturday before a trip to Southend on Easter Monday, and I can’t be the only one not looking at that and thinking of a nice spring day at the seaside? Although it isn’t actually a holiday (not yet anyway), for the first time in  a couple of years we aren’t travelling to Barrow on my birthday. In fact we aren’t playing anyone yet, as that weekend is scheduled for the FA Cup First Round (how nice not to have to qualify…).

To close the season, Shrewsbury are coming down on the first weekend of May. I’m not sure how but we seem to have been given a larger than normal amount of home fixtures on key dates (first and last day, two over Christmas…). I’m sure you would have your own personal favourites… the two games against our London rivals, the derby-of-sorts with Aldershot perhaps. One thing we probably all are aware is if there’s something riding on the final game, its likely to be our visitors Shrewsbury looking for a playoff place. We may not challenge, but even more than the first season in the Conference I feel it will take quite a while for the novelty factor to wear off. Lets just enjoy the ride.

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Danny And Jack

I’m sure most of us woke this morning expecting Fixtures Friday to be the biggest news story of the day, only for that to be hijacked by confirmation Jack Midson has signed. I think we needed a little boost following Wednesdays shocker, and it seems likely considering TB has been chasing Midson for a while this was considered a move to bolster the forward line rather than as a direct replacement. Still, his arrival means if we have seen the last of Keds at least Brown shouldn’t feel the need to rush his decision on a replacement.

Midson could be a decent enough signing. He seems well liked at his former club Oxford, judging by the amount of good luck tweets he’s received from them, although as I mentioned the other day, it’s quite easy to wish well to those who didn’t quite make the grade. You may have checked his goalscoring record at his previous clubs, and admittedly he hasn’t been exactly prolific anywhere, even Histon, but to be honest I always have faith in Terry’s summer signings. He’ll have watched him several times, possibly having Cash or Bassey with him for a second opinion, on top of extensive scouting reports… picking up the sort of information you just don’t get on Wikipedia.

In other words, he sees Midson as a decent fit. Not just TB either. We know Midson was attracting the interest of Cheltenham and Hereford, and we’ll never know what terms were offered or how serious the enquiry was, but ultimately he didn’t have to come to Wimbledon… but he chose to do so. I’ve already decided I like Jack Midson, from the small amount of information I know about him.

I like that he is a tennis coach in his spare time (I’ve always had a lot of respect for those who excel at multiple sports, probably because I’ve never managed to master any I’ve tried playing myself…). I like his blog, it shows a level of… intelligence, yes, but despite popular perception there are quite a few footballers more than capable of stringing a few words together – more it shows a love of the game, of his profession, and strong enough respect for those who follow the game to spend the time writing it all down. I even quite like the fact he seems to retweet everything remotely flattering written about him on Twitter.

So before he’s even kicked a ball in anger, before he’s even done the obligatory ‘this is a great club’ interview, he’s won my full support, and that’s probably half the battle. For those of you wondering, not all new signings get that kind of treatment. Admittedly most do, lets face it I think the majority of us were quite glad the Broughton experiment was a failure, but those of you with long enough memories will remember me urging Terry not to sign a young goalkeeper for fear his error strewn performances while on trial might have cost us should he ever be required for the first team. That goalkeeper was lifelong Dons fan and current Number One Seb Brown, from that day on I’ve learnt that Terry Knows Best (most of the time…).

From a striker coming to a striker going, and according to Sky Sports, the leading contenders for Keds signature are Crawley and Gillingham. This seemed so obvious even I managed to call it straight away (there’s always the off-chance they just lifted the news from this blog…), there have been a few rumours of certain Championships clubs sniffing around but lets face it, League One would be a surprise… Which brings us on to the delicate matter of the fee. I’ve seen some extraordinary sums mentioned, anything in the six figure upwards bracket falls into that category. Maybe if he started the season, had fifteen goals by Christmas and batted off speculation by having AFCW tattooed on his forehead… Personally I’ll consider we’ve done extremely well in getting £40,000 for him.

I’m sure most of us want this issue resolved as soon as possible, but then again I’m equally sure we’ll be seeing Keds hang around through pre-season, which could get a little awkward… guaranteed someone will boo him during one of the friendlies, before mysteriously (but ultimately unsurprisingly) he doesn’t appear in the squad for the Crawley game, and we find pictures of him in someone elses shirt plastered across the internet on the Monday morning…

The only positive to all of this is there’s still plenty of time for other stuff to happen this summer (we might even announce a friendly or two…). TB can afford to play the waiting game right now, with a couple of signings under his belt and last seasons squad under contract for next season… In the mean time we have our fixtures to look forward to, Bristol Rovers await…

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