Daily Archives: September 30, 2011

Gillingham Preview

So yesterdays ode to Kedwell means I’m all Dannyed out right now, its time to concentrate on tomorrows actual game rather than what sort of reception the great man will get. Although interestingly Keds himself seems unsure of what sort of welcome he’s going to get – proof if anything that not only do players take note of what is said on social networks and message boards, but negative comments have a habit of overwhelming the majority of well wishers looking forward to his return. Fortunately the minority who want to boo him (without wanting to demonize them – they have every right to express the disappointment we all partly share) should be overwhelmingly drowned out by those of us looking forward to thanking him for his contribution to our amazing story. That is until 3PM, when we’ll join together to remind the fat pikey he should have stayed at the big club…

One thing I do want to say before I move on to the preview itself is this story where Danny promises not to celebrate any Gillingham goals… and I have to say I don’t really agree with this type of taking respect way too far that is creeping into the modern game. Goals are the most glorious part of the game, what strikers live for, yet even the most prolific will only get to feel that moment of elation twenty or so times a year. If Kedwell repeated his effort at Luton a couple of years ago tomorrow, I wouldn’t expect him to hold back his celebrations for my benefit – as long as he isn’t baring his arse to the Tempest I’d probably be too caught up with the shock of conceding a goal to notice. Still, a nice sentiment, says a lot about the man, but Danny – what makes you think Gillingham are going to score anyway?!

The Gills management team of Andy Hessenthaler and Nicky Southall seem to be building their visit up as a trip to play the Crazy Gang circa 1986 in downtown Basra, rather than a side who has the potential of laying out the welcome mat (despite recent improvements, we all know they still have it in them), combined with an atmosphere – despite the best efforts of the Tempest and a handful in the KRE and JSS – that more often than not barely reaches simmering. Those 750 Gillingham fans might make a lot of noise, sadly the away enclosure seems to act as some kind of sound bubble, so they’ll only be heard by anyone wandering within a twenty yard radius of them.

Kedwells return has brought the prospect of a Kedwell/Stuart battle, the sort of clash that you would expect more often than not would result in at least one of them picking up a card of some colour, had they not apparently been quite good mates who were still in regular contact with each other. Yet another intriguing battle could be taking place alongside, with Callum McNaughton taking on West Ham team-mate Frank Nouble. With McNaughton looking as though his loan may not be extended, this could be his last appearance at TCRRFSKM for a while, and hopefully he’ll want to go out by keeping his fellow Hammer quiet.

Another player facing his former club is Rashid Yussuff, not that he had much of a Gillingham career, by all accounts he wasn’t exactly highly regarded in his eight appearances. Yet he’s had a full season in a Dons shirt, and is starting to look better and better, to the point he is becoming the sort of player who can run games. He still has the odd stinker as shown against Aldershot, still very much a work in progress – like the team – but could go on to be a leading midfielder in the lower division.

All this talk of former players coming up against their old side, friends and team mates squaring off has disguised the fact we’re looking at an early season top of the table clash. Now we’ve passed the ten game point we can look at the League table as some kind of guide to strength – it’s still nowhere near accurate, and won’t be until nearer Christmas, but the Dons sit seventh on merit. I always like to judge which game is the ‘biggest’ in each division by adding the positions of each team and seeing which fixture has the lowest sum… and we aren’t quite game of the week material, Southend-Shrewsbury comes in at a meagre five.

Yet it’s another of those moments when I catch myself wondering how the hell we got to a position where we’re facing off against Gillingham in a ‘promotion’ clash. We might not find ourselves troubling the top seven for much longer, so lets enjoy it while it lasts. And hell, I haven’t even thought of what I might do if we actually win tomorrow, which is probably more likely than a few of us are allowing ourselves to believe.

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WUP 9.1

There’s a new WUP on sale  at the Gillingham game tomorrow – sadly devoid of any ramblings from myself this time around, which might actually encourage a few more of you to buy it… Time for an archiving of my ‘effort’ from the first publication prior to our opening game…

A Wimbledon Fans Fear Of Mundanity

When I was a kid, there were three days I looked forward to for months in advance; Christmas Day, my birthday, and the first day of the football season. Now, very much a grown up, I don’t have a lot of time for my birthday… Christmas is nice, I like Christmas, for different reasons than I did when I was a kid, but it’s still in the top two of my List Of Days I Look Forward To Most.

Only now it’s been overtaken… the one day of the year that still provokes the same childish excitement it did when I was a kid is opening day. This season, for reasons we all share, the Bristol Rovers game is going to be like Christmas times a million… Eastlands might have been euphoric, but Bristol Rovers is the tangible reward for a nine-year miracle. Our adventures through the English football pyramid are now a closed book, and the question must be asked… where do we go from here?

The fact is, the story doesn’t end with us reclaiming our place in the Football League and everyone living happily ever after. It won’t end when even the youngest readers are pushing daisies, when we are all long gone… future generations of Dons fans may look back and give thanks that we didn’t lie down and allow our football club to be taken from us, but the legacy we pass onto them depends largely on what direction we take the club next.

Before I write about how we should approach the future, let’s have a look at the sort of impact we have had on the game in general. Recently 442 magazine published an article describing Dons fans as ‘the most influential in Europe’… which was nice, but possibly an exaggeration. The article itself outlined how our story had been used as an example to supporters across Europe that they can take control of their own destiny. Yet we are just the poster boys of a movement that is growing on a yearly basis. We owe a massive debt to Enfield Town, the template for our club and those like us, and should serve as a reminder that once we are safely ensconced back in the League for a few seasons, another club will take over the mantle of the media darlings of trust ownership.

Perhaps the biggest problem those who follow in our footsteps will have is to use our timescale as a guideline for their own plans. Our return to the Football League may have been fast, but it wasn’t easy… it was very, very, very hard, which is why I used the word ‘miracle’ to describe it earlier. Anyone attempting to emulate us may need to swallow some hard lessons along the way – as we ourselves had to on more than one occasion.

But back to this issue of legacy… I suppose the most obvious would be for our triumphant return to a stadium in, or the near vicinity of, the town that bears our name. A respected football commentator (whose name escapes me, although I have a feeling it may have been Simon Inglis of Football Grounds… fame) wrote fifteen years ago that while Wimbledon’s owners aimed for the stars, supporters would have preferred to have simply gone home, and it was that twisted ambition, driven by a desire for individuals to profit, that held us back for so long. Now we are in control of our own destiny, we have never been closer to a move back home, largely because we are actually looking…

Be it five, ten or twenty years, you get the impression as long as there is a will there among all parties, we will eventually find the long-term home many of us have spent decades yearning for. But without wanting to trivialize what will be a huge step in the existence of our club, once we have achieved League Football and a new stadium, where do we go from there? What sort of football club do we want to build?

It might seem pointless discussing the deep future in great detail. In football new owners tend to announce they have a five-year, or ten-year plan, presumably to give supporters the impression they actually have a clue, but as far as most fans are concerned nothing in the game really matters beyond the next twelve months or so. Why should we care what happens to our club in twenty, fifty, a hundred years time?

I’m not advocating we aim for the Premier League, to be the most succesful club in the land, or anything like that… the Premier League didn’t exist twenty years ago, it would be presumptuous to believe it will exist in its current form in a further twenty. As the students of the Old Central school formed a club with the intention of creating an amateur club that future generations could play for, support and use to socialize could never have predicted the rise to professional football, the world of all seater stadiums, etc, all we can do is provide our area, and anyone in the wider community who shares our goals, with a football club that represents them.

So in a sense, we already have in place a number of safety nets in place to ensure our vision of the future is at least offered to future generations of Dons fans, for them to accept if they so wish (and the future can be unpredictable, who would have foreseen an asset stripping chairmen buying out the covenant of Plough Lane back in the seventies?). We have trust ownership, and we have a policy of financial prudence.

Yet we also find ourselves in a huge city, with some of the worlds biggest clubs on our doorstep… and we can’t simply presume it will remain fashionable to support your local club, just how can we compete with the lure of the Premier League? So far, we have done so by, well, being part of it for fifteen years, that helped… and the charm of our rise over the last nine years is also a part of where we find ourselves today.

I think some of us have yearned for stability over the last couple of decades, I’ll include myself in that bracket, but perhaps the biggest challenge we will face will come when we ‘find our level’. Will the crowds still come flocking through the turnstiles in the same sort of numbers when we become ‘just another lower division club’? To make the presumption that we will always appeal to those looking for an alternative to the Premier League because we are unique becomes dangerous when we stop being special…

I get the impression this isn’t something we need worry about in the near future. It will probably take a couple of seasons for the novelty of being back in the League to wear off, by which time we will hopefully be able to challenge for promotion. After that we have the unfinished soap opera of dealing with regular fixtures with Them to deal with, and the aforementioned new stadium will keep us busy after that (fingers crossed)… it may well be we don’t have to invent any new dramas for a good decade.

So enjoy today, fellow Dons fans, for we have earned it. Maybe in years to come we will look back on today with the same fondness we do Sutton or Sandhurst. And remember how lucky we are to have something special. The excitement we feel today is being shared by football fans up and down the country… will this be their year for promotion, or simply avoiding the drop? For the majority, the season will very quickly wear off as the mundanity of a run of the mill season hits home. For us, regardless of performance on the pitch, every visitor or new away ground will be an experience… to paraphrase a sign off I used in a preseason preview, its great to be back.

Further WUP articles can be found in the Features Index