Category Archives: Legends Of Yore

Legends Of Yore #3 – Danny Kedwell

Following Jon Main and Marcus Gayle in the ‘Legends of Yore’ series, with his return to Kingsmeadow imminent there can only be one choice… the man whose penalty took us to the Football League, and whose goals and work rate in the preceding forty-eight games got us to Eastlands in the first place.

It’s rare that Wimbledon ever sign a player to the universal approval of Dons fans. Future legends have been written off before they’ve even appeared in a blue shirt by sections of the fanbase of various proportions… we’ve had players come in being too old, too expensive, too injury prone. In Danny Kedwell’s case, his strike rate at his previous club, Grays, was called into question. That would have been understandable had Kedwell been signed as a goalscorer, but at the time his arrival heralded the target man Terry Brown had been looking for, a foil for the prolific Jon Main.

Lets not forget how difficult obtaining a target man actually is… Dons fans had to endure the likes of Tony Battersby and Danny Webb stinking out the place before Ked’s arrival. Yet from his first appearance it was obvious Kedwell was more than just a big guy to lump long balls up to. His appearance as a half time substitute replacing Sam Hatton against a stubborn Maidenhead side changed the game, contributing an assist to tee up the home side’s game clinching second goal.

By the time Kedwell notched his first goal, capping off a comfortable FA Cup replay against Bedford in his first home start, he was already well on his way to securing crowd favourite status. While Main set about breaking scoring records, Kedwell concentrated on teeing them up for him, doing all the leg work, defending from the front… yet grabbing his share of goals, eventually weighing in with fourteen in the league in his first season.

Would we have even gained promotion that season had Kedwell not joined? Despite our brilliant start, the arrival of Danny added an extra dimension even Jon Main couldn’t provide on his own. We stuttered a couple of times, even with Kedwell in the squad, ending up just falling over the line. I’m not convinced, with all respect for the rest of the squad, that we would have gone on to be anything other than playoff fodder… Danny gave us just that little extra we needed.

Kedwell still wouldn’t have been everyone’s first choice for a favourite player – he would have been up there, but these were the days when strike partner Main was still the , erm, main man. That all changed at the start of our first season in the Conference. Main’s goals started to dry up, but Danny was there to make up the shortfall, and then some. Despite an inconsistent season in terms of results, Kedwell performed beyond all expectations, slamming in twenty-six in all competitions. Of course, that form brought with it unwanted attentions…

At the time it wasn’t clear whether Crawley’s move to bring Kedwell was serious, or simply mind games. Yet for all his efforts to present himself otherwise, Steve Evans isn’t an idiot. Kedwell had proved himself the most feared hitman in the Conference, for us holding on to him was an achievement worthy of more than just a t-shirt… yet at the time I wondered whether he could come close to his goal tally from the year before in a young, rebuilt Dons side.

Young it may have been, but it was built around Kedwell. For all the talent in the side, Kedwell’s sheer work rate alone meant the team were heavily dependant on him on a regular basis. And the goals kept on coming… finishing the season matching that twenty-six goal tally from the year before. He hit the net twice more at Eastlands, two strikes that sum the man up…

Firstly, a chink in the armour… and there weren’t many during his days in the Conference. When I was asked back in the summer for some of Danny’s weaknesses this was the only one I could come up with. His disallowed goal was a perfect example of his annoying habit of creeping beyond the last man, even when he is standing on the flank and can see every defensive player on the pitch. He must have been in the top five players caught offside in the Conference last year, infuriating because most of the time he’d bought himself so much space he didn’t need to steal any more.

And there we go – his only weakness as a Conference striker. Some questioned his fitness, but if you saw him blowing during the last ten minutes it was more down to the effort he put in during the previous eighty… and he covered some ground, that boy, probably more than most midfielders. Some questioned his temper, he did look as though he had a spark in him waiting to be lit, but was seldom carded, never sent off. He was always able to channel his energies productively.

About that second strike… I remember the nerves I felt knowing it was score-to-win, forgetting who was still to come, then when I saw Danny striding forward deep down I knew it was going to be ok. Some have questioned Kedwell, the rumours he had spoken to Gillingham as far back as the turn of the year, but look at his face when he buries the penalty that took us to the Football League (6.46 onwards by the way…). Is that the face of someone who didn’t care about the club? Is that the face of a mercenary looking for his next pay day?

And yet when someone who means so much to so many decides to move on, invariably a small minority of the many are going to take it badly, and there’s no disguising some Dons fans certainly saw his departure as some kind of betrayal. A few will boo him on his return, but rest assured that will reflect more on those doing the booing than Kedwell’s Dons legacy.

The rest of us will celebrate his time at the club, applaud politely and sing his name… right up until 3PM, when his history with us is forgotten, and he becomes just another opposition player…


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?


Legends Of Yore #1 – Jon Main

Kicking off a new feature this summer, there can be only one place to start… a man whose Dons career only came to a close officially mere days ago, but whose arrival was instrumental in kick starting the Dons climb from Ryman League to League Two. In fact, it was apt that when Danny Kedwell blasted home the winning penalty, the first man on the scene was Jon Main…

Its worthwhile remembering that back in November 2007, a year before Kedwell came on the scene, the Dons struggled for goals with a forward line including the likes of Richard Jolley – a striker who has scored for fun at every club he has played at, but didn’t really settle at the Dons – and Danny Webb, the target man that never was… Just hours after Main scored for Tonbridge to kick-start a comeback that saw the hosts overcome a 2-0 Dons lead to take a point, Terry Brown brought him to the club as record signing. I remember seeing the name of this Main guy popping up regularly in the scorers column when I checked the NLP on a Sunday, but the pressure of turning out for the Dons was a different matter altogether.

Just days later, Main made a winning, if not scoring, debut at Hastings, but his first home appearance ended badly, a defeat to Chelmsford that even at that early stage left the Dons facing the playoffs once more. Main found the net for the first time to earn Wimbledon a point at Ramsgate the week before Christmas, and went on to score in his next three games. Yet the Dons never really managed to keep a sustained spell of form going from there until the end of the season, and as Chelmsford strode away with the title the Dons were busying themselves losing at home to the likes of Harlow, Boreham Wood and Horsham. Brown reacted by bringing in proven quality on loan… a risk, but in a way it also took the pressure off Main slightly, who scored the goals that saw off Hornchurch in the semi-final.

I still count his second goal that night as my personal favourite AFC Wimbledon goal, and it pretty much sums up what Main is all about. Check from 0.16 onwards in the video below. After racing into a two goal lead thanks to Cumbers and a Mainy header, the Dons seemed set for the final. Yet Hornchurch scrambled one back during the second half, and as the clock ticked towards ninety minutes were throwing everything at the Dons. In front of a now fever pitch Kingsmeadow crowd, Main picked up a clearance, realised he would have to do it on his own, and simply ran the Hornchurch defence. As he approaches goal John Purdy is doing exactly what you would want your centre half to do, but Main’s change of pace just leaves him for dead… then has the coolness to not simply blast the ball but clip it past the onrushing keeper and wrap up the game.

Upon promotion, Brown had the chance to rebuild his squad, and effectively build a squad around Jon Main. The Dons pacy counter attacking style was ideal for him, and he went on to bag 33 goals as the Dons went up at first attempt. The Dons performance at Newport in the clubs first game at BSS level was a wonderful team performance, capped by a stunning hat trick from the man himself…

However, it wasn’t all plain sailing, and Main made a name for himself scoring late, important goals against the likes of Bognor and Bromley. It seems strange now, but the arrival of Kedwell in September was designed to provide a foil for Main, the target man Brown had been searching for quite some time. True, the man who acknowledges Jon Main as his best friend in football went on to give us so much more, but the partnership these two honorary Kent Wombles struck up went on to fire the Dons to promotion. Of course, this being Wimbledon there had to be a wobble towards the end, as controversy at Eastleigh and Bromley threatened to allow Hampton in.

Plus – and this sounds a little strange for a 33 goal striker – the goals had dried up a little over the last couple of months of the season, and as the Dons travelled to Hampton needing a point in what effectively became the title decider, Main was left on the bench. Of course, this just added to what became a legend… With the Dons 0-1 down and chasing the game, the video below picks up the story from 6.20 onwards. Hussey is stopped by two Hampton defenders, a quick throw, a decent ball into the box… if there was one player you wanted to be on the end of a ball like that, it was Jonny Main. No mistake, he knocked the ball past Lovett, and the Dons were going to the Conference Premier.

At this stage its easy to forget the impact Jon Main had at the start of the Dons maiden Conference campaign. Main grabbed the Dons first goal in the division, his penalty earning a point against Luton, and after a quiet spell grabbed braces against Grays, a memorable away win at Forest Green, at Salisbury and in the home hammering of Hayes. Yet those goals against Hayes proved to be the last Main would score for Wimbledon in the league. The dynamic of the Dons squad had changed, Brown was now building his side around Kedwell, and brought in Nathan Elder in an attempt to take the pressure of his leading scorer. As for Main, fifteen goals was a decent haul, but for a confidence player whose game was based on scoring goals, the writing was on the wall from that point on.

Jon Main was always a great professional, always ran his heart out, always put in a shift for the team, but the start of this season saw him moved to support Kedwell on the left side of a three-pronged attack. I was excited for him in pre-season, I remember commenting on his willingness to track back and help out his full back, I thought this could be a whole new start. But with the power of retrospect, Jon Main’s game was always about hanging off the last man, not stuck out on the left wing. We might have seen a different Jon Main had his penalty on opening day at Southport not been saved, but the odds were always stacked against him in Brown’s preferred formation.

You could probably write a volume about the psychology of goalscorers. Their mental state is so different to any other position on the pitch, perhaps having more in common with the baseball slugger enduring a long hitless streak, or the opening batsmen who try as he might just can’t get out of single figures. Goalscoring is all about timing, when to time your run, whether to shoot early or delay… and there are only two ways to dig yourself out. One is to score goals, which is why news that Mainy had bagged for the reserves, or in the LSC, brought a minor blip of excitement from Dons fans, but the truth was Main was never going to dig himself out of a hole with ten minutes here and fifteen minutes there for the first team. The likes of Christian Jolley and Luke Moore had come in and taken their chance, which left Main with no other alternative but move elsewhere.

Even then, I think a large number of us were hoping he would rip the BSS apart and some back a different player. While he did more than contribute, a goal for Dartford and three for Dover, his return to the club was more for one final swan song, a chance for the fans to sing his name once more. His cameo against Grimsby saw him hang on the final man, coiled like a sprinter just waiting for the right ball to latch onto… in fact the ball only came once, Main was dragged back but no penalty, no chance to sign off with a goal…

What next for Jon Main? Well, now we aren’t in that division anymore, I hope to see him in the BSP next term. If Hayes or Braintree have any sense they’ll snap him up, although I hope he goes to Ebbsfleet, I can see him bagging loads getting on the end of Calum Willock’s flicks. If not, he knows where the goal is in the BSS, a stint at Dover or Woking could see him work his own way back… Either way I hope we see Jon Main back at Kingsmeadow soon, as supporter, if not player. We genuinely wouldn’t be where we are right now without him, and future Dons strikers will have to do a hell of a lot to eclipse his legend status.

I never got the opportunity to really chat to Jon Main (being as I am the sort of person who gives the players their space), so never exchanged more words with him than Good Luck/Thanks… but those people I know that don’t have such hang ups about chatting to the players said he was a smashing guy. The sporting world reacted with awe when Usain Bolt smashed the 100m record then put it down to a meal of fried chicken, but those Dons fans who befriended Main of facebook were always aware of the magical boost of explosive speed a regular dose of Nandos gives a sportsman…

Just harking back to Saturday… Main did play a part in the Dons promotion, and this says an awful lot about Mainy (along with all non-playing squad members) and the team spirit at the club. Main was out warming up on the Eastlands pitch, sampling the atmosphere, cracking a joke here or there, keeping those in the starting XI grounded and calm. There was never any doubt over whether the entire first team squad, rather than just the sixteen men named, would travel to Manchester. And when Kedwells penalty flew in, we celebrated as one. Players, management, fans, Jon Main at the centre of it all, one of us and always will be.