Tag Archives: AFC Wimbledon

Mid-Season Break

Its been a bit of a stop-start season for me supporter-wise… A lack of away games has given my football diary a distinctly fractured look, I find myself coping with increasingly long gaps without a Dons fix. Having to find something else to do with my time made me question whether I really need football in my life. Surely a handsome, intelligent guy such as myself could find alternative Saturday entertainment?

The answer was a resounding ‘Fuck no’… I could have spent the last two Saturdays doing something productive, starting a new hobby, reading, going to the cinema – the opportunity was there for me to find something stimulating, an activity that could have advanced my knowledge and improved me as a human being, but what I actually spent those two Saturdays doing was sitting on the sofa in my pants playing video games and eating Yum Yums.

The recent cold weather has given even those who never miss away games a glimpse into my current alternate-Saturday problem. It amuses me that this sort of interruption to the schedule always inspires one or two to raise that old winter break chestnut. The fact is last year we had games postponed in December, this year its February… in a temperate climate you can expect postponements at virtually any time of the season (even a pre-season game at Brentford fell foul of summer thunderstorms a few years ago). A mid-season break for climate reasons would actually increase end of season fixture congestion, as clubs spend weeks in the dead of winter kicking their heels.

In this instance we’ve had such a break forced on us, much to the annoyance of the management team who have to come up with all sorts of alternatives to training that doesn’t simply consist of just running, and end up with a schedule that looks more like a seven-year olds dream half-term – outings to the local swimming pool, something called a spinning session… if the weather had turned a few weeks later they might even have been lucky enough to get a trip to Thorpe Park thrown in.
The weather break came at the most annoying time possible for the Dons… a reshaped squad bolstered with loanees saw a mini winning run brought to a halt by a frustrating performance against Aldershot, and the only benefit going into tonight’s trip to Northampton is that game has now passed out of the majority of Dons fans minds, while still providing some kind of incentive for the squad to ‘bounce back’.

With a handful of wins required to guarantee League Two football again next season, the majority of the season will be played out for pride alone – in an ideal world this should be reason enough for professional players to go out and want to win a game, the fact that a few of them are clearly on a knife-edge as far as their futures at the club are concerned should ensure we see dedicated performances at the very least.

The Bradford cancellation was disappointment enough, but equally frustrating as Saturday was due to see the introduction of not just a new Dons fanzine in Wise Men Say, but a head to head with existing publication WUP. Now you might ask yourself why a club like Wimbledon needs two fanzines, the real question is ‘Does a club like Wimbledon need a fanzine at all?’, and that was answered fairly conclusively nine years ago with the introduction of WUP – for various reasons, the most valid of which is ‘because people will buy it’. Once you’ve justified one fanzine, you’ve justified not just a second but as many rival publications as is practical to produce. There should be no decrease in quality across the board, Wise Men Say appears to be heading in a slightly different direction to WUP, including contributions from individuals who choose not to write for the existing publication; and will hopefully inspire those writing for WUP to set the bar a little higher – I’ve written for WUP in the past, will do in future and will take the quality of writing across both fanzines into consideration when I sit down to compose my next effort.

By now you’re probably guessing I’m the sort that harkens back to the golden age of fanzine production that was the mid-nineties. At the time I was living with my dad and my cousin, a very football oriented house that saw no televised game ignored, and a decent supply of fanzines from clubs up and down the country thanks to my cousins regular trips to Sportspages in Charing Cross Road – some of which were exceptional, some of which seemed to be produced entirely for the benefit of the editor and his small clique of friends, yet somehow remained entertaining all the same.

Ultimately the expectation was online media would kill off the printed fanzine, but that hasn’t quite happened. In fact I have to say I’m surprised there aren’t a lot more Dons bloggers out there keen to give their personal view. The fact there seems to be so many Dons fans prepared to read my inconsistent ramblings suggests there are a great deal of people unsatisfied with the Dons offerings in mainstream media, and there is still a great void that can be filled by alternative websites and blogs, be they occasional or prolific.

The same applies to fanzines. The matchday programme is the only regular publication you can buy in and around the ground – there is a lot of sniping and criticism of the programme, while there is undoubtedly room for improvement and innovation I actually think it’s a more than acceptable offering when you consider its produced to a tight budget and deadline (no saving it for next week until a few more articles come in!) – and yet I’ve normally finished reading it by the time the teams are out for kick off. I’ve always looked forward to WUP weeks in the knowledge I’ll have something to flick through at half time, or read on the train home, and the introduction of a second publication will ensure that fanzine-free weeks will hopefully become the minority.

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New Round-Up 29/5/11 – No News

Looking back, relaunching my semi-regular look at all the latest Dons news just after the season finished wasn’t the best of plans… fair enough, seven days ago we had the worlds media – from heavyweight journalists to bedroom bloggers – falling over themselves to publish articles about the Dons. Now, well there are a few post-Eastlands stories still dripping out – Kedwell can’t do a piss, anyone? –  but beyond that local reporters up and down the country are having problems filling column inches.

The same reporter spoke to Terry Brown shortly after, trying to find a new angle on the Dons Eastlands triumph by questioning the Dons manager on competing in the same division as Paulo Di Canio next term. I’m kind of imagining this interview took place over the phone, with Brown perhaps mowing the lawn at the same time…

Either way, there’s not too much of a discussion to be had here – Swindon will either challenge Crawley for the title or finish 17th depending on how their rookie manager settles in (and, indeed, who is scouting his players for him…); the Dons will finish upper or lower mid-table depending on how a largely unchanged squad copes with the transition to L2 (and remember upper mid-table in this division equals the verge of the playoffs).

That hasn’t stopped the non-story being leapt on by not only myself, but a Swindon website desperate to fill post-season gaps in service provision (the Swindon guy kind of misses the point a bit as well… although Brown hasn’t managed at L2 level that’s more down to a fluke of history than any lack of talent on his part, he’s managed at most of the grounds in the division, knows most of the players and nearly all his fellow managers…).

This lack of information is a problem across the country. Take our captains name being mentioned in this interview with Andy Hessenthaler… now Kedwell to Gillingham will always be one of those rumours that just won’t go away, and I can see him going there at some point – next summer if he has a storming season and Gillingham get promoted (and we don’t…). Until then, Keds has another year option on his contract, which he has by all accounts committed to. Even if Brown succumbed to an act of compassion and allowed him to talk to his hometown club, he’d be looking for a fee at least in the region that Crawley offered last summer, a sum approaching six figures, and I just don’t think Gillingham are going to want to pay that.

Finally, the club announced on Thursday that next seasons pricing will be announced ‘very soon’, in the mean time season tickets will be available at last years prices until 17th June. From some of the chatter I’ve heard from even non-regular supporters looking to take up a season ticket for next year, I’ll be surprised if we don’t break records again his summer…

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Early on Sunday afternoon, at a Tesco Express in Armthorpe, I purchased a copy of the Non-League Paper to read the Dons match report for the last time.

The truth is it still hasn’t sunk in. I witnessed all 120 minutes of football at Eastlands on Saturday, as well as each of the ten penalties that decided the Dons fate, and yet I still frequently feel the need to rewatch footage of the day…

What hasn’t helped me achieve my aim of a coherent description of the days events had been the mother of all colds I developed twenty-four hours after the final whistle. I know the body’s immune system is particularly vulnerable when under stress, we’ve all been subjected to that over the last couple of weeks, be it waiting for tickets, sorting transport or just finding the money to make it to our biggest game in ages… I’d imagine I’m not the only one confined to bed right now, even if the majority of you are nursing sore heads for alcohol related reasons…

Being tucked up in bed with my notebook has given a couple of weeks worth of articles relating to past, present and future, but the words still won’t come to describe the 120 minutes and ten penalties that took us back to the Football League. When I close my eyes, I see a linesman’s flag cutting short celebrations, time standing still as Luton hit the inside of the post, the Dons being the width of an upright away from winning it in extra time. In fact, I was convinced we had blown our chance as we prepared for the shootout, even more so when Mo missed (shoot outs have a habit of swinging back and forth). How appropriate it should be Kedwell stepping up to send the Dons into the Football League.

Of course, I briefly felt sorry for Luton Town. They, like us, have been accused of arrogance by those small-minded Non-League supporters jealous of a club with the sort of size and potential they could only dream of. Luton will go up next season, if there is any justice, but we deserved this… we served nine long, hard years in non-league football, we didn’t deserve one of them. Now we find ourselves heading for League Two, one chapter of the Wimbledon story closed, another just about to begin…

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If you were having difficulty remembering just how far we have come over the last nine years there are frequent reminders pretty much everywhere. The last question in the ‘Can You Help’ section of this weeks Knowledge in the Guardian features a question wondering whether Tipton Town, who racked up 100 points this season and still only finished second in the Midland Football Alliance, were the greatest runners-up of all time… I’m sure there’ll be quite a few replies from the South West London area pointing out the third place team in the 2002/3 Combined Counties season and their mighty 111 point tally…

I’ve seen comments from a couple of people on the WUP guestbook mentioning how surreal the last seven days have been and I thought ‘hang on, with respect hasn’t the last nine years just been a completely bizarre experience?’. If I woke up in a daze to find its 2002, the three-man commission are about to unanimously throw out Wimbledon FC’s request to relocate, and the last nine years have been but a vision, I wouldn’t be surprised. In fact I’d be fucking delighted, I’d be twenty-four again…

But then again, haven’t the last nine years been unbelievably special? We’ll never know what would have happened if we had been given a chance to breathe life into the Wimbledon FC corpse, presuming the Trust had somehow been able to take control of the club… it’s likely there would have been a minor feel good factor upon taking over but years of hard slog would have followed, as we slipped down the table. We could easily have found ourselves in exactly the position we are now (including playing at KM) without that special feeling we have around the club, not to mention the momentum we carry with us.

I thought twice about writing that last paragraph in case some passing Franchise apologist picks up on it and uses it as justification for the move, the old ‘it’s worked out best for everybody’ excuse that the outcome of the event somehow justifies the theft itself. And while we’re on the subject of theft here’s a well know quote form the commission report you might want to bear in mind on Saturday…

128. Furthermore, resurrecting the Club from its ashes as, say, “Wimbledon Town” is, with respect to those supporters who would rather that happened so that they could go back to the position the Club started in 113 years ago, not in the wider interests of football.

 Well come 5PM on Saturday, ‘Wimbledon Town’ could be back in the League, the only problem being our opponents were also royally shafted by the football authorities… neutrals I’ve spoken to are admitting split loyalties, but are falling down on our side of the fence. Not that this means anything beyond being a nice gesture, anyone with even half an interest in making the journey was put off by those darn ticket prices, so it’s just our core support of 6,000 heading up, outnumbered 2:1 by Luton (but then again hasn’t that always been the Wimbledon way?).

Regarding the game itself, I’ve been thinking about it pretty much all week and have come to the conclusion this could really end up just about any score you could think of… its close, 50/50, but if one team cracks under the pressure on the day the other side could end up knocking in a few… yet maybe that’s what comes from thinking through just about every possibility in my head since last Wednesday.

I’ve got to say, while I’ve analysed how I would react to failure, I’ve stopped short of thinking what I would do if we actually won… I daren’t even allow it to cross my mind for even a moment – well that’s a lie, actually, I thought about it  Monday morning on my way to work, and its highly likely I’ll end up in tears. Perhaps I’ll even end up standing there passive, shell-shocked, my mind unable to find a suitable expression to the level of emotion I’ll feel.

I know we’ve convinced ourself defeat won’t be a disaster, and we’re right, it won’t be the calamity it would be for Luton if they miss out. I have heard that Saturdays loser will automatically be installed as next seasons favourites for promotion, but the truth is we have no idea how much money Fleetwood and Mansfield are going to throw about over the summer. We just don’t know how competitive the bigger clubs like Grimsby are going to be. We can do ourselves a massive favour by winning at our first proper attempt.

I’ve got a lot of respect for Luton and the majority of their supporters, they’ve been treated as harshly as we have… but another season in the BSP won’t kill them. We’ve spent nine long years in the wilderness, we’ve worked hard for this, we’ve earned it and we deserve it. We shouldn’t be ashamed to admit we want this badly, it’s the reason why so many of us haven’t been able to sleep for most of the week…

So come on Wimbledon, make us prouder than we already are right now. And whether you’re joining me at Eastlands, watching at home or the pub, or some dodgy feed in some corner of the world, I hope we have something to celebrate together come 5pm BST on Saturday…

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