Tag Archives: CCL

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.

Tagged , , ,

Playing Music After Goals – For Or Against?

I think I first noticed it happening at Wimbledon after the fifth goal in a 5-0 Premiership win over Watford. The clubs PA man was, as occasionally is now, the one and only Chris Phillips, at the time a Kiss FM presenter. To mark the moment he played the theme to Hawaii 5-0, a cheeky reference to the scoreline (unless it was originally played at random, the score a happy coincidence?!).

On Tuesday night, as AFC Wimbledon led 4-0 against Salisbury in stoppage time, playing against ten men with a striker/defender in goal, all I could think was, ‘if we score again we will get to hear Hawaii 5-0’! As many of you know, I’m a traditionalist as far as my football is concerned. Take me back to the days of Divisions One to Four, The Milk Cup, crappy terracing… (hang on, we have that at Kingsmeadow!). As far as I’m concerned, goal music is as welcome addition to the modern game as subscription TV, Tim Lovejoy and that stupid baby rocking goal celebration. Goal music is as contrived as what the Germans do when they score, where the PA man shouts out the first name, and the crowd roar back the surname (especially when its Michael Ballack. Yuk…).

I mentioned at the beginning of my match report for the above game that I was torn over my natural hatred of goalscoring music over my subconcious desire to hear it following a fifth goal;

Strange as it may sound, I left the stadium ever so slightly disappointed this evening… I wanted to hear Hawaii 5-0 over the tannoy! Although the habit of playing music after goals shouldn’t be encouraged I suppose… Not when we now seem to have kicked that one…

This prompted the following response from Devon Don in Comments (by the way, anyone posting a comment has already reserved the right for me to deconstruct it in detail in a following article!);

I must be the only one who actually likes music played after a goal. I see it as adding to the celebrations rather than trying to create something that isn’t there (anyone who has attended any US sport will know what I mean). Was highly disappointed when ‘My name’s Jon Main’ wasn’t played after his equaliser vs Luton. Someone in the iStadium suggested ‘More, more, more (how do you like it, how do you like it?)’ for a Luke Moore goal – great stuff I say. If you are reading this Phillo, take note!!

Ignoring the fact that ‘Rebel Yell’ by Billy Idol is far more appropriate a song to play for Luke Moore, has Devon Don got a point? Does a thirty second blast of music add to the atmosphere… or simply obliterate any noise the fans create?

Let me play devils advocate first, by trying to support his argument. After the initial roar that follows a goal, perhaps music can be used effectively. The fatal mistake would be to hit the play button too fast (and there have been incidents in the past when goal music has still been playing as the opposition restart the game… from a freekick for offside that ruled the goal out…), a good twenty or thirty seconds should pass until the fans celebrations calm down before playing.

As a club, AFC Wimbledon have proved as guilty as any over the last few years. There was a time when music was played over the tannoy for pretty much every goal. We had individual goal music (Matt Everards ‘Rock with the Caveman’ and, erm, Andy Martin struck gold with ‘Personal Jesus’…). We had entrance music for certain teams, playing the theme to The Bill as the Metropolitan Police came on to the field after half time was designed to humiliate, despite a clear reference on the front of the programme to KRS-One’s ‘Sound of da Police’…

By far the most popular were the goal songs however, having certain tunes for certain goals, which if I remember rightly were;

Third goal – ‘The Magic Number’, De La Soul

5-0 – Theme to Hawaii 5-0

Seventh goal – The Magnificent Seven Theme

Eighth goal – ‘5678’, Steps…….

Any unexpected/long awaited goal – ‘Halejluah’, Hymn (though perhaps should have been The Happy Mondays version).

As we remember, that eighth goal was achieved on three occasions (21st Feb ’04 vs Bedfont, and 21st April ’04 vs Cove, slap bang in the middle of ”The 78”… and the penultimate goal vs Slough Town on 31st March ’07). Which meant, during what should have been a triumphant moment, most Dons fans were dying of embarrassment as Steps thumped out of the speakers around the Meadow. Incidentally I can’t remember if any music was played following our ninth goal against Slough…

I mean has anyone really missed the music over the last couple of home games? Surely the celebrations themselves created enough of an atmosphere for anything else to be rendered redundant? What do people think about this? Are you for or against it?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Some Idle Speculation

As I write, there are but thirty-four days until a Wimbledon team take the field in something resembling a proper game of football. Who we play is anyones guess – although it should be announced this week – but I think that’s besides the point, we want to see our team and we can’t bear to wait any longer.

I can’t decide whether its down to the nature of signing players and arranging friendlies as a Conference club or extremely clever marketing by AFC Wimbledon, but this drip feedingof information has kept The Dons at the forefront of my mind this summer. I seem to remember last season that a whole host of signings were made pretty early along with pre-season games, and then nothing happened for weeks on end. I ended up getting distracted by Euro 2008, then finding other things to do with my summer Saturdays.

In fact I was so distracted I arranged to visit my old Nan bless ‘er, over in New Addington on the day we played Croydon, which was weird, as we virtually passed the ground on the tram and saw loads of Wimbledon fans milling around. I never felt like I was missing out though (these being the days before I spent most of my free time blogging about the club). In fact last summer must have been the most unappealing pre-season I can ever remember as a Wimbledon fan, perhaps excluding the Brentford game.

The only other friendly I bothered with was Salisbury at home, a mind numbing 90 minutes where the only entertainment was provided by a leaky home defense that pretty much made my mind up that we were due a ‘season of consolidation’. This year, things are different. For one the signing of players seems to be in waves. I know the ‘Whats Going Down At The Meadow’ newsletter (or whatever its called) told us to expect this, and I know I need to be patient, but its not quite happening.

If we had done as we had last year, we would have signed a load of decent young players, then watched open-mouthed as rivals started cherry-picking the cream of the Football League released players list, and realised maybe what we had wasn’t all that after all. Its not as if its not hard enough already to work out our relative strength. Terry’s policy of only signing younger players means we have to place a little bit of trust in him. Its all too easy to get carried away that players like Stephen Gregory and Luke Moore are going to turn into world beaters because the gaffer said so, despite Terry’s attempts to put together the basis of the team that will go on to win us promotion, experience tells us that perhaps three or four of our strongest starting lineup next year won’t make it, no matter how hard they try to develop.

And its impossible to tell now who will and who won’t. For example, two young players who really made the shirt their own last season, Chris Hussey and Sam Hatton, faced a lot of criticism from some of our supporters last year. Hussey made mistakes last year, but how many of them actually cost us goals? This from a player who is five or six years away from peaking as a footballer.

And Hatton seemed to get it in the neck quite often not for what he had done, but for what people perceived he should have been doing more of. Once more, Hatton featured in a lot of the moves that lead to goals last year for doing exactly what he was put on the pitch to do; move the ball on quickly and retain possession. Now I can’t be sure that either player has it in them to be a Conference winner, but then neither can anyone else.

Don’t get me wrong, those players have areas of their game they really need to work on. For example, Hatton isn’t strong enough in the tackle, and Hussey can’t pick a simple pass when its needed. Plus they are really going to get taught a lesson by a few experienced hands in that division. But that’s not something we should be afraid of as a team, learning from players who are, quite simply, better than they are is the only way younger players can learn.

Next season will tell us a lot more about these boys characters, but in the mean time and for the good of the club, one or two of us are going to have to button it a bit, these youngsters need our support, so all those knob-heads who boo and call on the manager to bring in experienced heads, you have to understand we are going to lose points at home through inexperience, but for each time that happens we will probably see them take points they had no right to on paper, just through being a young and fearless side.

We have to accept the inconsistency that a young side will experience, and if we do that for a couple of seasons we will see the results blossom into something spectacular. If that’s something you think you can’t handle and feel the need to spout of about it during games, just remember for a lot of matches next year there will be Dons fans locked out who are prepared to be positive, or at least just shut up and watch the game. Plus if you are the sort of person who likes to shout abuse, have a look round at the dozens of punters surrounding you who don’t feel the need to be so outspoken – and remember, all those people know a lot more about football than you do.

As it happens I’m relishing going to a game and watching just a game, a battle for three points rather than a minor part of some larger war – and spending half the game checking rivals scores on your mobile or what the implications of that late equaliser will be. I’m pretty confident we have the quality to avoid relegation easily next year, so everything else is just a learning curve as far as I’m concerned. And I’m bloody looking forward to it.

I think we are half way there as far as player recruitment is concerned. I think we could name a pretty decent 1-11 at the moment, one that will certainly put us mid-table, we just need a few extra faces to add competition, so we have that 17-18 man squad where the manager won’t be afraid to field any of them. No more of these Aitouakrim type players who are in the first team squad but aren’t getting anywhere near the starting lineup.

Back to pre-season, and I’m going to stick my neck out and say I think the first game on the 11th will be home to Brighton. I don’t know whether we will see any midweek visits from league clubs, although a Fulham XI rumour was doing the rounds it seemed to die out. Put it this way, if we were playing a Fulham or an Arsenal, even a Charlton, someone would have leaked it by now. After ‘Brighton’ we normally take on a couple of local-ish sides in split squad matches on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Saturday after is Ramsey, perhaps another away game (Tonbridge) in the week before FC United on the 25th. One other game before we visit Farnborough then a weeks hard training before kickoff. You see, it all puts itself together really, and you should be expecting a full coverage from The Anonymous Don for all Saturday games except Ramsey (unless someone is driving… I don’t mind hiding in the boot on the ferry…).

Whoever we play on the 11th you can guarantee I’ll be standing there grinning like a fool at the pleasure of paying entry to attend what is effectively a practice match. It won’t be until I’ve travelled half way across Surrey on the Wednesday night and walked four miles down country tracks, sweating like a pig as its so humid despite the fact its pissing down and having been stung, bitten or generally molested by every flying insect known to man (plus a few that have been hiding from us) to find my way to an ex Surrey League turned CCL club, only to find I had misread the O/S and it was a reserve game, and I appreciate this has already been an extremely long sentence so perhaps I shouldn’t waste your time further by pointing it out, in fact now I’ve forgotten what I was talking about, oh no, its coming back now, until I start getting a little fed up with pre-season games.

While I’m on the subject of that game on the 11th, the week before Anonymous Don HQ will be moving across town to a flat over looking the river on the Portsmouth Road. Ok, that’s a lie, its overlooking the reservoirwith the river just beyond that. Plus its so small the bedroom turned out to be a cupboard just off the hall (otherwise known as the living room). In fact the bathroom is just about the biggest room in the place, or it would be if it didn’t double up as the kitchen.

Still, its great to know I’m moving up in the world! Next stop a mile down the road to one of those penthouse jobs in Charter Quay… The point being there may be a service delay as far as this blog is concerned depending on how quickly I can get Virgin Media out to sort my broadband/TV. So don’t say you haven’t been warned. And before anyone tries to give me advice, Tiscali are bollocks, they still haven’t sorted out my refund from when I cancelled in January. Plus I still haven’t fully forgiven Sky for all those times it went off just because there was a thunderstorm… and I’m not allowed a dish…

The number we should really be focusing on is 61. This is the magic number of days that as of Sunday 7th June we have to wait until our first ever Conference Proper game. That is unless by some miracle Setanta are still broadcasting and select us for their first live game, which could be on the Friday (urgh…) or more likely Sunday. There is a chance another television company could come in and nab the rights on the cheap, however I’m not sure quite how appealing 5th level English football is compared to German football or example, which will also be up for grabs. I think we can kiss goodbye to that £85 grand, the good news being so can everyone else in this league, and we won’t have to worry about making arangements to travel to Tamworth on a Thursday evening.

All that is for the future however. We still have a tournament free summer to get through. Ok, I know the BBC are showing Confederations Cup on red button, and its an important tournament for world ranking and stuff like that, but by the time I’ve seen these famous brown shorts that Italia are supposed to be wearing with their sky blue shirts (http://www.whoateallthepies.tv/2009/06/italy_national.html) I think I’ll lose interest.

Of course England are in a major tournament this year, the Under 21 Championship, which I would normally follow but the Under 21’s are full of bling loaded idiots wearing headphones who think they’ve made it because they were earning twice as much as the rest of the players at the Championship side they were loaned to last year, the true England contenders at that age group are probably already in the national side. Plus its easy enough to ignore as its on Sky, which of course I don’t have.

Aide from the national team I get more satisfaction watching the ladies national sides, performing miracles when you consider apart from the lucky ones who got a move to the US Pro League, they probably think they’re quite lucky to be earning the pittance of £16k or so from a central contract from the FA.

You could try watching another sport I suppose. If you get in quick enough, and have a Dutch granny, you might be able to leap on the Netherlands bandwagon in the 20/20 World Cup. The short version of the game reminds me of baseball in a way, in theory the best side should win, but on the night anything can happen. They should play the final as a best of even series, but I suppose that’s missing the point a little. When that’s finished you could support our very own Surrey Brown Caps of course (stop laughing at the back please…).

Or in the classic words of the theme to Why Don’t You?, you could switch off your TV set and find something less boring instead… and if the worse comes to the worse I’m still here writing my blog, trying not to show any desperation that there’s still nothing worth talking about. Coming soon the Conference Files for Gateshead and Forest Green, plus Marcus Gayle get the Dons Icon treatment. Stay tuned.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dons Icons #1 – We’ve Got Matt Everard

I’ve made a contemporary choice for my first selection as a Dons Icon, although I’m sure it will be a popular choice (the numbers mean nothing by the way, its number one in a series, not ‘Matt Everard is our number one Dons icon’… although if it ever came to a vote he would definitely be in the top ten).

Our first encounter with the giant (although at 6’2″ he’s only an inch taller than me, although he seemed an absolute goliath on the pitch) came in our first encounter with Ash United, the club Matt made his name with. The Dons led 2-0 in one of our first games on the August Bank Holiday 2002, only for an Everard-inspired comeback saw us lose 3-2. The big man certainly made an impression with the Dons fans, and the following February Wimbledon boss Terry Eames made a seven day approach to poach him to Kingsmeadow.

Reportedly he made first contact with the fans on the Weird and Wonderful World guest book – legendary predecessor of the current WUP version – although I have to say I missed his postings myself, and like our club itself despite only a few years passing it has already fallen into the category of those famous almost mythical stories of the early days (in my head I can barely believe my own memories of events like curry night at Southall, or Walton Casuals beer tent with band playing inside).

Although Matt’s arrival wasn’t enough to secure the title for Wimbledon he did bag ten goals in eighteen appearances, a sign of the goalscoring prowess he was to show next season. He debuted in a 3-0 pasting of Chessington and Hook at a cold, muddy Chalky Lane. Hopes of promotion went in his second game, and his home debut against Withdean 2000, a match Wimbledon lost 0-2 after seeing six men go into the book and Sean Daly sent off. Amazingly this was to be the only game Wimbledon lost during his spell as an active player at the club.

Big Matt wasn’t one to give up that first year, and went on to have a storming end to the season. This included memorable moments such as scoring in the 5-3 win over his old side at Kingsmeadow. The Wimbledon side that was to dominate the Combined Counties League the next season was taking shape, and Matt played a huge part in that in more ways than one.

Matt hit sixteen goals in the league to go with the eight he scored in cup competitions that year, which included a few memorable ones. First he scored the winner at Herne Bay in the FA Vase in injury time to send the Dons into the next round, and Dons fans into ecstasy. Then in November he struck twice in stoppage time to turn a 3-4 deficit into a 5-4 victory against a plucky Walton Casuals side, one that proved vitally important come the end of the season.

It wasn’t just Wimbledon supporters who had noticed Matt’s dominant aerial prowess during the course of his first and only season at Kingsmeadow. As transfer deadline day loomed an offer came in from high flying Aldershot – Matt’s hometown team – managed by a certain Terry Brown, always a good judge of a player (either that or he’s always secretly been a Womble fancier!). As Dons fans held their breath, Everard chose to put loyalty above ambition and stick with the Dons. No Wimbledon fan would have begrudged him the chance to step up to Conference level, but in an amazing show of loyalty he chose to stay put and finish the job in hand.

Of course those two goals I mentioned earlier against Walton Casuals may have seemed minor, but without them we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the spectacle of a Kingfield stadium full of Dons come the end of the season, with Wimbledon winning the Combined Counties Premier Challenge Cup final, and our first Cup victory, after trailing to North Greenford. Matt’s towering header in front of the huge stand behind the goal was one of the memorable moments of that night (well for most people, I was in the gents at that point, emerging just in time to join the celebrations! I have seen it on video many times since though… here for example http://www.donsonline.co.uk/videos/20040430/action12.mpg).

All of which was enough to secure him the Player of the Year award, no mean feat considering Kevin Cooper managed to hit sixty goals that season (although to be fair that was pretty much all he did do…). In the close season caretaker manager Nicky English was replaced by Dave Anderson, who had seen enough of the club to know the rocks it was built around, Matt Everard being one of them. Matt started our first season in Ryman One, featuring strongly despite the arrival of two experienced centre halves in Steve Butler and Anthony Howard (himself destined for legend status…), scoring a couple of important goals in the process.

I seem to have overemphasised Matt’s admittedly impressive goalscoring prowess, but there is a reason he was a centre half. Playing his football in divisions where resources demanded more direct football be played, he snuffed out long balls and gobbled up set pieces, allowing us a base to build from. In the Combined Counties League he was immense, yet he was a standout player in the slightly more sophisticated Ryman One as well. We came across many players whose throwback physique could have caused us more problems than it did, Matt however had a footballers brain to go with it, and could easily have played at a much higher level. He could have had the chance to try with Wimbledon had fate not intervened.

An innocuous looking knock in the away match at Bashley in November 2004 ultimately ended Matt’s Wimbledon career. Upon finding out the severity a month later, severe knee ligament damage, Matt was forced to hang up his boots to the dismay of Wimbledon fans everywhere. It was no coincidence that Wimbledon’s next game away at Cray Wanderers saw a 2-0 defeat, and the loss of an unbeaten league record that stretched back almost two years, to that loss at home to Withdean.

Matt is currently the Assistant Manager to Paul Bonner at Ash United, having played a few reserve games for the club in what could be described as a failed attempt at a comeback, but perhaps was more for a laugh, playing the game for fun as he did for all those years with his mates at Ash.

The legacy Matt leaves us is that Dons fans now expect nothing but the best from a centre half, and its the high standards he set that the fans judged the three previous winners of the WISA player of the year against, all coincidentally central defenders. As a club we have been spoiled with our good fortune to acquire strong, committed defenders like Anthony Howard, Jason Goodliffe and Ben Judge. The later, despite an impeccable campaign last season, still has a way to go to dislodge Matt from my all time AFC Wimbledon XI. 

 

If you have any nominations for a Dons Icon, be it player, manager, supporter, or other, leave a comment. Or if your too shy to leave a comment, see the contacts section – all emails treated in strictest confidence… oh and any emails for Kevin Cooper that turn out to actually have come from Kevin Cooper will result in instant barring of Kevin Cooper from The Dons Icons section (The second Kevin Cooper, obviously the first one is a shoe-in unless he runs away with my wife in the next few weeks… even then I might come round given time)

Tagged , , , , , ,