Tag Archives: Fraser Franks

The Anonymous Don’s Summer Squad Review Part II – Defence

Continuing my look at the current Dons squad, Terry Brown has built his Dons sides from the solid base of an experienced central defensive partnership, with youthful promise waiting in the wings…


Coming in on loan last season to cover the failed experiment that was Andre Blackman, Bush reminded us what a promising full back should be all about. Obviously raw, bursting with potential, showing no signs of being overawed by playing first team football… the only problem being he wasn’t actually ours. Fortunately we were able to work out a deal with Brentford to secure his services, over joining their development squad, this sort of deal just outlines the way forward for our club over the short and medium term.

Signings such as Bush point the way forward for the club in the short and medium term, unable to fill our squad with a balance of experience, we have to rely on guys just starting their careers. There are obvious negatives in relying on youth, but the benefit is we can at least attract the very best of those who feel they won’t find regular football at bigger clubs.

From Bush’s point of view, immediate first team opportunities are available either battling it out with Gareth Gwillim for the left back slot or providing cover in his prefered position in the centre. Bush will presumably have ambitions to play at a higher level at some point in his career, but for now the competition for places will do him no harm…


Given the opportunity, TB admitted he would happily have kept both Fraser and Ed Harris, but finances dictated it was always going to be one or the other. The shootout between the pair actually began in pre-season, where it looked as though it was a case only one would be offered a deal, though fortunately both were kept on at the time. The problem we had having two young defensive prospects was I found myself judging them against each other, rather on their own merits to the team.

Ultimately when Ed Harris found himself shipped out on loan the writing was on the wall, regardless of Fraser’s unfortunate injury towards the end of the season which will curtail his involvement in the early stages of this season, particularly when promotion was achieved. In Fraser we have not just another decent prospect but a player that shows intelligence on the field that belies his age.

No better example was shown when the Dons found themselves without a left back for the rearranged home game with Luton. I doubt Fraser had much experience of playing in this position (although he can and has filled in on the right), yet faced with one of the strongest and most experienced attacking forces in the division he held up extremely well.

Going into the new season, and once he gets his fitness back, Fraser will find himself behind the three more experienced centre halves in the squad, yet with a 46 game season approaching, injuries and suspensions will play a part in gaining plenty of experience. Come the end of the Dons first season back in the League, providing he progresses, he might even find himself challenging for a starting place on merit.


Joining in January last year to provide cover for the left back role following the departure of Chris Bush. That we now have both of them at the club is a massive bonus in what was something of a problem position last term. As you would expect from a fullback who has spent the majority of his career in non-league football, Gwillim is a tough tackling, solid defender, something the Dons needed as they pushed towards the finish line.

On arrival some supporters, used to left backs such as Bush and Hussey before him, questioned whether he supported us enough going forward, but what we lost going forward Gwillim more than made up for defensively. Perhaps the best example of the battling qualities that will serve us well in League Two next year were shown by battling through the pain barrier against Fleetwood and in the final at Eastlands, after picking up a nasty knock in the first leg at Highbury.

Given a second chance at League football, you would expect Gwillim will find himself given more opportunities than with Dagenham in League One last term. Even more unusually, he held the distinction of being one of the few full-time footballers to hold down a job outside football, working as a contractor for London Underground overnight. This is a different solution to the problem that TB has mentioned that senior players have difficulty supporting a family on the money we pay, but probably not an example I would expect to see too many players follow…


Now the Dons longest-serving player, its easy to forget Sam is still so young. Originally arriving at the club as a midfielder, his switch to fullback was a bonus, and from Sam’s perspective has allowed him to go on and rack up more appearances in a Dons shirt than anyone else in the AFC era. Sam probably would have gone on to have a decent career in midfield outside the Football League, perhaps suffering the same problem Ricky Wellard had in stamping his influence on the team.

Yet a full back he now is, and a very good one at that. Drawing comparisons with Chris Hussey is how all AFCW fullbacks will be rated for the foreseeable future, and Sam is a slightly different sort of player. Still as keen to get forward but without the lightning pace, yet probably a better defender, either way he could go on to set the standard himself… now Kedwell and Gregory have departed, given a decent first season at this level we might find clubs in the higher division knocking our door down for Sam’s signature.


Having said Sam Hatton might be a top transfer target for clubs next summer, I have to admit I have no idea what Brett Johnson was doing playing in the Conference for two seasons for us. By reaching the Football League he is back in what should be his natural environment, and he probably would have led the exodus of player such as Hatton and Brown along with the two that did leave us should we not have managed to win promotion this year.

Brett was probably the best defender outside the Football League last year, his calm, experienced performances at the back alongside Yakubu were the foundations on which our promotion campaign were built. Yet Brett is so accomplished you can often forget he’s there – as I did when compiling my captaincy poll. With Brett subsequently named vice captain for the season, there is a fair chance we could see him lead the side in Jamie Stuart’s absence. Captain or not, Brett is a key player and our performance next season could well depend on his form.


I’ll keep it short as far as Mat is concerned as he is a player we know little of. The fact he contracted glandular fever so shortly after joining the club, coupled with his unfortunate injury record, suggest he’s not the luckiest guy in the world, but TB must rate him quite highly… I initially questioned the decision to sign him over Yakubu for next season, but with Brown confirming Yak couldn’t keep up with the training schedule a replacement was required. Here’s hoping mat is back training asap so we can see what he’s made of.


The signing of Jamie during the January window was inspired. When battling for promotion, you can’t get enough leaders on the field, and Jamie Stuart is the sort of character who would at least attempt to run through a wall if asked. Not really too many surprises over the decision to name him as captain. His arrival gave us real strength in-depth defensively; yet this means Jamie will have a fight on his hands for the shirt.

Mat Mitchel-Kings unfortunate illness means he should start the season, but our defensive partnership will be aware any lapse in form could see them sitting on the sidelines. Yet Brown’s decision to name him as captain will probably put any short-term doubts over his first team place to rest for now.



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The Sort Of Corner I Hate (AFC Wimbledon 3 Cambridge United 0)

Crack open the champagne, break out the cigars, The Anonymous Don has correctly predicted a Dons line-up; albeit at the nth time of asking. Probability suggests it was bound to happen sooner or later, there are only so many combinations of players to positions. Put it this way, give a thousand monkeys a thousand typewriters and you’ll probably get more of them agreeing with Terry than I do in any given preview. Don’t try this experiment with Bromley supporters though… their closed neandethal fists are unable to produce intelligible responses on a standard qwerty keyboard, and in frustration they’ll just end up hurting themselves or those around them. Having said that – i just had to think twice over the spelling of ‘qwerty’…

Before I get onto the game itself, I signed up for the Minithon before the game. Three miles is just about the shortest distance you can run without prospective sponsorees saying ‘Hang on, thats a piece of piss, I do that every morning/lunch/evening before work/school/pub’, and is yet achievable even by those in the advanced stages of pie addiction like myself. I’ve been looking to shed a few pounds prior to my ‘big event’ next year, maybe this will kick start my fitness push. If not it’ll help raise a few quid for the ground fund at very least. And therein lies the point – I would never, ever have dreamt of signing up for something like this if I wasn’t accutely aware I will no longer be a resident of the United Kingdom in six months, and time is running out to Do My Bit. While my impending emigration weighs heavily on my mind, competing in events such as this means I can be assured that wherever in the world I end up I can kick back with a beer, look at the night sky, and know somewhere in this endless Universe of ours, somewhere out there at this very moment, there will be a Wimbledon supporter moaning that they received an unsolicited email publicising the pre-match carvery…

After a quick pint I headed into the KRE, not quite as full as it was for last Thursdays Crawley game but not exactly deserted either… In fact the attendance stood up pretty well considering the deluge we saw in the hours leading up to kick off. I wonder how many got out of work, saw the state of the skies and though ‘Nah, not tonight…’. Mind you. the crowd was comfortably over 3K on an awful evening weatherwise, especially impressive as Cambridge only brought two-hundred odd with them – decent in terms of the division as a whole, but for a so called big club it was a bit ‘meh…’; you’re York’s and your Grimsby’s would do better given the same circumstances. I can only presume the U’s shocking away form had something to do with it.

Still, forced to bunch together under the small section of the away enclosure in the JSS that actually features a roof, they sounded pretty strong and added to a half decent atmosphere in the ground, especially given the decibels were dampened by the heavy downpour. Either that or I’ll have to redraw the graph I created correlating distance from London with ability to talk proper… ‘Martin Lings Tobleroney’? Is he??? And why do they dislike Barrow so much???

Sadly for the visiting supporters, their team could at best be described as ordinary. They worked hard – but thats the bare minimum you should expect of a Conference side. There was no sign of any quality, man for man they were workmanlike but failed to stand out. Normally you get one or two who show a few decent touches and make you think ‘he looks a bit handy…’, but in this Cambridge side there was no-one. I am reluctant to write off a team based on one viewing, but Cambridge’s performance made them look mere mid-table fodder. Having said that, the slickness of the surface placed a strong demand on technical ability, which on the night put a different bias on the differences between the two sides. Presumably this encoraged the Dons to redouble their efforts when picking out passes, as despite the conditions it was pretty much the first time this season I’ve left a game without thinking ‘They were good, but they gave the ball away too easily…’.

In a first period the Dons dominated (despite what the BBC website will have you believe…), there were minus points. In a way it’s a nice ‘negative’ to have, but you would really expect given the number of chances the Dons created that at least one of them would have been taken. Christian Jolley seemed to be at the centre of the better chances, and boy-oh-boy you Tempest-Enders probably don’t realise what a gilt-edged chance he spurned when one on one he blasted straight at Cambrige keeper Brown. I said it was a nice negative because I have absolute faith that the next time Jolley finds himself in that position he will have learnt from this experience. During a half when Wimbledon did everything but score, the performances of our young wide players was a joy to behold. Jolley, Ryan Jackson and Andre Blackman were destroying Cambridge, who had no answer to the pace and close control that accompanied their rampaging runs foward. All three of them floated around the field, while their opponents struggled simply to stay upright. In fact the most effective manner of stopping them (especially Jackson) seemed to be a series of cynical fouls that the referee was quick to clamp down on – no waiting for the second half to show cards here. The visiting supporters chanted they had ‘another crap ref’, high irony to the Dons fans on the one accasion we seemed to ahve found a decent one…

Probably the best chance of the half fell to Sammy Moore. Ricky Wellard drifted forward into a shooting opportunity, yet spurned the opportunity with a sideways ball into Moore, who looked like he might have been crowded out and the chance gone. Presumably to Wellard great relief, Moore was able to spin a shot that bounced off the inside of the post and away, yet so close the Tempest was in full celebration mode while the KRE wondered what the fuss was all about. So good were the Dons I began to doubt they would be able to produce more of the same in the second period… and my mood wasn’t helped when Cambridge came out and created a few chances of their own. Their best effort owed a great deal to the conditions – a shot the otherwise unflappable Sebb Brown got nearly everything behind, only to see it squirm under his body and thankfully stop short of passing over the line.

The Dons quicky got the measure of this more positive approach from the visitors, by now shorn of Yakubu at the back, Fraser Franks replacing him. Franks would go on to be the two goal hero of the night, of course (and for those who have avoided the result prior to reading this match report, I’m sorry for the spoiler…), yet it was the defensive side of the game that most impressed me. One of the pleasant surprises of the season so far is that Franks is fourth choice centre half behind Johnson, Yakubu and Harris – and I’m not sure there is much doubt about that (that isn’t the pleasant surprise by the way… I’m getting to the point, don’t worry…). Yet Franks would walk in to half of the teams in this division, I would imagine Martin Ling would have been extremely envious that he ended the game blanked out by a side playing their second-string defensive partnership. You wonder why Brentford let him go to start with – given game time and full time training, if he applies himself as he has done in the last few months at Wimbledon he looks nailed on to make a decent career for himself in the professional game – yet hindsight is a wonderful tool, there must be an enormous amount of pressure to release anyone who passes through the youth ranks at lower League clubs such as Brentford that isn’t going to make an immediate impact on the first team. And their loss is very much our gain…

Franks first goal was beautiful, firstly because it came at a point when I started to convince myself that despite the continued chances, Cambridge might just escape for a draw. Secondly, it came from a corner, and we all know how ineffective we have been at this particular set piece over the past few years. Sam Hatton drifted the sort of corner I hate into the near post (I much prefer balls hit at pace inswinging across the six yard box as per his delivery for Yakubu;s effort against Bath, but variety is the spice of life and all that…). Kedwell won his header, flicking back towards Franks, unmarked. At this stage you could have forgiven him for panicking and planting his effort into Brown’s midriff, but Franks has a head on him that keeps ticking in the attacking third as well as his defensive home, guiding beyond the stricken keeper and giving the Dons the lead they more than deserved.

A sigh of relief from The Anonymous Don, and before I even had the chance to develop a complex that Cambridge might come back, it was 2-0 and game over. Jackson delivered the ball to the far post, Kedwell came crashing in to bury the ball across the Cambridge goal and into the net – OR SO I THOUGHT – as it turns out Jolley got a much deserved goal by knocking it over the line, yet I only because aware of this after the game had finished. Still, plenty of praise for Keds, who seems to be doing as good a job of laying on strikes for his team mates as scoring himself. Still I’m sure he’ll make it into double figured before too long. The crowd didn’t have too long to settle down before Cambridge hit the bar, a minor moment of threat when the game was all but won.

Still time yet for Fraser Franks to finish the night with a brace, thanks to a piece of instinctive finishing. Sammy Moore laid the ball across to him, with a little too much weight. Certain unnamed strikers who are yet to get on the scoresheet this term might have panicked and blazed wide/over/into next week, but Franks simply slid it into the corner with little fuss – just a really composed piece of finishing. It was icing on the cake, but it wouldn’t have flattered the Dons, even if Sammy Moore had connected properly with a chance in injury time.

It wasn’t enough to return the Dons to the summit of the Conference, Crawley managed to defeat Tamworth on the night, but the Dons stand just a point adrift… Forest Green to come at the weekend and if any of the lads are reading this – no pressure, but more of the same please!

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AFC Wimbledon 2 Kingstonian 0

One of the benefits of being not-exactly-bang-up-to-date with the match report this time around means I get to comment on what followed, equally more important than history will view the game itself. Not that the game was junk, far from it, it was pretty watchable, mainly due to the Dons starting with a less than strong side… however one that more than matched a spirited Kingstonian side.

I have a feeling Terry Brown would have been delighted with the attitude K’s brought into the game, playing decent football and injecting a bit of much-needed pace into what could otherwise have been a bit sterile… think Corinthian Casuals in the second half… not what we really need with the season but two weeks away… And with a few players missing, you can only presume there will be a lot more to Kingstonian next season – once this report has been written Ill scurry off to the Ks site to find when their big derby against the small group of former (and one current) Dons over at Sutton, and desperately hoping it doesn’t clash with a Dons game…

With a bit of luck K’s could have gone in at half time with a lead, yet the same could be said of the young Dons, with trialist strikers Delano Sam-Yorke and Orlando Smith looking lively on occasions. In midfield, youth team graduate Harry Knock looked tidy, as did Reece Jones – more on him later. As K’s tired in the second period, Wimbledon brought on the big guns, and it paid off when Rashid Yussuff threaded the ball through for Jon Main to clip expertly into the roof of the net. Lee Minshull impressed again, and grabbed another pre-season goal to improve his ever , erm, improving (where’s a thesaurus when you need one?) reputation. It was a scrappy finish, but once again he found himself in the right place at the right time… a habit we can only hope he carries with him into the season proper…

So, on to the trialists. As you are now probably aware, both Fraser Franks and Ed Harris have signed up for the season, with Delano Sam-Yorke also joining after Terry finally got his hands on that much-needed Premier League money for the budget. Twenty players, or eighteen outfield players, is a more comfortable number going into a long campaign, yet if I was Terry I would be hoping for a cup run in order to get hold of some surplus for the budget come January in order to bring in some fresh blood. As I’ve said before, squad building should never be ‘complete’, Terry should always be looking to add to his hand.

But back to our new signings. Johnson and Yakubu will be our first choice pairing, I have no doubt about that, but Franks and Harris really impressed me and I am satisfied we have both at the club. In fact, I think Terry might have had a job separating the pair if there is only one place up for grabs. As for Sam-Yorke, well we now have satisfactory cover for the three attacking positions, and Sam-Yorke has shown he can do a job for us in the Conference next season. And with time on his side, a gain in squad depth this season could become a jewel in years to come too.

Lets talk about someone who hasn’t been signed yet, and looks as though he may miss out, and that’s Reece Jones. Now Reece was a player that really made me sit up and take notice, not because he was an all action goalscoring midfielder or tough ball winner, but he showed a technical ability that matched anyone we have had at this club in the AFC era. I’m sure if Terry had money left over he would have signed him – in fact if Steven Gregory’s injury had been any worse he would have taken him, I have no doubt about that. Terry would have done without Sam-Yorke and just gambled on Harmsworth to cover injuries. But the one position we can do without right now is midfield, the two centre halves were must-buys in my opinion… and with two weeks of pre-season remaining it leaves us in a position where there is cover in the squad for every position.

Lets get Gregory fit, let’s get Nwokeji back firing again, and let’s go out and show the rest of the Conference how our young players play football. This is the side that’s going to put the fear of god into some big money sides over the next three or four years (or however long it takes to get out of this division).

Onwards to the West Country…

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