Tag Archives: goalkeeper

A Tale Of Two Goalkeepers

As regular readers may be aware, I could have been the current AFC Wimbledon goalkeeper right now if I hadn’t been crippled by an unfortunate childhood condition… a chronic lack of talent. Even now I wonder what could have been as our custodian strides towards the Tempest End, raising a hand to salute the supporters. I would have been a mental goalkeeper – saving penalties one minute and scoring late equalisers in cup games the next, bantering with supporters and fighting in tunnels, always controversial but retaining the support of the fans throughout, as they knew I was one of them.

Yes, it truly is my dream job. Or was, now that I appear to be too old and fat to even contemplate it. I still have bizarre dreams where I find myself on the Kingsmeadow pitch fending off shots left, right and centre, all the while thinking ‘I shouldn’t be here, I’m not good enough, I’m going to get found out in a minute…’ Still, at least I now have the perfect excuse to tell the grandkids one day to explain away why I wasn’t, courtesy of Stuart Cash. In his interview with Cherry Red TV he mentions his father was a goalkeeper but never made it because of ‘poor eyesight’. I wear glasses, plus I imagine they’ll only be little kids so would swallow any crap I feed them, at least until they get old enough to understand what ‘contact lenses’ are.

Never mind, I get the impression that most Dons fans would be horrified if we had a goalkeeper like the one I described myself to be earlier. Especially me. Fortunately, aside from Jack Turner who is just a youth learning his trade despite the apparent interest from Reading, we have two experienced and capable goalkeepers at the club in Andy Little and Jamie Pullen, albeit keepers who are facing very different pre-seasons.

Jamie was in fantastic form towards the end of the season. In fact I’ll go as far as saying, without in any way meaning to criticise Andy, that he was the difference between our winning the title and having to settle for the playoffs. I’m thinking last minute penalty saves at Weston Super Mare for example. I didn’t give Jamie the credit he deserved for that, partly because I was still firing expletives at that hopeless dickwad of a linesman, and partly because I hadn’t got around to creating the blog back in those days (it was the last game before I started The Anonymous Don – it seems so long ago now…).

Plus as you would expect Jamie is extremely chipper right now, a regular interviewee for Our Local Guardian over the last couple of weeks. In particular he has hit back at ‘critics’ who have thrown doubt on his ability to cut it at a higher level… well actually I can only think of one person who has been stupid enough to voice an opinion like this, and that was Paul Parker on Setanta. Which probably goes a long way towards explaining why Setanta are going bust and Parker is heading for the scrapheap. Apart from that I can’t think of any high profile critics, especially anyone knocking Jamie himself.

In absence of any media criticism I wonder whether these critics Jamie refers to are actually his inner demons coming to the surface. Having first team experience at Ipswich at just seventeen meant he has always had expectations surrounding him, which he admits had a negative effect on his early career. This coming season is a chance for him to show not only is he good enough for the Conference, but he deserves a shot back in the League as well.

Andy Little on the other hand, doesn’t even have a deal at the moment. In fact he faces months on the sidelines after ripping his knee ligaments back in February, before he even gets the chance to prove his worth. Twelve months ago Andy found himself starting the season as number one while Jamie recovered from a shoulder injury, with a chance to cement his place in the side and move closer to Anthony Howard’s appearance record in the AFC era.

While first team appearances were shared following Jamie’s return, his injury, at 34 years old, raises questions that his Dons career might be over. A subject the man himself isn’t afraid to ignore. In a recent interview with the SLP, Andy mentioned that the manager may be on the lookout for another keeper over the summer. Whether he moves straight away will probably depend largely on Jack Turner. If Jack performs well in pre-season, the manager may well decide to rely on him as a backup. If he fears Jack won’t be ready he could bring someone in on a short term deal… or if the right man comes along, he could sign someone outright. If this happens Andy will surely have played his last game for Wimbledon, as its unlikely Terry will want four first team keepers taking up the budget.

I would imagine any newcomer will only receive a years contract to prove their worth, a situation Jamie admitted suited him in the following comment –

You cannot afford to sit back. You have to perform week in, week out if you want to earn another deal. Some of the saves and performances I made last season may never have happened had I been on a three or four-year contract and that is the same for the other players.

Which is brutally honest, but confirms the policy we have kept under Eames, and Anderson has worked. Even when we give two year deals its always one year with a further years option, meaning a player has to turn it on all year to earn the possibility of the club picking up the second year option.

As Wimbledon fans we have always had a close relationship with our goalkeepers. Whilst the likes of Beasant and Segers were legends anyway, even the likes of Paul Heald and Kelvin Davis were incredibly popular. During our time as AFC Wimbledon, it took time to find someone who could live up to that reputation. Initially Glyn Shimmel filled those boots, however his departure lead to a number of unsatisfactory candidates until Andy Little’s arrival. Whichever goalkeeper emerges as the man to take us into the Football League, be it Pullen, Little, Turner, or someone else, they can rely on our full support.

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The General Specific (Thursday 4th June ’09)

The good news is that Jamie Pullen has signed a new contract. As a Jamie fan I was getting a little worried about that situation, what with rumours about ‘other keepers’ doing the rounds. Jamie is an excellent goalkeeper (apart from his kicking) and I’m hoping Terry has him in his plans as number one next season. I think we all forget how many times he has prevented certain goals due to his excellent shot-stopping ability, possibly down to his ape like appearance. Its the extra few inches on the arms that does it.

I doubt Terry is after an experienced Conference keeper at all now, having got young Jack Turner tied down to a contract. Jack will do for sitting on the bench and only being called upon for emergency situations or minor cup games, but should anything happen to Jamie I would imagine Terry would sign a slightly more experienced guy from a League club (there’s enough of them floating around – League clubs just seem to hoard them). However regular reserve football is essential for Jack to progress, perhaps we will see someone brought in on a short term deal, or on loan, to provide some competition and act as backup until Andy Little returns.

There still remains a question mark over Andy’s future too, but I have faith he will be as capable goalkeeper as he has always been when he regains fitness – the question is whether Terry is prepared to wait. I don’t know the situation regarding his contract for next year but presumed he has already signed up for 09/10? I said at the end of the season I didn’t expect to see Andy in a Dons shirt again, and I stand by that largely because if it happened it would mean it didn’t work out with Jamie in the Conference.

It has been reported in the SLP today that Terry is closing in on signing a left-sided midfielder. Sorry, a quality left sided midfielder. Well, thanks for that, SLP, that’s told us absolutely nothing. It could be a non-story anyway as the same website told us several other clubs are in talks with the player, and as we know, in this division money rules. Just like Jack Midson and Stacy’s Mum, if he’s any good one of about half a dozen sides with a significantly larger budget than us will snap him up.

The biggest piece of club news over the last couple of days has been the news we have now shifted over 2000 season tickets. I’m now hoping we will be able to lift capacity a little further without having to complete the new turnstiles, as the way we are going we might find there are less than 1000 tickets that go on general sale for any given home game in the league.

The other thing is, as tickets are going to be at a premium, supporters who only came along to a handful of games last year face the dilemma of whether to purchase a season ticket. This includes lads who are still playing on a Saturday, and of course those of us who live far away and can’t make every game. The impact this might have is we would see an increase in crowds for the ‘minor’ cups, as well as unappealing early round fixtures in the FA Trophy.

In fact, we might find our core Cup support is very different to our League fan base. Obviously there are the likes of me (and as you seem to have carried on reading this far in an article that’s both short on news and isn’t that interesting, you as well) that will turn up for an under-fourteens reserve fixture if it was held at Kingsmeadow… or even if it wasn’t – and yes I know the under 14’s don’t have a reserve team…

But more importantly – how much of a boost will our extra season ticket sales be if you consider Setanta are reportedly in financial trouble, meaning the annual £85,000 TV payout to Conference clubs disappears? I’m not sure it will affect the clubs averaging 2000 plus, but the chaos it would cause smaller clubs, who may have budgeted for the money already, could make it an interesting year where the difference between the haves and have-nots increases. It would certainly put to bed any worries some of our more panicky followers may have that we will get relegated next year!

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