Tag Archives: Jack Turner

Cup Week

It’s the Anonymous Don’s birthday weekend, and for the first time in three years the Dons won’t be travelling to Barrow… Not that I travelled, a day of celebration over sixteen hours on the coach for two fixtures that ultimately resulted in a solitary Wimbledon point. Slightly disappointing scheduling, as I normally would have been all over the sort of fixture that is essentially a loyalty test. Gateshead away with nothing to play for? Tick. Goalless draw at Darlington? Tick. Barrow sadly left blank unless fortunes really turn for them, or we get a fortunate (or unfortunate considering our record up there) cup draw at some point in the future.

But before Scunthorpe, we played the first of the clubs four cup games in little over a week at Swindon on Tuesday night, crashing out of the Paint Trophy on penalties. What have we learnt from our first experience of the Paint Trophy? Obviously it’s not the most prestigious of tournaments, I’ll move on to the issue of attracting people to watch a little later as this seems to be affecting all cup competitions at the moment, a problem not exclusively the most minor of first team knockout efforts.

The biggest issue we’ve had, especially as a club that for a multitude of reasons can’t enter a bona fide reserve competition at the moment, is the six player rule. A good idea in principle, you wonder whether the rules as they currently stand are too inflexible for a club such as AFC Wimbledon, especially as the competition in certain areas means we could go exceed the limit and still field a stronger squad than we would by sticking to the rules. Midfield for example, we could play Sammy Moore, Yussuff and Porter on the Saturday, then Minshull, Mulley and Wellard on the Tuesday night, and you wouldn’t say there’s a huge difference in the quality between the two selections.

Then you have to consider all the others who need game time – Fraser Franks needs a game, Bush wants to prove himself, Ademeno is looking for a start, then there’s Djilali… All of a sudden you have a game of selection musical chairs going on, and this time around when the music stopped there was one very big loser in Jack Turner. Personally I think the management team made a mistake not just playing him and working around the six player problem in other areas of the pitch, the kid is having huge problems getting game time with no one willing or able to take him on loan and no other obvious opportunities presenting themselves.

And this really is a big issue, not just for Jack personally, but for AFC Wimbledon. I mentioned in my Stevenage report I thought he made an error in judgement for the first goal – he didn’t directly cause it, the experienced centre half who should have kicked the ball out of the ground takes the majority of the blame – but the point is his eagerness to get involved was probably all down to the fact he spends most of his time on the bench itching to be out there proving himself. And that’s all well and good in a Paint Trophy game that didn’t really matter and we won anyway, that’s the point of blooding him in that type of fixture – he can make mistakes and learn from them without the pressure of a full house.

But what if Seb is unavailable for any reason, and Jack comes in for a League game? Will he be suitably prepared? If he makes a mistake, which as an inexperienced keeper he almost certainly will at some point, all of a sudden you’ll have knee jerk reactions on the terraces and message boards with people saying ‘he ain’t good enough’ and ‘we need to bring in someone on loan with a little more experience’.

More importantly, I was under the impression the Paint Trophy was supposed to be Jack’s competition, and right up to Monday lunchtime Cash was giving interviews to the press saying Jack will definitely start. Then all of a sudden the rugs been pulled from under his feet… I’m sure this is a problem other clubs have with their bench keeper, promising to give them game time in cups, for that reason wouldn’t it be simpler to change the rules to outfield players only, be it 6+4 or 5+5, and let clubs change their keeper with impunity if they so wish?

Whats the solution to the Jack Turner problem? Do we try to give him game time in the League if we’re a couple of goals up with twenty minutes to go? Wait until we’re safe and give him full games? Play him up front??? The player has shown a lot of loyalty to the club during his time here, I don’t begrudge him moaning the situation he finds himself in, and maybe its time for the club to show him a little loyalty in return?

Moving on, we face Scunthorpe tomorrow, a club many Dons fans will have fond memories of thanks to their playoff victory over the footballing subsidiary of a Buckinghamshire property development a couple of years ago. And effectively they are something of a realistic example of what we can achieve as a smaller club… Presuming the construction of our new stadium, whenever that happens, doesn’t uncover a bunker containing thirty thousand Dons fans sealed in an underground bunker by Hammam or Koppell or whoever, League One with a couple of years in the Championship here and there is probably most Wimbledon supporters pipe dream right now.

Yet even the visit of a club recently competing at Championship level probably won’t be enough to tempt more than three thousand or so to the ground tomorrow, never mind actually fill the place. This is the polar opposite to football as I remember it as a kid, where the hardcore turned up for the bread and butter of League action, but the ground filled for the FA Cup. And it’s not exactly hard to see how the most magical of cup competitions lost its shine… The introduction of the Premier League meant that far from looking forward to FA Cup ties, filling ground and coffers alike, clubs at the highest level found they were making more money from League fixtures… The influx of foreign players and coaches, while raising standards, also brought a culture not raised on knock out competition. This combined with a certain sports channel losing the rights to show games and simultaneously forgetting the competition ever existed had the knock on effect of supporters of top-level clubs seeing the FA Cup as a secondary competition.

Somehow that fed its way down to the lower levels of the game, as sure as supporters steal chants they hear at top-level games they’ll ape their Premier League counterparts. You don’t need to be a behavioural specialist to work out why – most people subconsciously copy their more successful counterparts, if only to fit in at the pub or workplace. The attitude that ‘its only the FA Cup’ has worked its way into English football and its hard to see exactly how it can be reversed.

I’ll admit it, even when we’re losing I can’t get enough of watching the Dons… due to the physical nature of the game we only get to play once, maybe twice a week if lucky, and to be honest this just isn’t enough. The majority of my spare time outside of the ongoing quest to hold on to my rapidly diminishing social life is spent either watching someone elses team on TV, or even worse, having conversations with my wife… The more games the Dons play, the more competitions they are involved in, the better.

Where did this strange modern version of ‘loyalty’ come from? Those who love their team, but will only venture out to actually watch them if certain conditions are met in terms of the competitive nature of the fixture? The weird thing is cup ties normally provide just as much entertainment as league games, if not more… Yes we’ve all seen two sides clam up with nerves on the big occasion or set out with an over cautious nature such as the Ebbsfleet game last season, but you don’t normally see League fixtures as pulsating as the replay of said game either…

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not slagging off those who genuinely can’t make it, times are hard financially – I know that more than anyone and the amount of away games I’ve made this season reflects that – and I’m not having a go at those who travel sometimes hundreds of miles to watch the Dons for whom this might be one game too many. Those people make up a moderate minority of our fanbase, but for everyone else, whats your excuse?

Depending on how full your glass is the Dons are either going through a six game winless streak or are unbeaten in three at the moment, and face a Scunthorpe side going through their own spell of indifferent form. The visitors are definitely there for the taking as long as we can get back into the same frame of mind we were in about a month ago, where we looked unbeatable. The last thing we really want is those Scunthorpe fans going back knowing they were in a game, but grateful the Dons switched off for twenty minutes allowing them to nick a couple of goals and take the tie.

The Dons squad have the opportunity to answer a few questions that have been posed of them of late, it’s a big day for most of them facing off against opposition from a higher division, seemingly none more so that Kieran Djilali. A trial spell at Scunthorpe in the summer came to nothing, and he’s been pretty open about the fact this one is personal for him. Now finally back to full fitness, Djilali’s arrival from the bench on Saturday changed the game adding much-needed impetus to the Dons play… I mentioned in the report it looked as though he dropped in from another planet, and questioned whether we would be seeing him longer than a season. Yet its one thing looking far too good for the division in one game, it’s another to turn it on week in, week out, and I’m hoping Kieran can get a run of games and goals under his belt, turning the Dons form around and easing the fears of those of us currently looking over our shoulders…

I can’t finish this preview without presumably sharing what every Dons fan is thinking right now, absolute delight that Terry Brown is back at work and will presumably be in the dugout tomorrow. Terry always seems such a positive character, but thrown into that situation once more he undoubtedly would have had some very dark moments over the last couple of weeks, so I’m delighted to hear Suzy is on the road to recovery.

Finally, those two other cup ties next week. The U18’s face Bristol Rovers in the FA Youth Cup on Tuesday, and development squad travel to Tooting on Wednesday in the SSC, good luck to both…

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Bedfont Town 1 AFC Wimbledon 1 22/7/11 Match Report (And Watford Mini Preview…)

I’m going to get all talk of planes out of my system early in this match report. Although I worked at the airport some ten years ago, and am fully aware just how big and how loud they can be, a trip to Bedfont is always a bit of an eye opener. As I mentioned in my news article, the planes themselves are nothing new to me, but standing in a football ground, trying to concentrate on whats going on in front of me while they are taking off in the very near vicinity is a weird experience.

As I had my back to the airport in the first half, it was just noise, yet I still found myself craning my neck to look when a big one took off… and those big ones need to use all the runway to get off the ground, so were barely off the ground by the time they passed us. The second half on the pitch was nothing worth writing home about, and as I now found myself facing the runway it turned into a full on forty-five minute planespotting session.

As for the game, the Dons took the lead in the seventeenth minute, Chris Bush firing a shot from fifteen yards that the Bedfont keeper got a palm to but couldn’t stop it nestling in the bottom left corner. Bedfont were level ten minutes later when the Dons suffered a disjointed moment, gifting possession in a dangerous area of the field and allowing Bedfont to work a two on one, before the ball found its way into the net under Jack Turner.

I have to write briefly about Jack Turner, as it doesn’t look as though he will be going out on loan after all, which is a real disappointment. You never know, a Conference side could lose their keeper early on and Jack might find himself sent on loan to cover, but playing out the whole season elsewhere would have been invaluable, letting him make his mistakes and learn his lessons.

He only made one last night, missing a corner which lead to Bedfont turning the ball into the net, but fortunately via one of the opposition players showing off his handling skills. That was the last meaningful action in the half, in fact of the game (although I vaguely recall a Bedfont player shooting into the side netting deep into the second period).

The young Dons performed well technically, lots of nice passing moves and possession football, but much like the first team at times there was no real sign that anyone wanted to take responsibility for finishing in dangerous situations. It was almost as though in the absence of any desire to shoot, their prefered method of scoring was to pass the ball into the net.

This is all well and good in preseason as a training exercise, but as they seemed proficient at keeping the ball already, it would have been nice to see someone take responsibility in the box rather than knock the ball around until someone decided to let fly under pressure, losing the ball over the low terrace in doing so. This is probably clutching at straws, the young players will hopefully learn in the development squad next term and those getting the chance to step up will be better players for it.

With the game finishing level, there needed to be some way of deciding who lifted the John Morris Memorial Trophy, and in time-honoured pre-season fashion that was via a half-hearted penalty shootout. It was almost surreal watching a Dons side step up post-Eastlands for penalties in such relaxed circumstances – no clenching required here, I doubt many Dons fans cared either way.

The shootout was initially interesting in a Womens World Cup Final kind of way, in that it didn’t look like either side were capable of scoring, the Dons leading 1-0 after two penalties each thanks to two good Jack Turner saves – the second coming from Bedfont manager and Dons record scorer Kevin Cooper. Turner showed the way himself with a calm third penalty to put Wimbledon in the driving seat, before Chris Bush finally finished what he started with the winning final kick to give the Dons a 3-2 victory.

Not much learned as far as the first team is concerned, for what its worth we remain unbeaten in this shortest and simplest of pre-season campaigns, with Crawley just seven days away as I type. I think we are all hoping the stiff test of a full strength Watford side will tell us more about our team, and TB has announced a starting lineup that is probably 80% strength.

Brown seems to be in discussions with a couple of strikers with League experience, yet it doesn’t sound as though a deal will be struck until later next week. Presumably whoever he brings in won’t be a season changer, more adding to our strength in-depth and providing a different option to Midson and Ademeno, who will presumably join Luke Moore in a front three. If it is a major signing, for selfish reasons I kind of hope the news comes through very late next week, as I just finished a season preview for a national Football League blog and don’t want to have to rewrite it…

As for our visitors Watford, well I’m sure their supporters are quite happy to see us back in the League as well, especially the manner we clinched promotion at Eastlands. I’m planning on heading to the bar early, not only to pick up my season ticket, but to see if any Watford fans are interested in showing their gratitude in the form of beer…

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The Anonymous Don’s Summer Squad Review Part I – Goalkeepers

Picking the right time to weigh up our squad post-promotion, pre-League Two has been difficult… too early and I would find myself writing about players soon to be on their way, but then again too late and it gets caught up in the preseason friendly madness and build up to the season. Therefore the first of four parts starts today…

I’ll begin by looking at the most consistent area of the field, the one position we possess a couple of players with serious potential… the goalkeepers.

SEB BROWN

Wimbledon’s (and last season England C’s) number one missed just one League game last season, rested for the Mansfield game to give Jack Turner a little experience. Seb proved himself the best goalkeeper in the division last year (this blog showing absolutely no bias…), and has come on from the young goalkeeper who joined us two years ago.

In fact here’s a quote from a blogger still too ashamed to admit his identity, written after Seb’s final trial game against Fulham in July ’09…

“It will be correct to send him on his way now, give him a good reference and hope he finds a route back via a Ryman League club”

In my defence, I also pointed out the coaching staff would have seen the other side of Seb on the training ground, and promised to respect TB’s judgement on the matter… still slightly embarrassing to read two years down the line. Yet Seb looked a nervy kid thrown between the sticks, an accident waiting to happen – all this before it was common knowledge that Seb was a Dons fan, standing with us on the terraces throughout the CCL years, and in retrospect it was to his credit he didn’t play this up during his trial period to get the fans onside.

Seb was brought to the club to provide backup for James Pullen, making his debut at half time as the Dons fought back from 2-0 down at Tamworth in September. Eventually, following the systematic breakdown in the relationship between Pullen and the supporters culminating in a 0-5 defeat at York, Seb took over as number one with Pullen released in the summer.

Terry Brown decided Seb was ready last summer, electing not to sign another goalkeeper and rely solely on Seb and Jack Turner to fulfill goalkeeping duties, and his faith was fully repaid by Seb last season. In fact, the situation has now completely reversed – rather than question whether Seb is up for the job, most fans are paranoid our promising young goalkeeper will be snatched away by a bigger club.

Touch wood, Seb will start the season leading the club he supported as a kid into the Football League, but the truth is it is likely he will progress at a much faster rate than the club will over the next couple of years… if he goes out and replicates what he did last season in League Two – namely prove himself the most promising young keeper in the division – we could find come next summer we have a queue of League One and Championship clubs stretching through the car park.

Under those circumstances, just being a supporter of the club won’t be enough to keep him. Seb deserves the chance to fulfill that ambition and go as far as he can in the game, with the ultimate dream being his talent takes him all the way to the Premier League (before returning to the Dons in the autumn of his playing days to bookend his career, perhaps?). Of course, I wouldn’t be as relaxed about losing Seb as I am now had we not possessed a potentially equally talented goalkeeper to replace him…

JACK TURNER

In interviews towards the end of last season, Seb admitted he was glad Jack Turner had the opportunity to play in the Mansfield game, and also hinted that Jack was feeling a little frustrated kicking his heels on the touchline waiting for his opportunity. Jack’s problem was that not only was Seb in top form, he also managed to go the whole season without injury or suspension keeping him out of the side.

Terry Brown was more than happy for Jack to sit on the bench last season, although we will never know how he would have reacted had Seb found himself ruled out for more than a couple of matches, those supporters who have seen Jack play for the reserves or in Senior Cup action were confident he could have filled Seb’s gloves in the short-term. Yet all Jack had to build up a bit of experience was that Mansfield game (following up his debut at home to Tamworth the previous season), along with the aforementioned minor cup games… fulfilling substitute duties on a Saturday even kept him from appearing more often for the reserves…

Yet next season TB has indicated it is time for Jack to go out on loan to build a bit of experience, and this can only be a good thing, especially if he can find a club in the BSS (or even the BSP…). Wherever he goes, Dons fans will certainly be keeping an eye on his performances, his unbelievable potential revealed since he first set foot between the sticks for the first team, aged just fifteen, in a Supporters Direct Cup game against Brentford three years ago.

Jacks loan spell will be a vital part of what will be a big couple of years in his career, as he aims to progress from talented youngster to Football League goalkeeper… it’s a huge step, the next couple of years will be a make-or-break period in his career, but nothing we have seen so far suggests he won’t make it…

OVERVIEW

With Jack Turner heading off on loan, it seems likely TB will attempt to bring in a third keeper to cover Seb Brown. This could be another young goalkeeper, perhaps more likely a veteran or experienced non-League stopper drawn to the club by the promise of sitting on the bench in the Football League with the odd cup game thrown in for good measure. If another goalkeeper doesn’t come in, I suppose we will need the option of recalling Jack at short notice, which could affect the quality of club he finds himself at.

I’ve used the term potential quite a lot while describing both goalkeepers, and its fair to say in terms of potential goalkeeper is our strongest position. We were informed last year of an even younger keeper in the club’s youth program described as ‘the best in Surrey’, it seems ridiculous to suggest at such a young age that if he stays at the club he might be the next on what is turning into a conveyor belt, besides from pointing out the club are doing a lot right in this area.

Yet living up to potential is a different matter, all the goalkeepers at the club still have a lot of work to do to reach their respected aims; yet in this position at least, the club are doing a lot of good work. We can be thankful we have such young talent, and hope that if for whatever reason they do not achieve their goals, it won’t be for lack of effort.

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Corinthian-Casuals 2 AFC Wimbledon 6

Well it didn’t rain, but I did get my legs eaten away by hordes of blood sucking insects. That’s the last time I wear shorts to an evening game, that’s for sure. My fault for having sweet blood I suppose, but makes me wonder why the players aren’t similarly affected. Maybe they are… maybe they just don’t moan about it as much as I do.

It was one of those really sweating evenings as well, by the time I made my way into the bar at King Georges it smelled like a rabbit hutch. Meaning a lot of sweaty Wombles had already passed through, that or they actually keep rabbits in there on non-matchdays. Terry made a note of praising the pitch before the game, which admittedly looked like a bowling green… albeit a bowling green that had a number of thick, deep trenches running down one side of it. I don’t want to exaggerate, but they must have been about four inches wide and as much deep – enough for someone to lose a foot in!

Which probably affected Terry’s starting lineup, starting Andre Blackman and keeping him out of the ruts. Not that this stopped Blackman getting injured… a late challenge from a Casuals man did for him on the half hour mark. As if this wasn’t frustrating enough, the ref refused to allow him to be treated on the field, and ended up ordering him off the pitch, from which he was destined not to return… At one stage I thought the referee might have sent him off, but with no Dons sub available until half time, they had to play out the remaining quarter-hour with ten men anyway…

As an aside, the referee was one of those little Hitler types, typical small man syndrome, whose efforts to ruin the game frustrated players and supporters alike. I’m all for the Respect campaign and that, but here’s hoping he enrages the wrong person to such an extent he gets his comeuppance later in the season…

Anyway, back to Blackman. He shuffled off the pitch, mumbling to himself, barely managing to acknowledge the presence of the Casuals substitutes in the corner asking about his wellbeing, before looking anywhere but at the Dons fans behind the goal applauding him on his way through… and fortunately for him Casuals have reduced the size of their pitch, meaning he didn’t have to get too close to the unwashed masses (who also happen to own the club he now plays for…) on his way past…

I also heard, albeit second-hand, about a Dons journo’s attempts to interview him after the game… and his monosyllabic responses. He certainly knows how to win popularity contests, that boy… It seems no matter how hard we search for something of interest in Blackman’s character, the more he comes across as a spoilt ex-Premier League starlet who thinks he’s too big for the Dons. I mean even the rumour that he squared up to DK probably isn’t true… and looking back it always seemed unlikely.

Having said all this, Andre Blackman can be the biggest knobhead on the planet for all I care. As long as he turns it on a Saturday afternoon (and occasional Tuesday evening) for the club I support… well I can overlook a certain amount of arrogance.

Plus there was another player in a Dons shirt whose name was on the tips of Wimbledon supporters tongues, and that man was… trialist Delano Sam-Yorke. Of course, most Dons fans had to double-check the team sheet or rely on Chinese whispers to work out who he was (leading to a couple of not entirely incorrect calls to ‘Go on, Sam’…). Sam-Yorke was to trouble the scorers later in the half, but his first moment of impact came after a turn of pace saw him clear of a slightly dozy Casuals defence before being upended by the keeper. Fellow trialist Reece Jones, a skinny, eager midfielder, was first to the ball and thus stroked home the resulting penalty.

The Dons second resulted from fantastic footwork from Steven Gregory, the ball came to him quicker than expected but he still passed the ball home, almost in slow motion but with perfect placement enough to beat the Casuals custodian. The second followed another sloppy moment at the back by Casuals, as Christian Jolley picked up the ball on the right side of the hosts area before cooly picking out Sam-Yorke to slot home.

Sam-Yorke’s second, which in turn led to Casuals response, was a bit strange. After a drop ball that was supposed to return possession to the hosts, the Dons trialist nipped in a little too soon for everyone’s liking, side-stepped an opponent and expertly found the bottom right corner with a curling effort. The fact that twenty-one blokes were shouting ‘No!’ at him didn’t seem to affect his concentration… not that I blame the kid either. Put yourself in his shoes – you have sixty minutes to make an impression, you’ve just scored… it would be a case of put the ball in the net and ask questions later, wouldn’t it?

The Dons allowed their hosts to walk one in, or rather slow jog it in… although to be honest they could have let them have three and it wouldn’t have made any more of a game of it at that stage. The second half… a bit of a let down after the all action performance of the first. Perhaps it was down to Casuals electing not to turn the floodlights on until it was more or less dark (and what did that save them? A couple of quid at most…). Whatever, it spurred them into action and Jack Turner was forced to make a couple of smart saves before his removal on the hour mark… at which point the gentlemen next to me leaned over and remarked what a great keeper he’s going to be when he’s 19, reminding me once again just what a jewel we could have in him. Blackman the first ex-Don of the AFC era in the Premier League? If he doesn’t make it, Jack will…

Lets face it, the last half hour must have seemed like a kick around for the rest of the squad having been put through a training session on the training pitch next door. Jon Main certainly enjoyed himself; receiving the ball with his back to goal, spinning and firing past the despairing keeper in one smooth motion – all this literally seconds after his introduction.

Casuals had a bit of pressure after that, pulling one back and forcing Sebb Brown (who looks like he spent the summer in the gym) to make a couple of saves. Repeated leg scratching and the knowledge that at that time of night the London-bound trains only leave every hour meant I made my excuses and left just as Jon Main capitalised on a defensive error to grab number six. Apparently. I was behind the stand at the time, so will never know. Perhaps we didn’t score a sixth, the fake cheer and celebration were all for my benefit, and right now several hundred people are laughing at me behind my back…

To summarise – a decent run out, especially from those eager to please to win first team places/contracts… Sam-Yorke looks like the sort of player I would like to see more of, and I’m glad we are looking at trialists still… I certainly hope there will be a degree of flexibility in terms of squad numbers. Eighteen is a small squad regardless of the number of players who can master multiple positions, and is the only aspect of this summers squad building that is worrying me. If Terry can shuffle the budget, and we can bring in an extra player in the three main areas of the pitch, then I for one will feel a lot more confident going into the season…

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AFC Wimbledon U18 2 Sutton United U18 1 (After Extra Time) – A Match Report

The youth team laid down the gauntlet to the senior side by reaching the Second Round of the FA Youth Cup, extending their record of reaching the competition proper for the first time this season. It took a lot of guts to make it through against a strong Sutton team who pushed them all the way, and will certainly be feeling sorry for themselves this morning having had a number of chances to win the game at the end of normal time.

As it was the young Dons did enough in extra time to win the game, a victory they just about deserved. The Dons looked like they would romp to victory following a dominant first half performance. As early as five minutes into the game a free kick out wide on the left was delivered in by skipper Harry Knock towards the far post. Sutton keeper Bettinson looked favourite but flapped at the ball, getting nothing on it to change its trajectory, and Dons forward Matt Harmsworth was perhaps taken by surprise that the ball reached him as he charged in behind the keeper, seeing his header smash against the Sutton bar from only yards out.

On twenty minutes, this time from a free kick wide on the left, and much deeper than the handball offence that it was originally given for occurred, was floated in to find Jordaan Browne with a free header ten yards from goal that he could unfortunately only guide over the bar.

Wimbledon were almost made to pay for a rare lapse in defensive concentration, as a Sutton player made an unopposed run down the left channel. Jack Turner was tempted to his near post only to see him square for the Sutton number nine James Page who had an open net to aim for. He went safety first and perhaps hit it a little too close to the centre of goal, but it would have beaten most young keepers. Turner however was like a man against boys, almost like an extra man advantage, and covered the ground to pull off an amazing save.

Every time I see Jack Turner he gets better and better. Plus its amazing that he still qualifies for this tournament, we forget that despite his contracted status he is still so young. If the club manages to hold onto his services we can expect big things from this boy, and should he decide to go on to bigger and better things (bear in mind he turned down a chance to join Readings youth academy during the summer) the fact he is under contract should see the club rewarded with a Hussey-like fee.

Wimbledon snatched the lead they had threatened on 38 minutes. A corner from the right curled in by Jordan Bird wasn’t cleared, a bit of pinball in the six yard box saw the ball find its way to Matt Harmsworth who guided the ball home. Some of the interplay between Harmsworth and his strike partner James Cottee had really impressed me over the course of the half, and Matt himself is another who has come on over the last six months even since seeing him play in the Suburban Cup Final. He had a run out for the first team in pre-season against Wycombe and should take heart from the impact his strike partner that night at Imber Court, Peter Rapson, has had on the first team (injuries notwithstanding).

Sutton came out the stronger sie in the second half, an early attack down the left seeing the ball bounce away from Turners near post. On the hour mark from a ree kick on the left a Sutton player headed over the bar when completely free, before seconds later Turner was forced to make a brave save with feet. From the corner Turner again made a stunning block, albeit the linesman’s flag had already be raised for a Dons free kick.

Sutton were coming into the game more and more, maybe due to their physical presence – they pretty much towered over the Dons boys from 1-11. Yet you still sensed the Dons would have enough to see the game through, and were desperately unlucky not to make the game safe with a quarter of an hour left. A corner was met by Callum Dunne, whose firm downward header bounced up off the bar.

Of course, as is the nature of  cup ties, the home side were made to rue this missed effort with ten minutes remaining. What looked a fair challenge was punished with a Sutton free kick on the edge of the area, from which Sutton fullback Robbie Drewett’s effort just beat Jack Turner and sneaked in under the bar. Extra time loomed, but it was the visitors who almost stole the tie with five minutes to go, a number of Dons fans somehow keeping the ball from crossing the line, their bench already celebrating as all eyes turned to the linesman on the far side, crouched ready to make a call that never came.

With Cottee replaced by Joe Jackson, Wimbledon were more direct towards the end which can only be put down to tiredness. The fresh Jackson was chasing down every ball, giving Sutton something to think about themselves. Yet it was Dunne who snatched what turned out to be the winner five minutes into extra time, a deep cross from the right saw him sneak in at the far post, his header squirming under Bettinson and into the net.

Later in the period, Jackson played in Harmsworth after a strong run down the left, his shot saved by Bettinson with his leg. Moments later a wonderful piece of close control saw Harmsworth dance round two Sutton players before getting his shot all wrong and slicing over the bar. Sutton appeared to be beaten and failed to test Wimbledon during the remainder of the game, with the Dons looking the more likely to extend their lead before the final whistle brought huge celebrations from the team.

A much tougher task awaits them in the Second Round, with Bournemouth travelling to Kingsmeadow after seeing off Bristol Rovers in their First Round tie. The youngsters are now only one win away from a potential tie on a Premier League or Championship ground, although Bournemouth are a huge test it’s not outside the realm of possibility that they can edge past them. With just over two hundred in attendance we can only hope that a really decent crowd with turn out for their next game in the competition – lets give our young players what they really deserve and show them the support we give to the first team.

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AFC Wimbledon v FC United of Manchester – A (Friendly) Match Preview

fc unitedTomorrow will see the welcome return of the Supporters Direct Cup to Kingsmeadow, and the even welcomer return of our good friends FC United of Manchester. Always willing to travel south in large numbers, the United support normally create a great atmosphere elevating what should be a run of the mill friendly to something worth winning, and I’m sure Terry has told the players he is expecting a win.

While we consider FCUM as kindred spirits due to their trust ownership, and the media normally straps us together as ‘protest’ clubs, it’s worth remembering that our two extraordinary clubs were formed for entirely different reasons. There’s no value in going into the details of the great betrayal we suffered, although if you want to read all about it on the BBC’s 606 you will find plenty of people who disagree with our very existence as ‘we abandoned our club’… Our aim as a club is to get into the League as soon as possible, to take back what was once stolen from us, and long term to destroy those South Midland club stealers – and to do all this without letting ambition get in the way of long term stability.

FCUM don’t have that urgency to get into the League, and are therefore content for now to focus on their own core reasons for existence. Malcolm Glazer and his collection of strange looking offspring were the straw that broke the camels back (and you have to say its a good job Glazer was loader ‘cos there was no way he was going to get laid in this lifetime without it). United fans want affordable football, to be able to sit/stand with their mates, not to be ripped off week in and week out with ever increasing ticket prices. Plus they have resisted the temptation to slash a slogan across their shirt, and hopefully when they do it will be a gesture towards a charity, as Barcelona have proudly worn the Unicef badge for the last couple of years (although cynics suggest this is to soften up their supporters before a commercial sponsor is introduced).

For them to walk away at a time when big United were at the height of their powers has drawn praise  from all quarters. How often have you heard an Arsenal, Chelsea fan, whoever, start a comment about FCUM with the words ‘I hate Man United but…’. In truth there is a great deal of jealousy for what FCUM have achieved to date from your average Premier League fan, who perhaps hold some hope that football will once again fall from fashion as it has before, and fall back into the hands of those who cherished it through the tough times, local support paying a fair admission price to watch their team.

For that reason I would have expected a greater number of clubs would have reached that tipping point where a critical mass of support decide enough is enough and decide to form another team to hold on to the traditions of the club they love. Of course there is an AFC Liverpool, but they haven’t really caught on and appear to be a cross between publicity stunt and an extension of Liverpool FC’s community arm.

Despite this FCUM have been remarkably successful in their first four seasons. Three successive promotions prior to last season, where despite being in a division full of moneyed clubs and servicing a huge groundshare rental bill, United managed to only miss out on the playoffs on the last day of the season. The Reds are learning as we had previously, that many supporters do not necessarily mean an automatic promotion. There are just as many sugar daddies in the Unibond as there are in the Ryman these days, and the economic meltdown doesn’t seem to have halted this.

FCUM face us off the back of a trip to Bucheon… hang on? Aren’t they supposed to be twinned with us? I know we turned Bucheon down as we had a prearranged trip to… errm… the Isle of Man, but it just seems like when we miss out on something, FCUM pick up the pieces. Remember when Lok Leipzig wanted to play us in a friendly during the season? We turned them down and there was a promise the game would be scheduled for some point in the future, and when it was it turned out AFCW were being elbowed out of the way by FCUM… that should have been us! And what about their trip to Sweden at the end of last season?

Let’s not forget United fans are used to travelling across Europe, it’s been part of their upbringing. On the other hand, we dreamed about playing in Europe, so cruelly denied by a European ban for English clubs that had absolutely nothing to with us in 1988, were given false hope with the Intertoto Cup campaign, even seeing perhaps our best ever team cursed with tiredness despite looking set to qualify via one of three routes. Maybe it was never meant to be. Perhaps the furthest corners of the UK are the most we can ever hope for.

So, on to Wimbledon. The big news being Bossman has gone and a new target man is being lined up for a start tomorrow. So far the mystery man is a big secret except for the information that he is an ‘experienced target man’. This type of player, perhaps with the exception of goalkeepers (more on that later), faces extreme scrutiny from Dons fans who have been spoilt by some of the best in the game over the last twenty years or so (and Danny Webb).

As for our goalkeeper, it seems as though Sebb Brown is getting another run out. At last we have a keeper who deserves the nickname ‘The Cat’, he’s certainly had enough lives so far. After his shaky performance against Wycombe (if you ignore the Hollywood saves toward the end of the half of course), Brown was given a second chance against Brighton, where his only real action was to pick the ball out of the net after seeing it drilled through him as if he wasn’t there. Is Sebb a relative of Terry’s? I think we need to be told!

The truth is my opinion is we already have a better goalkeeper than Brown in Jack Turner. Although Turner is just 17 the phrase ‘if your old enough your good enough’ spring to mind. Jack was given a game on the IOM, yet presumably will be representing the reserves for the remainder of pre-season and beyond, rather than picking up much needed experience against League One opposition. I was also hoping Jack may get a chance to go out on loan at some point to gain first team experience, in the Ryman League, or even the BSS.

The rest of the squad seem to be ticking over nicely. It’s a chance for Chris Hussey to stand up and show what he can do following Derek Duncans Man of the Match performance on Tuesday. Perhaps we will finally see us score at home? Maybe even win another trophy, to bring our tally up to two…

Catch all the action tomorrow, if you can’t make it remember to tune in to WDON and log on to the Matchday Stadium. And if you are at the ground or not you can check my tweets on the game either here in the Twitter feed in the sidebar, or by following me here (http://twitter.com/Anonymous_Don). Remember though, due to the crappy technology I can’t be guaranteed to respond to any of your replies (maybe at half time…). Don’t worry, my phone contract is up later this year and I’m going to make sure I screw the best possible deal out of them this time…

Finally you will remember the legend Paul Raymond offered me his IOM photos earlier in the week, I didn’t take him up on it, but I am now with his picture of the third kit (released tonight, available tomorrow). Enjoy!

Courtesy of Paul Raymond

Courtesy of Paul Raymond

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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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The General Specific (Thursday 28th May ’09 Part Deux)

WARNING – This is a Plough Lane free post, Except for that first sentence warning this is a Plough Lane-less post and this one explaining it.

Well. I was going to write earlier about what on earth Paul Lorraine was waiting for in signing on the dotted line. I had read elsewhere that perhaps he might have been waiting on a full-time contract, some even incorrectly suggesting he may have stayed at Woking despite their move to part time football this coming season. Perhaps he was waiting to see whether Woking would get a last minute reprieve from relegation, but even then we were a bigger club than them last season let alone this one even if they did find themselves back in the BSP.

I’m not moaning about this (well, actually I am), but every day that went by seemed more of a slap in the face to us as a club in what has been a news vacuum. I gather from a few recent posts on the guestbook I wasn’t alone in thinking that the delay wasn’t really what you would expect from someone the O/S describes as ‘always been a Dons fan’, especially one who had already had a spell at the club. While we don’t need to be patronised by that kind of see-through PR, Paul is now a Womble again, and therefore I will only remember his fabulous performances two years ago, as well as come up with a few excuses why it took him so long.

Number One – Dave Anderson used to really frighten him. This was the original reason he left, yet now he fears as Dave is such a frequent visitor to the club someone might leave the dressing room door unlocked and he’d sneak back in and start shouting at him in Irish again. He’s only just wiped the spit marks off from last time.

Number Two – Paul was so genuinely overwhelmed by the offer he fainted, hit his head on a coffee table, and when he came to could only remember the last year of his life (this doesn’t seem to tally with the first one, but it does if you could imagine Paul kept fairly comprehensive diaries of the time and spent the last two weeks re-reading them).

Number Three – Paul had the contract and was desperate to sign (once he’d read those old diaries and had therapy to cure him of his Anderson-phobia), but his stock of freebie Ryman pens he got while playing for the club first time round had run out, and he had to wait until the bookie style Blue Square replacements came (he gave previous batches away to children’s charities – because that’s the kind of guy he is.)

Anyway, that’s enough explaining. Now for the salivating thought of Lorraine and Judge/Inns playing together next season, flanked by Garrard/Conroy and Hussey/AN Other. A very decent Conference back four on its own, especially if Hussey comes back all improved, or AN Other turns out to be a diamond fullback. Especially if rumours we are signing a quality keeper prove to be true, and that ‘certain type of midfielder’ Terry has been looking for happens to be the lynchpin that holds together what already is a promising young midfield.

tunnel damageAnd as you may see I’ve shamelessly ripped the picture of Paul and Terry taken today from the O/S gallery (which I’ve also only just found out exists). Of course the club are free to use any of my original photography when aver they feel like it… or maybe we’ll just keep it quiet this one time. Anyway the reason I nicked it in the first place is because it shows some of the damage caused to the tunnel are caused by players and management carelessly walking across it, as well as it being an area that seems to be the centre of some fox gangland style turf war. I was wondering why we don’t just put down some artificial turf there like other clubs do?

Perhaps this is something the WUP could pay for, after their kind donation of the trophy cabinet and goalposts. We could even have the club badge printed on it that would look really cool. The Anonymous Don would pay for it out of blog funds if it wasn’t for (a) we would require sponsorship rights to it and (b) if there was any money in ‘blog funds’ I would have nicked it ages ago to pay for food, wine and other life essentials.

I heard that ex-youth team keeper Jack Turner sometimes trains on Astroturf like this, that’s what I heard anyway; it may just be a rumour. While I’m on the subject of Jack Turner, he was in the news today as well (see what I did there? Seamless…) as he has just signed a new deal. Not just any old deal though, one of the First Team variety which means he’ll be turning up four days a week while Sam Hatton smashes the ball at him from thirty yards. This is another reason why Paul Lorraine is here. We may be a part time club. But essentially that’s in name only. For 38 weeks of the year, or whatever, we will have the majority of the squad in four times a week. And as the O/S says the club can restructure payments to cover a whole year if that’s what the player wants, it won’t necessarily mean more money is paid.

Full time training is what a player like Jack Turner needs, we saw what an improvement an extra days training did for Sam Hatton’s free kicks, or Chris Hussey’s all-round game last season (periods of bad form aside). We won’t see giant strides made by him. But his game will improve gradually and faster than if he only came in twice a week, to the point that if he develops into a first team regular he would be a genuine full time player, as the club slowly evolves to that status.

Turner’s deal makes you wonder what the future has in store for James Pullen, or the currently crocked and ageing Andy Little? If another keeper comes in one of them must be for the chop, surely? In a summer unlike any other transfer-wise, where we sit it out until players contracts run down, be it now or late July, even if we don’t finalise our squad by the time the players report for pre-season, or even the first friendly, we know there will be plenty of quality players floating about and every day their asking price in terms of wages will drop. Plus if there are any gaps come August we still have the option of looking for that certain youngster who could come on loan from a League club. I’m slowly getting used to this, and I’m sure most of you are as well.

In fact its more like the old days in the League where no more than half a dozen new faces will role up every summer, signed over the course of a couple of months. Terry wants to build a young squad that will eventually push for promotion. There will be slips, but there’s always the potential there will be a few awesome displays put in as well.

Put simply I’m not buying this talk that we will struggle next season. We have the potential to push for promotion from the year after next. Lets not worry about going up too early, there’s enough driftwood at the bottom of League 2 that we can consolidate there if we had to. Whenever we are good enough to be promoted we will be good enough to avoid the bottom two places in the league above, even if we are forced to remain ‘part time’. While I am realistic enough to know that probably won’t be next season, or the season after, it will be sooner than some of us think. Stranger things have happened in football, and I have full faith that our Chairman, Board and Manager could cope with whatever the future holds for us.

I’ve noticed recently I’ve been ending posts on a rant. Oh well. Now I wonder what’s going on at the SGM??? 

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