Tag Archives: WUP

Mid-Season Break

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertisements
Tagged , , , ,

WUP 9.1

There’s a new WUP on sale  at the Gillingham game tomorrow – sadly devoid of any ramblings from myself this time around, which might actually encourage a few more of you to buy it… Time for an archiving of my ‘effort’ from the first publication prior to our opening game…

A Wimbledon Fans Fear Of Mundanity

When I was a kid, there were three days I looked forward to for months in advance; Christmas Day, my birthday, and the first day of the football season. Now, very much a grown up, I don’t have a lot of time for my birthday… Christmas is nice, I like Christmas, for different reasons than I did when I was a kid, but it’s still in the top two of my List Of Days I Look Forward To Most.

Only now it’s been overtaken… the one day of the year that still provokes the same childish excitement it did when I was a kid is opening day. This season, for reasons we all share, the Bristol Rovers game is going to be like Christmas times a million… Eastlands might have been euphoric, but Bristol Rovers is the tangible reward for a nine-year miracle. Our adventures through the English football pyramid are now a closed book, and the question must be asked… where do we go from here?

The fact is, the story doesn’t end with us reclaiming our place in the Football League and everyone living happily ever after. It won’t end when even the youngest readers are pushing daisies, when we are all long gone… future generations of Dons fans may look back and give thanks that we didn’t lie down and allow our football club to be taken from us, but the legacy we pass onto them depends largely on what direction we take the club next.

Before I write about how we should approach the future, let’s have a look at the sort of impact we have had on the game in general. Recently 442 magazine published an article describing Dons fans as ‘the most influential in Europe’… which was nice, but possibly an exaggeration. The article itself outlined how our story had been used as an example to supporters across Europe that they can take control of their own destiny. Yet we are just the poster boys of a movement that is growing on a yearly basis. We owe a massive debt to Enfield Town, the template for our club and those like us, and should serve as a reminder that once we are safely ensconced back in the League for a few seasons, another club will take over the mantle of the media darlings of trust ownership.

Perhaps the biggest problem those who follow in our footsteps will have is to use our timescale as a guideline for their own plans. Our return to the Football League may have been fast, but it wasn’t easy… it was very, very, very hard, which is why I used the word ‘miracle’ to describe it earlier. Anyone attempting to emulate us may need to swallow some hard lessons along the way – as we ourselves had to on more than one occasion.

But back to this issue of legacy… I suppose the most obvious would be for our triumphant return to a stadium in, or the near vicinity of, the town that bears our name. A respected football commentator (whose name escapes me, although I have a feeling it may have been Simon Inglis of Football Grounds… fame) wrote fifteen years ago that while Wimbledon’s owners aimed for the stars, supporters would have preferred to have simply gone home, and it was that twisted ambition, driven by a desire for individuals to profit, that held us back for so long. Now we are in control of our own destiny, we have never been closer to a move back home, largely because we are actually looking…

Be it five, ten or twenty years, you get the impression as long as there is a will there among all parties, we will eventually find the long-term home many of us have spent decades yearning for. But without wanting to trivialize what will be a huge step in the existence of our club, once we have achieved League Football and a new stadium, where do we go from there? What sort of football club do we want to build?

It might seem pointless discussing the deep future in great detail. In football new owners tend to announce they have a five-year, or ten-year plan, presumably to give supporters the impression they actually have a clue, but as far as most fans are concerned nothing in the game really matters beyond the next twelve months or so. Why should we care what happens to our club in twenty, fifty, a hundred years time?

I’m not advocating we aim for the Premier League, to be the most succesful club in the land, or anything like that… the Premier League didn’t exist twenty years ago, it would be presumptuous to believe it will exist in its current form in a further twenty. As the students of the Old Central school formed a club with the intention of creating an amateur club that future generations could play for, support and use to socialize could never have predicted the rise to professional football, the world of all seater stadiums, etc, all we can do is provide our area, and anyone in the wider community who shares our goals, with a football club that represents them.

So in a sense, we already have in place a number of safety nets in place to ensure our vision of the future is at least offered to future generations of Dons fans, for them to accept if they so wish (and the future can be unpredictable, who would have foreseen an asset stripping chairmen buying out the covenant of Plough Lane back in the seventies?). We have trust ownership, and we have a policy of financial prudence.

Yet we also find ourselves in a huge city, with some of the worlds biggest clubs on our doorstep… and we can’t simply presume it will remain fashionable to support your local club, just how can we compete with the lure of the Premier League? So far, we have done so by, well, being part of it for fifteen years, that helped… and the charm of our rise over the last nine years is also a part of where we find ourselves today.

I think some of us have yearned for stability over the last couple of decades, I’ll include myself in that bracket, but perhaps the biggest challenge we will face will come when we ‘find our level’. Will the crowds still come flocking through the turnstiles in the same sort of numbers when we become ‘just another lower division club’? To make the presumption that we will always appeal to those looking for an alternative to the Premier League because we are unique becomes dangerous when we stop being special…

I get the impression this isn’t something we need worry about in the near future. It will probably take a couple of seasons for the novelty of being back in the League to wear off, by which time we will hopefully be able to challenge for promotion. After that we have the unfinished soap opera of dealing with regular fixtures with Them to deal with, and the aforementioned new stadium will keep us busy after that (fingers crossed)… it may well be we don’t have to invent any new dramas for a good decade.

So enjoy today, fellow Dons fans, for we have earned it. Maybe in years to come we will look back on today with the same fondness we do Sutton or Sandhurst. And remember how lucky we are to have something special. The excitement we feel today is being shared by football fans up and down the country… will this be their year for promotion, or simply avoiding the drop? For the majority, the season will very quickly wear off as the mundanity of a run of the mill season hits home. For us, regardless of performance on the pitch, every visitor or new away ground will be an experience… to paraphrase a sign off I used in a preseason preview, its great to be back.

Further WUP articles can be found in the Features Index

Tagged

WUP 8.8

This article was originally published in WUP 8.8, March ’11. With the playoffs looming, Terry Brown’s mid-season acquisitions were reviewed…

What a difference twelve months makes. This time last year, despite attending games left, right, and Gateshead, my mind was elsewhere. The sun had started to show itself and thoughts of beach BBQs and beer gardens were muscling out mediocre football, as the Dons settled for a mid-table finish. This column is written in part to publicise my ever popular and award-winning blog of the same name (for that’s where the good stuff lies… and this wouldn’t be one of those lame marketing plugs if I didn’t now request you ‘Search ‘Anonymous Don’ on Facebook’…), so I decided to check my archive and find out what I thought of the miserable end to the 09/10 campaign – only to find one post, a single line effort apologizing for the lack of updates. I’d never claim to be the most hardcore of supporters, I do a fair few away games and I can be bothered to keep a blog going about my beloved Dons for over two years, but it probably says quite a lot about the standard of entertainment at the time that, to be honest, I just couldn’t be arsed with it.

Flash forward a year, and I’m starting to hope football never ends. We have been richly spoiled this season by the standard of football – ok, not quite good enough to sustain a title challenge, but the sort of improvement we couldn’t have envisaged at the start of the season. The obvious explanation would be our move into the brave new world of professional football, but starting with such a young squad we were always going to be found wanting when the injuries piled up. Fortunately, thanks to ESPN and ITV (and to a lesser extent and entirely unintentionally, a franchise outfit in Buckinghamshire…), we found a bit of cash to supply Terry Brown with a January war chest to pick up the cream of available talent, supplement our threadbare squad and bolster our promotion charge. But hang on… Wasn’t the unsettling introduction of various journeyman loanees one of the reasons we slumped so badly towards the end of 09/10?

Certainly more than one Dons fan pointed out a sense of deja vu between last seasons recruitment drive and this January window, even if the only similarity was the number of bodies passing through the Kingsmeadow entrance. January is always going to be a much harder time of year to bring a player in, everyone who is anywhere near half decent will be on a contract and staying put elsewhere. On top of this, moving to a new side mid-season must be an unsettling experience. Having said that, how have Browns class of 2011 reinforcements worked out? I decided to run the rule over how they have got on so far – but bear in mind like the Man of the Match award announced with ten minutes to go, we still have the most important part of the season remaining…

James Mulley (Hayes & Yeading) – Non-contract

When I was a kid I remember reading a cartoon strip, perhaps in the boxes of old Roy of the Rovers comics my Junior School kept to keep the kids entertained when it rained at lunchtime. Anyway, the story revolved around footballs version of a ‘gun for hire’, a player available on a match by match basis to any club who could afford his fee. Mulley is a little different in that he doesn’t seem to be swayed by money (well, no more than anyone else…), his prime motivation appears to be to play in the Football League. The decision to bring in Mulley was described by TB as a ‘no-brainer’, in that his non-contract status meant he could be discarded if not required, yet it very quickly became apparent that if Mulley were to leave the Dons it would likely be his own decision. Fans were soon fretting he might be snapped up, the club mentioned most were Crawley, which was more an insight into Dons fans paranoia following the Kedwell bids in the summer than any realistic concerns. This wasn’t surprising as he fitted in immediately, and seemed an automatic choice for the rest of the season once Sammy Moore’s kneecap decided to relocate half way up his thigh. A brain-dead red card picked up at Crawley and resulting three match ban coincided with the return to fitness and form of Minshull and Wellard respectively. Will have a big part to play over the remainder of the season, whether he’ll still be with us next season is anyones guess and will probably depend on which division we find ourselves in.

Kirk Hudson (Aldershot) – Loan

On the face of it the loan of Kirk Hudson must have seemed a complete gimme as Brown saw it. With first year professionals Jackson and Jolley having been exceptional, but overdue a run of poor form, we needed someone to fill in for them when required. And Hudson seemed to tick all the boxes. He has pace, isn’t afraid to shoot and can put in a decent cross when inclined. Plus, he’s done it before in this division for this manager. And yet… it hasn’t quite worked out for him so far. I get the impression if he’d joined us in the summer and got the chance to settle in he might have had a storming season, yet joining in mid-season probably hasn’t done him any favours. Perhaps it’s because, mentally, dropping down a division is a step backwards for him? Or perhaps this division has moved on even in the two years since he played in it last? Either way, at the time of writing Luke Moore, Ryan Jackson, a fit again Christian Jolley and new signing Kaid Mohamed are ahead of him in the pecking order to flank Kedwell, and it seems unlikely he’ll play a major part in the remainder of the season. Stranger things have happened, of course…

Jamie Stuart (Rushden) – Nominal Fee

Ed Harris and Fraser Franks hadn’t really done anything wrong covering for the perma-injured Johnson and Yakubu, but the signing of Stuart was a masterstroke. Stuart is a real pro, fitting in immediately, including a standout performance chaperoning a makeshift defence to a clean sheet against Luton. Of course, the irony now is that Johnson and Yakubu returned and consigned Stuart, somewhat unfairly, to a place on the bench. Yet we can be sure that if anything happens to either of them, we have a capable body standing by ready to fill in. In fact, it wouldn’t weaken us too much if it happened, and that’s what you need heading into huge playoff encounters.

Gareth Gwillim (Dagenham) – Loan

The loan signing of Gwillim probably says a lot about the state of football these days in that there are players operating in the two divisions below us who are professional in all but name, yet we find ourselves taking a League One fullback on loan and it turns out he spends most of his evenings maintaining the London Underground. I’m not sure whether Dagenham were aware of this when he turned out for them or if he was just moonlighting? Dons left-backs are going to suffer from Hussey-comparison for the forseeable future, and hoping Gwillim was going to compare going forward was always wishful thinking. What we have really needed, in fact have been crying out for since Hussey departed, was a solid, no-nonsense full-back whose priority is to get the defensive part of the position right, and we have that in Gwillim. A perfect example was his wonderful last-ditch block that prevented a certain goal in the first half at Cambridge – that we dominated the game for eighty minutes was in part down to a solid defensive performance, and we can ony hope Gwillim’s performances go from strength to strength moving into the playoffs.

Drewe Broughton (Lincoln) – Loan

I know he’s gone now, and the circumstances surrounding his departure will presumably be mentioned elsewhere in this esteemed publication, for now I just want to make the following point. Broughton was the perfect example of crap lower league target man (dire first touch, no positional sense, poor scoring record, no pace, etc), yet this sort of player seems to be de rigueur in League Two… perhaps Brown merely signed him six months too early? On the other hand, I have no idea who is responsible for scouting players in the north for us, but judging by the last couple of target men he’s sent our way you have to wonder whether he’s taking the piss…

Kaid Mohamed (Bath) – Permanent

It was nice to see Mo come in and make an impact on his debut. While Broughton appeared to be a square peg in a round hole, Mo is more our sort of player. Of all the new arrivals, Mo’s task must have been tougher than any. To walk into a squad challenging for promotion with little more than a month remaining, and be expected to turn it on immediately was a big ask of anyone, but it looks as though Terry has got this one right, touch wood. He could have added more goals in his first few games but we’ll forgive him for that, his bustling run into the box against Rushden and instinctive finish at Cambridge have shown us he has the potential to score a lot of goals for Wimbledon.

Overall?… There is a reason Steve Evans went out and bought three squads worth of talent was due to signing players not being an exact science. You can scout them as much as you want, you could have managed them in the past, it doesn’t matter… sometimes a move doesn’t work out for no other reason than it just doesn’t. Evans had the money to bring in as many players as he needed (the fact they were parachuted in from League One or the SPL probably helped too…) because he could afford to in order to pretty much guarantee success. Terry Brown didn’t have that luxury, we know he missed out on some of his top targets, so under the circumstances I think he’s done pretty well. Ok, Broughton was a throw of the dice that didn’t come up in his favour but we lost nothing taking that gamble, beyond a few hours lost debating the rights and wrongs of signing an ex-franchiser (and I still don’t think we’ll get over that until we sign someone who left them in acrimonious circumstances and goes on to be a success for us…).

We can look back on a top three league finish with pride, and the knowledge that a fairer promotion/relegation system (such as exists between L1/L2…) would have seen us involved in a scramble for automatic promotion. As it is, it’s the playoffs, a completely different type of challenge. We might be promoted, we might be beaten by the better side, we might perform poorly and look back on what might have been, but the one excuse we no longer have is a lack of depth in the squad – they take us into May carrying hopes and dreams so important to us that to be honest, I’m finding difficult to even visualise right now…

Further WUP articles can be found in the Features Index

Tagged , , , , , ,

WUP 8.7

This article was originally published in WUP 8.7, March ’11. With the Dons title chances disappearing over the hill fast, we turn our attention to the playoffs…

By the time you read this, there is a very good chance we will no longer be top of the league. Even if the team that have become not-so-affectionately known by Dons fans as the Gatwick Globetrotters (I love that nickname) managed to slip up during the week, they will surely take enough points from their remaining four hundred games in hand to overcome our slim advantage. Of course my presumption is you will be reading this before, after, or quite probably during the Kidderminster game so apologies if this issue was put back a couple of weeks – I wasn’t actually planning on writing anything this month, but I got a text message from everyone’s favourite Polish blogger telling me WUP were a few articles short of a full issue… I took this as meaning WUP were desperate for articles but it could equally be a comment on the WUP team themselves – Maliniok is a relatively recent addition to the fanbase so could it be it just took a little while before the penny dropped?…

Over the course of the last week, as I write, the opinion of the average Dons fan has gone from ‘Crawley have all those games in hand but stranger things have happened, you never know…’ after Altrincham, to ‘Oh well, playoffs it is…’ within the space of seven days. As everyone who has ever watched the Tour de France will testify, once a long time leader is caught and sucked back into the pack the danger is they could end up nowhere, and Wimbledon now desperately need a character-defining finish. And preferably we need second place. On current form a quick glance at the table suggests depending on our position the playoffs will pan out as follows;

2nd – Second leg at home to A.N. Other

3rd – Second leg at home to Wrexham

4th – Second leg away to Wrexham

5th – Second leg away to Luton

Which emphasises the importance of at very least a top three finish. If we are on our game I fancy us to turn over anyone at home so long as we haven’t given ourselves no chance with a heavy first leg defeat. Our away form hasn’t been as great and finishing outside the top three and having to build up a lead at home could be too much pressure on what is, despite recent additions, still a young squad with a good few years learning ahead of them. Yet if we do make it to Manchester, regardless of who we play, all bets are off, it’s a ninety minute cup tie, anything can happen, and other such clichés…

Last season must have come as a bit of a culture shock to some of our younger supporters. There wasn’t a dramatic and/or triumphant finish, for the first time since the ‘glory’ days of the mid-table Premier League finishes of the nineties. You get the impression that defeat in the playoff this time around is going to be a lot harder to take than Fisher or even Bromley were, the flip side of the coin is success will top anything that happened at Staines or Hampton. I’m reminded of the later every day now I actually live in Hampton, just a few minutes walk from the Beaverdome. My journey home from work every day mirrors our walk back to the station on that magnificent afternoon. If I close my eyes I can still see the throng of Dons flooding the streets… every time I pass St Johns convenience store I remember being caught behind someone trying to pay for a couple of bottles of champagne and a fistful of cigars by credit card, causing me to leave a two pound coin on the counter to pay for my celebratory can of lager and I’m half tempted to pop in to see if I could reclaim my change.

Sometimes I allow myself to imagine what could have been if that game hadn’t gone in our favour (and I’m sure we all remember how nerve-racking it actually was). We might have gone on to claim promotion anyway, but then we might not. I believe we would have gone up the next season anyway, but that would have put us a year behind where we are at the moment. You can take those kind of ‘what if…’ questions to the extreme – after all we could have found ourselves in the BSS as early as our third season had we won the CCL first time out, then made it up through the complicated playoff system that was in place in the Ryman League the following year (as Yeading eventually did). On one hand that could have been too much too soon, but on the other we could already be a Football League club had we not had to compete against a ridiculously cash rich short-term vanity project… plus ca change, as I’m sure the more pretentious of us are currently thinking…

Naturally I hope we don’t find ourselves spending the summer wondering what could have been, but if we don’t go up, how will history judge our season? Without a doubt, I would have taken a place in the playoffs back in August, the vast majority of us would. Yet recent results have left me feeling flat, genuinely disappointed. My reaction to the Wrexham defeat, of example, was similar to the sort of behaviour you would see from your average seven-year old at Christmas upon being presented a new bike when he wanted a Playstation… The dog that I don’t have was feeling pretty relieved his non-existence cause him to avoid a kicking that evening…

But we are still in it. Our fate will now be decided by three games in May, possibly even ninety minutes in Manchester. One can only speculate as to how many supporters will make the journey? 8,000? 10,000? How many neutral supporters will turn up, knowing our story and how we were so badly screwed over (and I don’t just mean FCUM…). It’s like Millwall, like Hampton before, and Staines before that. Another step forward for our football club. We can ask for no more than improvement, year on year, yet we still have a chance of taking the giant leap we all want. For the last few months this season, now unrealistic dreams of actually winning the title have died and the pressure is off, let’s see what our team are really capable of.

Further WUP articles can be found in the Features Index

Tagged

WUP 8.3

This article was originally published in the October ’10 issue of WUP, as I pondered my (now abandoned) plans to relocate to New Hampshire, and the quality of media our far-flung fans rely on…

I’m writing this safely ensconced in my temporary home in Kingston, surrounded by black plastic sacks filled with a combination of clean clothes, dirty clothes, kitchen utensils, DVDs and god knows what else, all jumbled together in no particular order, with the pleasant task of finding a home for everything being put off until I finish writing this. It’s just a temporary move, because it looks very much as though come January I’ll find myself heading over to New Hampshire to join Mrs Anonymous Don, currently doing up our US residence and trying to find gainful employment. Naturally I’m looking forward to it, in every direction I look my life in the UK has become less and less appealing over the last few years – career heading sideways (then backwards, then sideways again…), lifelong friendships turning to dust (mainly thanks to the twin evils of women and kids)…

Yet there is one part of my life where everything is pretty frickin’ sweet at the moment… watching the Dons. Some of our football this season has been a joy to behold, almost ridiculously composed considering we barely have a player over the age of twenty-three (we already supply three England C regulars, if any more get called up they may as well play home games at Kingsmeadow…). So while my family, remaining friends and work colleagues first instinct when I told them my plans to move across the Atlantic were along the lines of ‘Good luck, we’ll miss you but it’s going to be an adventure, you go for it!’, the reaction of those who share my love of Wimbledon has been an almost identical – ‘What do you want to move there for?!’.

I’m kind of understanding where they are coming from – the timing isn’t great. At the moment nothing is set in concrete, so mid-January could turn into late-January, which in turn could become February – but I know the missus patience won’t stretch to the playoff final in May. I could face the horrific scenario of the Dons getting promoted to the League and not being there to celebrate, in fact being thousands of miles away. And much as I love my friends and family over the ocean, it won’t be the same. Still, I’m missing my wife more than I thought I would, for a thousand reasons, the overriding one at the moment is that for the time being I have to WASH MY OWN FUCKING PANTS…

I’m not even sure what I’m going to do with myself when I’m over there. I presume I’ll somehow integrate myself into the New England Revolution fan base. Although their supporters group is known as the Midnight Riders, which kind of sounds like a gang of stereotype gay bikers – I’m fairly sure they featured prominently in the Police Academy movies… presumably they meet at the Blue Oyster? I could change the name of the blog to The Anonymous Revs, maybe contribute if they have a similar publication to WUP? Although as my columns are largely self-indulgent it will presumably resolve around regular misunderstandings caused by the mid-Atlantic definition change of words such as ‘fanny’ (embarrassed apologies… police were called… had to sign a register… banned from all branches of Dunkin Donuts… that kind of thing).

My attachment to AFC Wimbledon is becoming more emotional because of the move. I found myself entering the Minithon in a desperate attempt to Do My Bit. I always imagined that in later years I’ll do my stint as a volunteer, now I can’t be certain I’ll ever get that opportunity. So while you roll out of bed tomorrow morning, I’ll be dodging dog poo over three laps of the park. Unless of course you read this on Sunday night when I’ve probably finished/collapsed. Or you found this in a box of your grandparents old stuff in 2067, if so can I just take the opportunity to say how fantastic it is the robots haven’t taken over yet? Back in the present day, I managed to raise a bit in sponsorship, but in reality I’m only doing it largely because I want to be a part of a Dons fundraising event like this before I leave. Although perhaps next year I’ll be running in the sister event in Boston along with a handful of ex-pat FCUM fans…

I’m also hoping the run will kick-start my dream of getting fit(ter) before I emigrate. As those who know me can attest, I could probably do with losing a few pounds before I head to the land of IHOPs and 20 oz. steaks. If you don’t know me, imagine someone who, while by no means obese, obviously has no idea of the concept of ‘leftovers’ – and you’ll be half way there. If I just left without any attempt to shift some weight they’ll be making documentaries about how a crane had to be employed and a wall knocked through just to remove me from my house within six months of landing… I will of course be getting fit the manly way by maybe cutting a beer or two out of my daily diet (I think I’ll opt for ‘the last one of the day’), and perhaps some kind of exercise that involves punching things. I don’t want to come across as being a misogynist so I’ll just say you’ll never catch me failing like certain sections of society seem to – namely eating nought but grapes and celery for three months before cracking and being found sobbing hysterically at 2am on the kitchen floor surrounded by empty cartons of Ben and Jerry’s… well, I won’t fail in that manner this time, at least…

I’m starting to realise just how big a deal it is giving up what I consider my given right to watch Dons games at the ground, in the flesh. Of course its a lot easier these days thanks to AFCWTV and WDON… we can relive the events of a game mere days later just by firing up our computers – hell, we can even watch Dons goals at work (provided the boss isn’t looking… or you work as a bus driver where I presume its frowned upon by Health and Safety jobsworths – such as your passengers). Even as early as the eighties there were individual match videos on sale at the Club Shop, but when I was a kid if you wanted to relive the action you pretty much had to wait for the end of season video. Which lead to disappointment on one occasion as a much-anticipated routing of Norwich was lost to technical difficulties…

Things improved slightly in the Premier League years thanks mainly to Match of the Day’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Dons coverage, and the realisation that regular videos could be a cash cow. I remember being disappointed that my VHS recorder failed to capture the Football Focus rerun of an early season Dean Holdsworth curler into the top corner against Ipswich (you know, ex-franchise Newport manager Dean Holdsworth…), only to find a pre-Christmas video round-up scratched that particular itch. Then a boozy teenage trip to Tenerife coincided with missing a couple of victories that lead to one of the most watched videos in my collection – Seven Deadly Wins. Yes, the production was poor even by todays non-League standards, but the action wasn’t, and on football videos at least that was all that really mattered.

The first few seasons of the AFC era saw two-part season reviews produced, but over the past few seasons we seem to have moved towards regular ‘Matchday Magazine’ productions – a kind of bi-monthly round-up. Yet how popular these are is open to speculation – why buy a DVD for a tenner when you can watch the highlights online, for free, whenever you want to? We were spoiled by the Dons Online website in the early years, but regular linking on the Official website to AFCWTV opens that kind of service up to even the most detached of Dons fans. Naturally it is going to be invaluable for me over the coming years – but what of the future of this type of service? Well, ironically, returning to the League could see things become slightly more problematic for far-flung Dons. Goals are available on the BBC website – but only if you are based in the UK. League clubs provide a video service on their website, but this normally requires a subscription. The day of free internet highlights could be over, sadly just as we (or more accurately, I) begin to realise what a valuable resource they are.

And yet… I could bypass the whole problem by simply not moving abroad start with. I’ve been told about this thing they have called ‘divorce’ which I think might just solve all my problems…

Further WUP articles can be found in the Features Index

Tagged , , , ,

Anonymous Don WUP 8.2

I’m currently putting together a few thoughts on last nights Crawley game, but in the meantime (and as I broke my promise to post it yesterday) here my article from the last WUP relating to Crawley…

As my old gran once told me before she sadly passed way a few years ago – ‘There’s none more dangerous than a c–t who thinks they’re clever’. Actually, I’m paraphrasing – as a committed God Botherer to the end I can assure you Nan Smith would never have dropped the C-bomb… but having said that she never had the misfortune of meeting Steve Evans…

It’s fair to say Crawley Town are a dislikeable club even without Evans. Their unwelcoming breeze block stadium with one side open to the roaring traffic of the A23, the main entrance leading out to street after street of identikit council stock housing, spaced out amidst uninspired greenery – which seemingly has the single function of giving the local scum’s status dogs somewhere to shit when they tire of the kitchen floor – the place has the feel of a cross between Stalag and Butlins… like New Addington but without the escape route offered by trams…

In this environment, Evans fits like a pair of those six fingered gloves the locals are so keen on. The tragic thing is had Evans not cheated both taxpayer and the game during his time at Boston, and if he could just keep his mouth shut from time to time, he would actually be regarded as one of the better Conference managers. Undoubtedly he had a reduced budget last season, probably not as small as he liked to make out, but compared to some of the big hitters he had a point – I can grudgingly accept that. Ultimately Crawley finished above the Dons, albeit partly thanks to our squad deciding to take their summer break a month early, but still a fantastic achievement. I’m not sure exactly what Evans motivational techniques are, but if I played for him he would get an exponential improvement week on week simply by threatening to bare his expansive arse in the dressing room if performance levels dropped…

Thanks to their somewhat surprising financial good fortune over the summer Evans has taken the best of that squad, strengthened in key areas, as well as identifying the one area that separates champions from also-rans… quality strikers. Consider this; each signing brings its own risks… players could fail to settle, lose that goalscoring touch due to an inability to immediately gel with new team mates, or (as we have found to our cost with Mark Nwokeji) find themselves injured. You’ll go a long way towards winning the Conference if you have at least one striker banging in the goals at any one point, so while signing Matt Tubbs and Ben Wright might seem like overkill to simple clubs like ourselves and the other twenty-two Conference clubs operating within a budget… if money is no object why not splash out several hundred thousand on Richard Brodie? The more quality strikers you have in your squad, the closer you are to guaranteeing at least one of them will be scoring goals for you at any one time. Bear in mind Brodie himself is making the move from a pleasant northern town to a shit-hole two hundred miles south of his family and friends – a culture shock if ever there was one – while outsiders might expect him to hit the ground running for his new team, it’s not as essential he scores goals straight away.

With all this money, you might expect Crawley would have changed their style of play accordingly in order to attract the lost floating support. So is it all sexy football down at Broadfield these days? Here are a selection of quotes from Forest Green manager Dave Hockaday after their Bank Holiday visit, you can make your own minds up… “Total intimidation from start to finish both on and off the field…… a crazy game where the young officials struggled to deal with the provocation…… my players stood up to all the intimidation and kept their discipline under extreme provocation…”. Crawley have been known to attract the odd 4,000 plus crowd in their time, it’s not too much of a surprise that despite the hype, they are struggling to pull in greater than four figure crowds. Of course, more will jump on the bandwagon as the season progresses, presumably the object throwers from the two cup ties last season will be back for the big games (although, to be fair to those Crawley fans, there were more than a handful of Dons fans queuing up to hurl far more dangerous items than plastic coke bottles in James Pullen’s direction at the end of last term…)

Crawley apparently have the money up front for what they are somewhat arrogantly referring to as ‘Project Promotion’ (and think about how badly we would have been hammered if we had marketed ourselves in similar fashion while in the Ryman Premier…), in fact the money is in the bank earning interest for the next two years (or three, depending on who you believe…). The problem is, I just don’t believe it. We’ve seen it all before. Why aren’t Withdean 2000 currently operating in the Ryman League? Fisher should be up with us in the Conference… and surely Hornchurch and Bromley are in the Football League by now, right? No, and the reason they aren’t is because the money men who funded their initial burst up the divisions either ran out of cash or realized the ego-trip of bankrolling a non-league football club through the divisions wasn’t exactly the wank-fantasy they originally thought it would be, and bailed at the first available opportunity. The problem for clubs like Crawley in the current financial climate is there are fewer and fewer white knights ready to ride to their rescue when living the dream turns into a nightmare. Today’s beef and gravy is tomorrows lumpy mid-morning dump, and who really wants to clear up that mess?

Which brings me on to their bid for Danny Kedwell. You have to question how serious it was from the start. I mean if Evans was prepared to go as high as the reported £275,000 to get Brodie, why stop at £60,000 for Keds, in my (very biased) opinion a more complete forward than Brodie? Why not try and tempt us with a serious offer? I’m of the opinion this was another of his sloppy attempts at mind games – but while Evans may think he’s clever, this one has backfired on him. It has galvanised our club. We are stronger now than we would have been if he hadn’t bid to start with. We will probably not win the league this season, we might not even challenge for promotion, but there is one thing that I can guarantee… A certain football club and their loud-mouth manager are due a red hot reception at Kingsmeadow come 23rd September…

Tagged

AFC Wimbledon 1 Luton Town 1 – A Match Report

I woke up on Saturday morning in a pessimistic state of mind. I really had the impression that we would suffer in the manner Norwich eventually did, with season-ticket assaults on Terry Brown and everything… (while I’m on the subject, I bet those Norwich fans who ran on the pitch regretted it five seconds after they had done it, especially when they found that not only were they not getting their season tickets back, they wouldn’t be watching football for three years minimum…).

We have history of blowing big games. Remember Wycombe last year? Torquay? Even going back to St Albans in the Trophy and Thurrock in the FA Cup, whenever we had come across a side that represented a huge step up in quality we had fluffed our lines. The difference was, those games had been cup ties… however as this game was our first in the Conference and we had nothing to measure it against, it did have more of the one-off feeling of a cup game.

Fortunately I wasn’t the only one suffering from a case of the pre-game jitters. After taking my non-attending wife for lunch at the Slug and Lettuce in Kingston to make up for not getting her a ticket, I bumped into an agreeable bunch of Luton fans who weren’t entirely sure of my gut feeling we would be annihilated. This led to me delivering them to the Peel via the 131, obtaining other Luton fans on the way – I felt like the Pied Piper, perhaps I should have led them into the river?!

Kingsmeadow was at its glorious sweaty best as I arrived, coincidentally at the same time as Sam Hatton, who almost became the first person to fatally mow down a blogger in Jack Goodchild Way. I bought a WUP, amazed to find an article I wrote at the end of last season had been included… in fact I had forgotten I had submitted it, which meant there was at least one decent article for me to read in there! The ground looked in great condition. There were even a few new advertising hoardings this year dotted around. Oh, and of course, this – http://fleydon-flags.blogspot.com/2009/08/these-boots.html

Once again I’m in the John Smiths again this year although with no access to the KRE (at least this week) it was entirely forced on me… on Saturday I found myself behind the home dugout. However I must say the vast majority the support was superb, barring one or two who felt the need to slag of a certain midfielder of ours. I’ve gone on and on about it elsewhere, and its something that annoys me, I’m glad it seems to annoy the majority of Dons fans as well. But if the elimination of this kind of negativity is perhaps a step too far for us at the moment, the majority did a fantastic job of drowning them out. Even the John Smiths, which seems to be a better place to stand thanks to the addition of some singers who presumably found themselves edged out of the Tempest this year.

The lineup was pretty similar to as I expected, with a couple of exceptions. Firstly, we went 4-5-1, no Jon Main as I exclusively revealed on this very blog. But no Luke Moore either, the extra place in midfield going to crowd favourite Sam Hatton. Finally, Luke Garrard got the nod at right back over Jay Conroy, presumably it came down to Luke’s experience.

There were a lot of nerves kicking around, and that seemed to transfer itself to the pitch. The opening few minutes were low key, the referee setting his stall out by awarding a couple of baffling freekicks. Wimbledon’s first chance came during this period, a corner on the left found its way over to Lorraine, who guided his effort up and over, finding himself called for pushing at the same time.

Lets get this straight, Luton looked faster, more composed and basically in control in every department, but they hadn’t managed to fashion a chance of any sort. While Wimbledon were giving away possession left, right and centre, caught by the speed in which they were closed down by Luton men, it hadn’t led to any problems. This was until the thirteenth minute, when a Luton corner delivered in at pace amid a lot of pushing and shoving in the box. Lorraine and Shane Blackett crashed to the floor, with the referee electing to make a decision against the Dons man.

Luton’s impressive forward Tom Craddock slotted home from the spot powerfully striking into the right corner, despite Jamie Pullen reading his intentions the penalty was just too good for him to get anywhere near. The visitors almost doubled their lead only minutes later, the impressive Adam Newton racing clear down the right, picking out Craddock (one of two Luton players completely free at the far post) whose firm header was brilliantly saved by James Pullen. The ball bobbled about in the six-yard box for a moment before being cleared to safety by Paul Lorraine.

Now Luton had the lead, Wimbledon’s five man midfield worked in their favour. Godfrey and Hatton were working overtime in the midfield, but were well off the pace. Neither were helped by some poor balls into them requiring them to release the ball a lot quicker than either of them had experienced before. This was a real baptism of fire for certain Dons players, with the two midfielders and Chris Hussey desperately trying to keep their heads above water.

I mentioned in pre-season how Husseys decision making seems to let him down in defensive situations. On many occasions Hussey had the chance to knock a 60/40 challenge in his favour to safety before the ball had even got to Newton, but his cautiousness in keeping his feet let the tricky winger beat him time and again simply but knocking the ball past him and beating him in a leg race.

However he persisted, going on to enjoy a much better second half which led to Newton being removed from the game, and while Hatton and Godfrey were substituted in the second as well, they at least left the field having worked so hard to keep Wimbledon within touching distance of our illustrious visitors. Even before the safety of half time, the Dons had to defend for their lives on a couple of occasions.

On twenty minutes, another cross from the right was flicked on dangerously, Wimbledon perhaps fortunate that it was too far from a dozing Kevin Gallen. Portly ex-franchise hitman Gallen looked out of place among this talented Luton team, employed seemingly only to shout at the referee and fall over when appropriate. He picked up a yellow card during the first half, perhaps he receives a bonus for this as any reliance on a goal bonus this season could see the mercenary forward well out of pocket come April.

The Hatters were confounded again on twenty five minutes, the visitors breaking quickly to create a two on two led by Newton. While the nippy winger seemed too good for Wimbledon down the right, when approaching goal through the centre he seemed overwhelmed by the options available to him. Eventually he decided to ignore his teammate and go it alone, being brilliantly held up by Luke Garrard before Chris Hussey finished the job, clearing to safety.

Garrard had an interesting afternoon. While looking comfortable on the right side of defense he had an annoying habit of playing colleagues into danger. While Luke needs time to adapt to the speed of the game, both in terms of overcoming rustiness following his injury and getting used to the pace of a higher level once more, he was inconsistant rather than poor.

While Wimbledon were losing the ball in midfield on a regular basis,the sheer number of players on hand mean the opposition themselves suffer the same problems. While Luton looked comfortable, they weren’t creating as much as the would have wished, and did not dominate as much as their manager suggested after the game. While it would serve a purpose for him to suggest they were unlucky on this occasion, they are going to face teams who flood the midfield week in, week out. Most probably won’t be able to work as hard as we did, in fact we must be the fittest ‘part time’ club in the country, but those that do will frustrate Luton, especially away from home.

Danny Kedwell cut a lonely figure all alone up front. When the ball found its way to him and he managed to win it, he either flicked the ball on to no-one or got it under control and fed a midfielder to knock it long into space or find themselves closed down before they even got a chance to do that. Consequently Wimbledon created nothing until just before half time.

Sammy Hatton found himself in an advanced position to flick on to Kedwell. However Danny was still far from goal with defenders in his way. He improvised well, juggling the ball around a defender which sadly left him off balance, his stabbed volley rolling harmlessly wide. With Wimbledon on the front foot, Lewis Taylor and Derek Duncan managed to get forward, the former almost providing an assist or the latter with a superb drilled ball that Duncan stabbed just wide.

Just a quick word about the Luton fans in the first half. As I said before the majority were a decent bunch, although they did seem to have a minority of braindead scum, one of which who made a name for himself by breaking through the segregation and removing Haydons head, before throwing it on the pitch. Now this incident has been covered extensively elsewhere, but you have to wonder what was going on with the security. Now I’m not one of those willing to slag off the stewards, they are just volunteers and they do a great job. Wherever possible they should be able to watch the game, thats a given – it’s not as if they earn money or anything.

And they shouldn’t be expected to put their own personal safety on the line when someone misbehaves in a violent manner. In that particular corner there was a group of half a dozen police officers. These gentlemen certainly were being paid for their afternoon at the game, primarily to prevent what happened from happening. It seems it’s not only the team who need to sharpen up to Conference Premier standard…

The second half started late (somehow that Tempest End goal became unfastened again…) yet this time Wimbledon were starting to give as good as they got. A strong run by Lewis Taylor down the right, powerfully holding off a Luton man before feeding Luke Garrard, whose delicate chip found Kedwell who found no pace on the ball, his header dropping into keeper Tyler’s arms. Still, it was promising. Duncan and Taylor were more advanced however that inevitably gave Luton more space to build for themselves. Pullen had to save smartly from Cradock, before the same player again found space in the left side of the penalty area, hitting across goal agonisingly wide of the right post.

Wimbledon were still having trouble creating chances, and it took until the hour mark for them to produce their best moment of the match so far. Great play down the left between Duncan and Hussey saw a deep cross evade everybody apart from Lewis Taylor at the far post. It took him some time to get it under control, but when he did he had a couple of lashes at it- the second of these excellently parried wide by Tyler.

At last the Luton keeper merits a mention in this report, and this was good enough to persuade Terry Brown it was time to unleash our not-so-secret weapon. Jon Main and Luke Moore replaced the exhausted Derek Duncan and Sam Hatton, with Godfrey following shortly after for Ricky Wellard. This shot in the arm was enough for Wimbledon to take the front foot. Main’s pace scared the life out of the Luton defense, resulting in the penalty award with just ten minutes to go.

Last night in the Score! update I mentioned the to penalties were ‘dubious’ after I saw it described as such elsewhere. However – after seeing a shaky video of it, I’m now prepared to believe what my own eyes saw at the time, that while Blackettgot the ball he did so by scything down Main as he was about to shoot. Blackett had to go for that, and the penalty itself was despatched by Main, sending Tyler the wrong way rolling the ball into the right corner.

From here on in, it looked as though it was only going to be Wimbledon who would win. Another dangerous ball into the box fell to Taylor who struck firmly at goal from eight yards only to see it deflected wide for a corner. Luton weren’t helping themselves, or to be more accurate their manager wasn’t anyway, bringing on Basham and a midfielder in exchange for their best players on the day, Adam Newton and Tom Craddock… which meant while the Hatters now had two big men up front they had no-one to service them.

Of course, Wimbledon were on hand to provide that last chance. Garrard collided with Johnson to gift posession to Luton by way of a freekick given when Garrards attempt to recover the situation only led to him chopping down a Luton man who appeared from nowhere. Fortunately, the freekick was delivered straight at the wall (ironically enough charged down by Chris Hussey…).

It was down to Hussey to deliver a great, great chance for Paul Lorraine, unmarked coming round the back from a corner, to head into the ground and wide, the Dons improbable chance to win the game having gone begging. Despite this Wimbledon fans celebrated at the final whistle, a point gained following a tough first half. 

Perhaps we could have faced easier opposition on the first day of the season, but Luton have lifted the bar high enough for us to prepare ourselves for lesser opposition as well as the likes of Oxford and Wrexham looming on the horizon. Make no mistake, watching Wimbledon defend for their lives in the first half was no fun, but had we started with an orthodox 4-4-2 we would have been taken apart by a much better side than we are. Had we player the diamond we would vitually have sacrificed the midfield, again leading to us losing the match before we had even got into our stride.

The formations we played in pre-season will come in handy later in the year, but the fact we had to start with a containing tactic, and at home as well, should give everyone an idea of how tough it’s going to be to eventually win this league. It worked for us today, on the hour we were still in the game, and that was good enough for us to go for broke and swap things around a bit. Some young players learned some harsh lessons out there, yet we survived, we took something from the game, we almost snatched an amazing win. I guarantee when we look back at this game at the end of the season we will see it as a point gained.

Now on to Eastbourne for a more ‘usual’ Conference game… and whisper it, but a great chance for our first three points?

NOTE – Unfortunately I was unable to take any pictures this week. Apologies to those of you who look forward to them, normal service will hopefully be resumed on Tuesday, although I took a couple on my mobile, so a couple may appear on the report later…

Tagged , , , , , , ,