David Cameron Walker

Posts Tagged ‘AFC Wimbledon’

Dons are drawing blanks

Sunday, January 19th, 2014


We’re more than halfway into the season, and we are at least doing better than last time out! The story of this campaign thus far is one of costly inconsistencies; victories against high-flyers like Scunthorpe, Burton and Rochdale (who currently make up the top three) have been counteracted by a massive 16 points dropped to sides who were in the bottom four at the time. Having shored up our defence over the summer, making it the 7th best in the league this season, it’s the forwards that are the problem this time out!

We started out really well , as Neal Ardley’s brand of passing football proved very difficult for most teams we came up against to cope with, as we got as high as third place after 10 games. A bad run followed as we got found out a little, and everyone worked out that we struggled to break down a side that had parked the bus – no-one was underestimating us anymore, and we were forced into switching to a more ‘traditional’ League 2 approach of physicality and organisation. The dependence on loanee Michael Smith for goals was always a worry, especially now that it looks like he won’t be coming back from Charlton for a second spell. Recent performances have improved a little, but inconsistency is still an issue; our last two games were a thoroughly lacklustre 2-0 defeat at home to 23rd place Torquay, and then an excellent point, away from home, at league leaders Scunthorpe. Our defence has been outstanding throughout, especially young goalkeeper Ross Worner, but there are some inherent weaknesses in the rest of the line-up.

The midfield is strong, on paper. Harry Pell is a massive talent that looks destined to play at a much higher level, Sammy Moore is in the form of his life, and Peter Sweeney is probably one of the best players technique-wise in the league – but a long-term injury to Sweeney and a couple of minor knocks for Pell means the lack of cover has been exposed, culminating in a showing against Torquay that seemed like our midfield had never seen each other before. There’s also an abundance of talented wide players – George Porter on loan from Burnley has a bit of an attitude problem but is undoubtedly something special, while the likes of Chris Arthur and Kevin Sainte-Luce have looked promising, but both struggled with injuries. One of the big disappointments has been George Francomb; he looked a class apart when on loan with us from Norwich last season, and it was a phenomenal piece of business to get him this summer after being released, as he turned down multiple League 1 clubs. Things haven’t gone quite as well in his second spell, as he has been tried in a range of positions across midfield and defence, failing to really make any of them his own.

But it’s the attack that is our major problem – the previously prolific Jack Midson has only a single goal (a penalty to complete a 3-0 win) to his name from 24 appearances, 9 of them from the start. Charlie Strutton was prolific on loan at Braintree but broke his leg, Charlie Sheringham is another who hasn’t lived up to expectations, and that left a lot of pressure on Michael Smith from Charlton. He is clearly one for the future, and deserves praise for notching 10 goals in his 25 games – but he just wasn’t enough of a natural finisher to support us on his own. The fact he got 10 goals despite a poor shot conversion rate speaks volumes about how reliant we were on him to get goals!

While Neal has done some decent business this transfer window, signing free agent and utility man Aaron Morris, as well as Charlie Wyke on a one-month loan, there is more strengthening to be done. Injuries to Peter Sweeney and Andy Frampton means cover is needed in defence and midfield, while we need at least one new man up front who can add some much-needed pace – and more importantly, goals! Our budget is obviously limited, but Morris’ wages have been the only expense thus far, and there is a little bit of cash in the bank to bring in one or two decent players, and I’d say it has to be spent on addressing the goal-scoring problem. 6 goals in 10 games as a team (with three coming in the same game) just isn’t enough.

Overall, it’s important to stress that things could be much, much worse. This is Neal’s first full season as a manager, and he’s probably suffered a little from the raised expectations he created after keeping us up last season and (briefly) to the automatic promotion spots this time out. He is undoubtedly the right man for the job, and our current position of 14th is still punching above our weight, based on financial muscle. This issue was highlighted on Saturday, with Paddy Madden (who wasn’t even in the Scunthorpe starting eleven) having allegedly cost around ten times as much as our entire team! With 20 games to go we’re still 6 points off the drop zone, and most at Kingsmeadow are confident we can build on a steady start to the season and move up the table, rather than down – 10 points off the play-offs means that is probably a bridge too far, but top 10 is definitely achievable, and would undeniably represent a very successful season. You can’t help but feel that the difference between top 10 and bottom 6 will be whether we can tie down a striker who can score some goals for the next 20 games – be that by bringing in someone new, or getting Midson to refind his form. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a boring season, and one way or the other, I suspect that isn’t going to change this year!

Written by Charlie Worthington, We Are Going Up’s AFC Wimbledon Blogger

Charlie tweets at @AFCW_Blog

18 minutes from oblivion

Saturday, July 27th, 2013


On April 27th, a 72nd minute penalty from Jack Midson saved AFC Wimbledon from a return to the desolate wastelands of the newly-named ‘Skrill Conference Premier’. Needless to say, there has since been a major overhaul at Kingsmeadow, with Neal Ardley releasing 14 players, promoting 4 from the youth squad, and 9 new signings (and counting). Having arrived part-way through last season, Neal was forced to do the best job he could with a below-par squad, and has been able to further boost it after a couple of changes in January.

The major transfer coup was the signing of George Francomb, newly released by Norwich City, who was very successful on loan with us last season. Having already missed out on ex-loanees John Sullivan and Jon Meades to promises of higher wages at Portsmouth and Oxford United respectively, this big-name signing was needed by the Wimbledon fans. Neal has stuck to type by signing players from two categories: the experienced pro and ‘rough diamond’. Barry Fuller, Andy Frampton and Ashley Bayes fall into the ‘experienced’ group, and Chris Arthur, Charlie Sheringham, Callum Kennedy, Ross Worner and Francomb in the latter group. The youth academy also deserves credit, with 4 youngsters making the transition to first team football – Youssouf Bamba in particular looks like one to watch, and he may well be seen terrorising right-backs in League 2 for the coming season. This new-look side, combined with Neal’s desired 4-2-3-1 formation, should leave us with a side capable of the consistency needed for comfortable survival, but also the flair to give us a chance to possibly push up higher.

The problem encountered last season was our faulty defence: we have since signed 4 defenders with over 1500 games combined Football League experience, complemented by an extremely promising youngster in Jim Fenlon. There is also a high standard in midfield; Harry Pell, signed in January from Hereford, was vital to our survival, and we have two players who can control a match in Sammy Moore and Peter Sweeney. In George Francomb, George Porter (on loan from Burnley), Kevin Sainte-Luce and Chris Arthur we have a selection of wingers that can do some serious damage, all supporting prolific striker Jack Midson up top. The big weakness appears to be the lack of a ‘number 10′, an attacking midfielder to play behind the striker. We have no-one naturally accustomed to that position, with strikers and wingers having to fill in. Our efforts to introduce a more fluent style of play is likely to need a talented player in that position, and we may be found lacking. However, with a solid-looking defence and the widely-coveted Jack Midson up front, we have, in theory, a side capable of beating almost any team in League 2 on our day.

Another big job going on at the club has been sorting out sponsorship – with our limited ground size, we need to make the most of any possible source of revenue – we now have stands sponsored by ‘EcoHouse’ and ‘Nongshim’ (Korea’s number 1 noodle), and the rather unfortunate back-of-shirt sponsor, ‘Chemflow’. Still, money is money, and while fan ownership provides you with a certain level of stability, it doesn’t provide the huge funds a sugar daddy owner can. Efforts to move to a new site back on Plough Lane are underway, but still a long way from any sort of completion, so we remain in Kingston for a few seasons longer.

We’re long overdue a boring season – we’ve been involved at one end of the table or the other every year for the last 10, and a season of mid-table mediocrity would be more than welcome at Kingsmeadow, a bit of a transition season may be in store. It would be nice to avoid the media circus of another cup tie against Franchise, but the draw methods for the League Cup and JPT means we may well have to deal with that particular nuisance again. Whatever happens, I am positive we will have a much better season than last – we have a manager bedded into the role, a talented squad and aims of a better style of football – let’s just hope all our optimism and the success of pre-season is able to find its way onto the pitch come Saturday 3rd.

Written by Charlie Worthington, We Are Going Up’s AFC Wimbledon Blogger

Charlie tweets at @AFCW_Blog


We Are Staying Up!

Monday, April 29th, 2013

At the end of an action-packed season, it is fantastic to see that the Dons will still be where we belong next season – in the Football League. There have been a couple of high points, contrasted against many, many lows. But players, fans and coaching staff alike showed great belief, mental strength and determination to pull us through, in a dramatic fashion!

The season started with the Dons under the management of Terry Brown, and a victory on the opening day over Chesterfield led to early hopes that we could improve on the 16th place finish of 2011/12. However, it quickly went downhill from there. We lost the next two games 5-1 and 6-2, and that opening day win proved to be our last with Terry as manager – he was sacked, possibly prematurely, in September, having picked up one point of the previous 21, with most of his summer signings not looking particularly effective. Simon Bassey, first team coach, stepped up to fill in during the hunt for a replacement, and was a contender for the role himself, having won two of his four games in charge. But those in charge of selecting a manager took a gamble – they went with the inexperienced Neal Ardley – the 40-year old, who played over 200 times for Wimbledon in the 90s and early 2000s, had spent 5 years in charge of the Cardiff City youth academy, but had never managed a first team before. But what Neal lacked in experience, he made up for with a great eye for a transfer and unrelenting enthusiasm for AFC Wimbledon.

It was by no means an easy start for Neal – he had to try and do the best he could with another manager’s squad, and made a series of loan signings, to degrees of effect. A minor injury crisis didn’t help matters, and Neal only won one league game in 2012. Another spanner was thrown in the works in late November, when we were drawn in the FA Cup against Milton Keynes. While I don’t intend to talk in length about that game, I think it should be said that Neal and the team dealt with the media focus admirably, and did us all proud in a game that we desperately didn’t want to happen.

But the dawn of a new calendar year seemed to bring a change of fortunes for Wimbledon. We won the first two games of 2013, and went unbeaten throughout January, with some fantastic signings being made – this aspect of Neal’s managerial qualities is clearly a strong one, as proved by the quality of signings, both on loan and permanently, that were made. Invaluable experience arrived through Alan Bennett, Gary Alexander and Neil Sullivan, while dynamic youngsters such as Jon Meades, Toby Ajala and Harry Pell also made their mark in spectacular fashion. There was a point, however, in mid-February, when confidence at Kingsmeadow was at a real low. We hadn’t won in 5 games, having lost the last two (and at this point, Neal had still only won 3 games all season), and we felt that if we fell apart again, that would be it. The next game, against League Cup finalists Bradford City was crucial, and when we were one goal down with 10 minutes to play, I genuinely believed, for the first and only time all season, that we would be relegated. But a Jack Midson inspired comeback, including a goal for loan signing Gary Alexander in injury time, meant a 2-1 win, and the Dons were back on track.

This brought back confidence, and form with it. Between January 1st and March 28th, we picked up more points than any other team in the league, but still somehow managed to be lingering in 20th, not far from the relegation zone. It did, however, appear, with 6 games left to play, that 4 points would probably be enough to secure safety. Easy, right? Wrong. A four game losing streak, including a 1-0 defeat to Barnet from the most dominant performance we have given in our two years in the Football League, meant the fears of relegation were back. We had three high-flyers, in Exeter, Gillingham and Fleetwood, left to play, and we still needed 4 points minimum. A 2-2 draw at Exeter was followed by an away game to champions Gillingham, who needed a point to secure the title. 2-0 down within 20 minutes, it seemed like Wimbledon’s season was slipping away. Yet another comeback secured another 2-2 draw, and while the point didn’t seem to have made a huge difference to the table, the strength shown by the players led to a renewed confidence heading into the final day, a home tie against Fleetwood.

The situation was blissfully simple – a win, and we were safe. Anything less, and we were definitely down. Fleetwood’s form had been poor, and they had nothing but pride to play for – but this didn’t stop them trying! It was a game that Wimbledon dominated, but the footballing gods seemed desperate for us to lose. An inspired performance from the Fleetwood goalkeeper, as well as the woodwork coming to their rescue three times, meant that it was still 0-0 with 60 minutes played. But, showing the massive value of experience in this situation, Gary Alexander headed us into the lead. He is a player that I was rather disappointed with during his loan spell – his record indicates he could’ve done much better than 3 goals in 18 games. But the goals he did score were vitally important, this one most of all. Not that the lead lasted long – Fleetwood equalised through a scrappy goal a minute later. But, when right-back Curtis Osano was fouled in the Fleetwood penalty area, talismanic striker Jack Midson had a chance to score a massive goal. In the play-off final of 2011, Dons’ legend Danny Kedwell scored a penalty to put us into the Football League. Two years later, his replacement Jack Midson scored one to keep us there. Once the last 15 minutes had been nervily navigated – including Alexander showing all of his experience by sneakily untying his shoelace, and spending two minutes re-tying – there were scenes of jubilation. Fans rushed onto the pitch to congratulate the players, and it was heart-warming to see how much it meant to them, even those on loan. Needless to say, the party went on well into the night, and Wimbledon are still a Football League club for next season.

I’m hopeful that the vastly improved showing of 2013 will prove a good platform for us to build on, and we can have a more successful 2013/14. Our budget is still well below average, so targets must be realistic – I would be more than happy if we are in a position for a late play-off push with 10 games to go. Neal Ardley has shown that he was worth the risk, and looks a top quality manager, that we should be desperate to hold on to. He now has some time to build up his own squad – roll on next season!

Written by Charlie Worthington, We Are Going Up’s AFC Wimbledon Blogger

Charlie tweets at @AFCW_Blog

The fight for survival continues

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

On Sunday, everything was looking good for the Dons, with three wins on the trot lifting us to the unprecedented heights of 18th place. The bottom of League Two was getting even closer, with five teams on 40 points, and one on 41. But with our run of good form, and vast tally of 45 points, some Wimbledon fans were foolish enough to suggest that we may have done enough. Which was probably a mistake.

Any complacency was quickly eradicated by one of the less glamorous aspects of league football – losing 4-0 away to Accrington Stanley (who are they?) on a Tuesday night. Not something that was top of my list of things to do this season, and, fingers crossed, not something I’ll have to experience again any time soon. To be fair, Accrington looked a strong side, and the fact that they were bottom of the table proves just how even League Two is. Before the horror show of Tuesday night, we were top of the League Two form table and flying, but that loss has pulled us right back into the mire, as astonishingly, the four teams of the five on 40 points that played last night (including Accrington) all won, meaning that, while AFC are in a healthy position, it is by no means a secure one.

But back to the positives. While it took a while for Neal Ardley to get this side going, as he struggled with the below-par squad he inherited, he has been steadily building it up with loan signings, and really made some changes in January. The signings of Jon Meades and Toby Ajala on loan, and Harry Pell on a permanent basis, both added some quality to our side, and the spell Neil Sullivan spent on loan, and our the signing of Alan Bennett have brought experience that is absolutely vital when you’re in a relegation battle, with your backs against the wall. We had been steadily improving throughout 2013, when suddenly we really hit form, with three wins on the bounce, including one away to high-flying Southend. The last time we won three in a row was over a year ago, in January 2012. We scored 7 goals in those 3 games, and even kept a clean sheet in one (number 6 of the campaign). But while the Dons form has improved massively, everyone else down the bottom have been getting better as well. Due to this, my money for the teams to go down is, at the moment, on Torquay and York, as they are the two teams really sliding down the division.

And despite my never-ceasing confidence that Wimbledon will manage to stay up, it hasn’t escaped my attention that we have a very tricky run-in, with only 7 games to go. We have three games, two of them away, to teams in the play-off places or above (Gillingham, Exeter, Rotherham), and two tough fixtures against two of the on-form sides near the bottom half, in Barnet and Bristol Rovers. The ‘magic points total’ in League Two, with only two sides going down, is usually quoted as 50 points, but the unusually high level of competition this year means that this may not be enough. There is normally one team that is way off the pace, and spend most of the season simply preparing for life in the Conference Premier, leaving only one other relegation spot, fought for between two or three unconvincing teams. This year, there are no abysmal sides, and, at least from the perspective of a Wimbledon fan, no teams, (with the exception of us in the first half of the season) who have looked like they deserved to go down. This means that Wimbledon need to get to 50 points as soon as possible, and push on to get more than that!

I’d say that the important thing, in the aftermath of a surprising and substandard thrashing at the hands of Accrington, who simply had to exploit the lack of pace in our injury-ravaged defence, is that we don’t let our heads drop. I said a couple of weeks ago that 3 wins in our next 4 would put us in a strong position, and that is exactly what we got. Admittedly, I expected the defeat to be to Southend rather than Accrington, but we need to focus on the positives of our recent form instead of the negatives. Two key defenders are due to return soon, with Jon Meades with Wales U21 on Tuesday, and Pim Balkestein recovering from an injury, and this should allow us to remove nightmares of Accrington from our heads, and continue with not only the results we have been seeing, but also the high quality of performances. The defence has cut out (mostly) the horrifically comical goals gifted to the opposition, the midfield is showing a bit of fight, and Neal Ardley has finally found a couple of players, most notably Kevin Sainte-Luce, given a second chance after being sacked by Cardiff due to a dubious incident in a nightclub, who seem to have a bit of cutting-edge going forwards, and we are (at last) posing a threat to opposition defences.

It is crucial that Neal gives the players a bit of a kick up the backside, and then gets them motivated and hungry for a win on Saturday at Morecambe. The players and coaching staff went over and apologised to the 247 Wimbledon fans who had travelled up to Accrington after the match was finished. The coaching staff seemed genuinely apologetic, and the players, even those on loan, were absolutely gutted. We need to utilise this feeling of anguish, and turn it into the hunger for success that we have shown in glimpses when at our best. By the time we welcome Fleetwood to Kingsmeadow on April 27th for the final game of the season, I want us to be safe for next year, and to feel like we deserve another season in the football league – but, unfortunately, I suspect that there may be as many as 7 or 8 teams in danger of going down on that final day.

Written by Charlie Worthington, We Are Going Up’s AFC Wimbledon Blogger

Charlie tweets at @AFCW_Blog

Relegation scrap going down to the wire

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

As every football fan whose side aren’t doing so well will tell you, the team at the bottom of the league is always the strongest – because they’re holding everybody else up!

As we reach the point where most teams are two-thirds of the way through the season, it is becoming apparent which teams are going to be drawn into a scrap that looks like it could, and probably will, go down to the wire. This is probably fairly exciting for any neutral observers, but for Wimbledon fans (as well as anyone supporting Aldershot, Barnet, Accrington Stanley, Plymouth, Bristol Rovers, and even potentially Torquay or York); this will not be an enjoyable experience.

From a Wimbledon point of view, it is a very alien experience. Our fans have been spoilt for the first ten years of our existence, with a lowest finish of 8th, in any division. 5 promotions in 9 years didn’t really prepare us for the last two, where we have performed disappointingly in the football league. What we can say for certain, however, is that Wimbledon fans are not ones likely to give up without a fight – our very existence proves that!

The Outside Bets

While I feel that York and Torquay look fairly safe, I know that many of their fans disagree. York are on a downwards slide, with 4 points from 7 games, and there is a feeling amongst a few of their supporters that if Gary Mills lasts the season, they may be going down. Torquay are doing slightly better than York, but again aren’t on great form, and the serious illness of Martin Ling could throw a spanner in the works. While these two look okay for now, if their poor form continues then they could be drawn into the fight.

Bristol Rovers are by no means safe, and are still within short reach of the bottom 5, but their excellent form under John Ward lately suggests to me that they may be safe to play another season of League Two football.

Safe for now

Plymouth, Accrington and Barnet are all, at the time of writing this, outside of the relegation zone, but given the surprising form of most of the teams down the bottom, one bad result could send them over the edge. Plymouth are on decent form, having not lost since January 5th, but the bottom 5 are all within 4 points of each other – and only 2 points if Wimbledon can win our game in hand. Accrington look in serious danger, as they are sliding quickly down the table. They need a turnaround soon, having won just once since November, or they look like they could be occupying bottom place come the end of the season. Barnet are another side that look rejuvenated, under the leadership of Edgar Davids, but they are not out of danger, and have some big fixtures coming up against other teams around the league’s base.

In the relegation zone

Aldershot look like they’re in trouble, with their form not matching that of Bristol, Plymouth or Barnet. As an optimistic AFC Wimbledon fan, they would be my pick to go down, along with Accrington. They need to find the form that they briefly had in early January to stand a chance of survival.

And, currently sat bottom of the league, 2 points adrift (but with a game in hand), are Wimbledon. Not an ideal situation, admittedly, but one we’re capable of getting out of. But with a promising manager in Neal Ardley, who should most certainly not be fired, even in the event of relegation, and a good-looking squad built up in January, safety is very much within reach, if the support and belief is there. We have a crucial run of fixtures, with a game against off-form Bradford (other than a certain League Cup final), the mentally vital game in hand against Northampton, and winnable fixtures against Dagenham & Redbridge and Plymouth. This battle will almost certainly go right down to the wire, but at the moment, despite the setback against Chesterfield, I still believe in Neal, Neil and the players to dig their feet in and stay up.

I think what we need to learn for next season, whether in League Two or the Conference, is that players that care are absolutely vital. Toby Ajala always made it clear that he was desperate to be recalled by Bristol City, and I was fine with that while he was playing well. But since Bristol announced they wanted him back, he has been very poor. He is just one example of players who are either on loan, or know they are good enough to find another FL club if we go down, and so don’t necessarily give their all. If we are going to be playing badly, I at least want to have players, in the Seb Brown/Danny Kedwell style, that really care about making it work.

On a lighter note (for us anyway) it hasn’t escaped my notice that Portsmouth may be sent down to the Conference Premier after administration problems. Seeing as they look like being relegated from League One anyway, the protocol in that situation appears to be for one less side to be relegated. Although I wish Portsmouth all the best in their bid to survive their money issues (as a Wimbledon fan who knows exactly how it feels to be punished by the FA), this is welcome news to the League Two strugglers, should the worst come to the worst.

Written by Charlie Worthington, We Are Going Up’s AFC Wimbledon Blogger

Charlie tweets at @AFCW_Blog

Neal Ardley’s great escape

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

At first glance, AFC Wimbledon’s time in league football has not been a merry one. For a side who had previously (albeit in only a 10 year existence) never finished lower than 8th, a first season that started well but faded into a 16th place finish was quite a shock in our first season of league football. 2012/13 has been even worse, as we flirt with bottom place in the football league.

One point that the optimist inside me would like to make is that our current position of 23rd isn’t as bad as it may seem. Remember only two sides go down from League Two, and we are finally starting to win some games. As I write this we are unbeaten in 2013, (although a match against table-toppers Port Vale on Thursday may change that happy statistic.) with some new signings, and extensions of highly successful loan deals. Last season, I reckon the loan signings of Billy Knott and George Moncur saved our season, and this year’s impressive crop of Neil Sullivan, Toby Ajala, Jon Meades and free-scoring Paul McCallum could do the same. On an equally positive note, the league table isn’t quite as it seems. I appreciate that at the bottom of the table, games in hand count for little, but given our form, I feel a rise to 18th or 19th place is well within our grasp – we would be there already if the rest of the bottom 8 hadn’t all had an equally successful 2013, or so it seems to me! We got a draw against Wycombe on Saturday 12th, but still moved down as, unbelievably, the teams around us in 24th, 22nd, 21st and 20th all won! This can’t last forever, surely, and hopefully when they slip up we can quickly capitalise, as the Dons are starting to pick up some momentum.

Despite the low points tally, the Dons haven’t necessarily being playing badly. Sure, there’s been the occasional shocker, (losing 3-0 at home to Oxford, who should have beaten us by more, comes to mind) but there have been a huge number of games where we’ve played very well, often much better than the opposition, but our dreadful form in front of goal has cost us dear. Hopefully West Ham loan superstar Paul McCallum, with 4 in his last 3, can put a stop to this, and turn our fortunes around. I still feel more work is needed in the transfer window – namely another centre back and striker, at the very least – but the return of fans favourite Chris Hussey from Coventry has gone some way to appeasing the Kingsmeadow crowd. It hasn’t been an easy season for Ardley – he came in partway into the season after the sacking of Terry Brown, and has had to work with another manager’s squad, so the transfer window gives him a chance to bring in the players he wants. My opinion on the sacking of Brown is that we should’ve either got rid of him at the end of last season (fantastic servant though he was to the club, he couldn’t appear to grasp the physical side of league football), or given him until Christmas – as I said, there is little a manager can do when arriving after the transfer window.

And as for the rest of the season, I’m quietly confident that the boys will pull it out of the bag. The fact that only two go down gives us a great chance, and there won’t be many teams in the bottom half who play better football than us – Neal just needs to run some extra shooting training sessions! There are plenty of experienced players in our squad, who will know how to deal with this situation, and can bring the best out of the talented youngsters that we have plenty of, we just need to give them the confidence to go out and show everyone what they’re made of. The squad is certainly good enough for League Two. Injuries in defence have cost us dearly, with Pim Balkestein and club captain Mat Mitchel-King only now returning from fairly major injuries, and keeper Seb Brown’s loss of confidence means that we had to find a replacement – but veteran Neil Sullivan, who played for Wimbledon in the Premier League (and once conceded a rather impressive goal from a young David Beckham) has looked solid. The return of Sammy Moore and arrival of Peter Sweeney forms a good ball-playing midfield, and the McCallum-Midson front pairing completes a strong spine to the side.

Having a look at the new signings we have brought in, they are clearly positive ones. Both Peter Sweeney and Chris Hussey have been tempted down from League One. Sweeney terminated his own contract at Bury so as to move back to London, and Hussey was released by Coventry, where he was unpopular amongst the fans, to say the least. However, we did sell him to Coventry 3 years ago, aged 21 for a reported £100k, so to sign him back for free is quite a coup. We’ve seen little of either of them since coming in, due to lack of fixtures. Sweeney had a great game in centre mid against Wycombe, and I don’t think I’ve seen him smile once – a quality I admire in a centre midfielder! We’ve got plenty of smilers in the side, and hopefully now that Sammy Moore is back from injury, they can forge a partnership in the middle, as both are superb passers, and Sweeney appears to be able to match Sammy’s bite-yer-legs attitude to defensive play. Chris has only played for half a match, having not played before then since October, but instantly looked as sharp on the attack as ever, and even showed a great improvement in his defensive duties since he left.

To be slightly more negative, I do worry that relegation may cause a downwards slide for this football club. Wimbledon is not an area renowned for its football supporters, and while the draw of a promotion-winning side for the last decade has brought in good attendances, some may stop if we were to be relegated, and for a fan-owned club, no fans means trouble. At the moment, however, I don’t believe that needs to happen. A bit of grit and Crazy Gang spirit can see us past the other relegation candidates, and with sides like Wycombe and Accrington sliding into the relegation mix, the side we have, with a good young manager and superb fan ownership will see us overcome this first major hurdle in the renaissance of Wimbledon football club, and carry on stronger than ever. We need a season of consolidation next year, to build up the squad, and let Ardley (who I feel is the right man for the job, and we need to stick with, relegated or not) build up his own squad before we can mount any kind of push for the glamorous heights of League One.

Written by Charlie Worthington, We Are Going Up’s AFC Wimbledon Blogger

Charlie tweets at @AFCW_Blog

No One Likes Us, We Don’t Care!

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Nine years ago, in the dark of the night, a big bunch of burly businessmen barged their way in to SW19 and ripped the footballing heart and soul out of the local community.  Without a care in the world, Wimbledon FC was whisked 56 miles up the M1 and in to a town that was 78 years younger than the club it was to inherit.  That town was Milton Keynes.

Many would have you believe this was a callous act of sheer greed and desperation.  For one of few towns in England without any form of footballing identity, it was certainly an appealing proposition.  One that was too good to miss out on.  Wimbledon FC was on its knees.

In June 2002, Gjelsten and Roekke, co-owners of Wimbledon FC, estimated personal losses of £40milion against the club.  Speculation of bankruptcy was rife, and fans continued to boycott matches in protest.  A month earlier, an FA Independent Commission had rubber stamped a potential move to Milton Keynes.  WISA members responded by opting to stay away from their team for the forthcoming season as wel, wherever they may be playing.  The water had broken, and AFC was about to be born.

Being strapped for cash was nothing new though.  They had already been homeless for 11 years, making the move across from the Borough of Merton to the Borough of Croydon in 1991.  Here they were to borrow Selhurst Park, following the condemnation of Plough Lane a year prior by the Taylor Report.  Without the money to implement new mandatory safety measures for their fans, players, and staff, the ground was sold to Safeway in 1998 – leaving Wimbledon with nowhere to call home.

So with no home and a fan base who had largely turned their back during the club’s desperate time of need, Wimbledon as it was known was teetering.  Administration loomed and a year later, the inevitable happened.  At this stage, most are probably picturing Pete Winkelman and a masked gang of men storming Dons:HQ, stuffing the remnants of what was left in to a briefcase, and making haste – ensuring they grab the ’88 FA Cup on the way out.

Well, if the MK Dons chairman is to be believed, it wasn’t as merciless as many pundits, fans, and social media outlets would have you think.  In an interview given recently to the BBC, Mr Winkelman lifted the lid.  “To most people in football the way they imagine it happened is so different to the way that it actually did.  It wasn’t the big Norwegian billionaire owners who moved the club to Milton Keynes. It was an administrator who said ‘I’m going liquidate the club tomorrow unless you come up with the money to keep it going. The only way I could come up with the money to keep it going was to move it to Milton Keynes.”

Here’s where it really gets interesting.  “For the first seven weeks of that administration we did nothing. I will never understand why AFC Wimbledon did not buy their club. That’s the bit that always confuses me.”

He’s right.  Why did AFC and its legion of fans ignore the opportunity to buy up their club, for what surely would’ve been nothing but a token gesture?  Could it be that the hassle, the cost, the worth of what was once theirs was no longer of their concern? A place in the Football League was assured, and finally the chance was there to gain control of their destiny.

A response of sorts will no doubt emanate from Kingston over the coming days, where AFC have resided since their inception – having lodged on, and subsequently taken sole lease of, Kingsmeadow.  Kingsmeadow had been the home of Kingstonian FC since they built it themselves in 1989.  Fans of the K’s saw their ground handed over to AFC in 2003, and despite Kingstonian still plying their trade there, a rebranding of the stadium name has followed and this is now very much AFC’s stadium for the foreseeable future.  Just how long will it be before Wimbledon ever really has a club back in its community?

Football fans everywhere can sympathise with the suffering fans of Wimbledon, watching on as the club they loved so dearly suffered an agonising demise. It is every fans worst nightmare. However, as the dwindling numbers through the turnstiles (from an average of 18,500 per home game in 1999, to 3,000 in 2003) accompanied the many failings on – and off – the pitch, the end was very much nigh.

Nine years on and MK Dons are an established League One outfit – averaging 9,000 a week since 2008 – having inherited all that of which AFC kindly refused, and turned it around. They have planted a local footballing seed and embraced a community desperate to move away from the armchair on a Saturday afternoon.

AFC Wimbledon’s success, especially on the pitch, has been meteoric.  Multiple promotions and record-breaking streaks (78 games unbeaten, spanning 22 months in 03-04) have brought honour to an area so heavily deprived of the joys of football for a long time.  Some may even suggest it couldn’t have worked out much better.  Others, may disagree.

Neither season will be defined by the result of this weekend.  For both sides, the focus is set firmly on league status – at both ends of their respective tables.  MK Dons have been on a terrific run of form throughout November, and with 43 league places between the teams, will be clear favourites on the day.  Promotion and survival are very much the order of the day.

For both Dons, growth and stability are key, core elements – as is a passionate desire and determination to claim a footballing identity they can call their own. Perhaps, come Monday morning, the contamination suits can be put away, and a sense of perspective can prevail.

Unless it goes to a replay, of course.

Written by Paul Speller, We Are Going Up’s MK Dons Blogger

Paul tweets at @paul_speller

A Spurs fan’s guide to AFC Wimbledon

Friday, July 29th, 2011

I’ll start with a little honesty. I’m a Tottenham fan, and have been for many, many years – but don’t hold it against me just yet.

My love for Spurs doesn’t stop me from admiring other teams, like Rushden and Diamonds, and Lewes (who I’ve managed on Football Manager), to Brighton and Wimbledon (where I’ve had the fortune of living). Currently it’s my proximity to Wimbledon; living 10 minutes from Kingsmeadow stadium makes it easy to catch home games. And I intend to make the most of my living here.

I, like many others, became fascinated with the débâcle that was Wimbledon’s move north to Milton Keynes. It baffled me why the chairman of a club with such a rich history and strong fan base would want to uproot the club and move it, not to a new stadium just down the road, but to a whole new city! If anyone is wondering at this point, I’m also opposed to Tottenham moving to the Olympic stadium (leave it alone, Levy). However, this blog isn’t about the events of 9 years ago, it’s about the events between then and 2 months ago which lead to the mighty Dons being promoted into the football league. So, allow me to give you a brief history on the rise and rise of AFC Wimbledon.

Following the fallout from Wimbledon’s move to Milton Keynes supporters reacted by founding AFC Wimbledon and starting again from the bottom, in the Combined Counties League. They finished 3rd in their first season, which is no mean feat, and went two steps better next year and finished 1st, thus getting promoted into the Isthmian League Division 1. The 2004-2005 season saw them record a back-to-back promotion, another astonishing feat for such a young club (technically young, despite being around since 1889).

Between 2005 and 2008 Wimbledon were in the Isthmian League Premier Division, finishing in 4th, 5th and 3rd respectively. This 3rd place finish saw them enter a play-off against Staines Town, which AFC Wimbledon won 2-1, and with it, promotion to the Conference South. Another back-to-back promotion took place this season as well, with the Dons securing the title on the last day of the season. The 2009-2010 season saw them compete in the Conference National (as we all know, Blue Square Premier), in which the finished a not too shabby 8th. The 2010-2011 season was easily the finest one for this group of players. They finished 2nd in the league behind Crawley Town, and after two easy games against Fleetwood Town (a 2-0 and 6-1 win) they faced Luton Town in the final at Wembley. I shan’t tell you the outcome, instead you can watch it here.

Unless you’re an idiot you should already know the result *cough* AFC Wimbledon are in League Two *cough*.

So, the 2011-2012 season will start with AFC Wimbledon in League Two, finally. It’s something every impartial football fan has surely wanted to see, Wimbledon being back in the football league proper. And I, for one, cannot wait to watch the back-half of The Football League Show, it’s going to be such a proud moment, and such an important one in terms of what people can achieve when they work together.

At the end of each of my articles this season I’ll be predicting, based on the result, where I think AFC Wimbledon might finish, and as the season hasn’t started yet I’m going to predict based on past results.

I’m going to say… Mid-to-lower table. Ever the optimist.

Written by Greg Woodrow, We Are Going Up’s AFC Wimbledon Blogger

Greg tweets at @jesseunseen