Tag Archives: AFC Wimbledon

A Season With the Wombles Part 1.

It all started promisingly with our pre-season friendly against Watford. Our new goalkeeper George Long (on a season long loan from Sheffield United) looked like he was an excellent shot stopper and also had a prodigious boot on him. Cody McDonald our new striker scored two cracking goals and there were signs that some of our home grown players, notably Anthony Hartigan, Alfie Egan, Toby Sibbick and Egli Kaja could be pushing for first team places. Some of my predictions/hopes worked out – mainly concerning George Long, the rest well ……

As I have mentioned in other posts I started following AFC Wimbledon again last year following a four year break while Grace was being treated for Ovarian Cancer. I found that I was going to almost every match. The only ones I didn’t go to we’re the ones that I couldn’t get tickets for. So I decided to get a season ticket for this year. £340 well spent .. Possibly.

During the close season we had lost a couple of players who were fairly integral to the team. Tom Elliot (last years Player of the Year) was out of contract and although we offered him a new one, Millwall, who had just been promoted, offered him a better one. So our big lump with No. 9 on his back was gone. So to was our Duracell Bunny midfielder Jake Reeves. He wasn’t out of contract, but it turned out that there was a release clause in his contract and Bradford triggered it. Neither of them was properly replaced.

My first match proper of the season was our League Cup round 1 game against Brentford. No one expected too much from it. We have never got beyond the first round since we became a League club in 2011 (and thus eligible to enter). We did better than expected, holding then to a 1-1 draw at full time. Extra time proved our undoing with Brentford running out 3-1 winners. 

We had started our league campaign the weekend before with a creditable 1-1 draw away to Scunthorpe. The following Saturday saw us back in League action again, against Shrewsbury, the other team in League One who play in Blue and Yellow. We lost 0-1 which at the time felt extremely disappointing. In retrospect I don’t think it was quite as bad a result as I thought at the time. Shrewsbury turned out to be this year’s overachievers and have made it all the way to the playoff final. I would describe them as an efficient team. Very sound defensively, and able to nick a goal when the opportunity presents. However it was an indication of where we were going to be for much of the season. Difficult to break down, but finding it almost impossible to score. If we went behind there was the feeling that that was it, game over.

Fleetwood from the away end
Our next game against Fleetwood was my first ever away match. John and Stevie, friends I had made on one of our volunteers work weekends, go to most away games and told me that I should at least do one or two. So I decided that Fleetwood would be my introduction. The game was memorable for a couple of things. Not the football, we weren’t completely abject, but we were not very good. Fleetwood were not much better, but managed to bag a couple of goals thanks to mistakes (unfortunately becoming increasingly common) on the right side of our defence. No the two things that made it memorable were meeting a Canadian football studies researcher – I had no idea that such people existed – on Preston station while we changed trains. The other thing that made it memorable was the fish and chip shop outside the away end. They served some of the best fish and chips I have ever eaten.

That seemed to establish the pattern for the early part of the season, basically a series of disappointing losses and draws, interspersed with the occasional win to give us a bit of hope. But as every footy fan knows it is the hope that kills you.

Probably the most disappointing loss was the game I missed because of a family funeral back in Scotland. We played “The Team Who Shall Not be Named” on the evening of Friday (it probably should have been the 13th) 22nd of September. I tried to watch it on a very dodgy pirate feed whilst traveling back to London. The only two points that the feed stopped freezing were when Kwesi Appiah pulled up in their penalty area with the hamstring injury that would keep him out for most of the season, and when Lyle Taylor missed the penalty that might have gotten us back into the game. The train was stopped in Stevenage as the game ended, my thoughts were that we may well be back here next season.

Relegation was staring us in the face. I was having difficulty seeing where the next goal was coming from, let alone the next win. Our strikers were either out of form or injured, the midfield were reasonably enough defensively but we’re adding nothing going forward. On top of that I was becoming obvious that Paul Robinson, our right centre-back was playing one season to many.

To be continued…….. 

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Songs I Love: We are Wimbledon

This is not the worlds finest song (musically at least).
Thirty years ago today on the 14th of May 1988, Wimbledon FC beat Liverpool 1-0 to win the F.A. Cup, or to quote John Motson “The Crazy Gang have beaten the Culture Club”. I wasn’t there. I was on the other side of the world (in the Solomon Islands to be precise) listening to the game on the BBC World Service very early on Sunday Morning.
This was our Cup Final song “We are Wimbledon”. We still play it, and sing it, at Kingsmeadow.

Away Day No.3 (The League Leaders)

This was my last Away Day for the season. I have been to more than three away games (ten in fact) but I only started writing about them a month ago. We (AFC Wimbledon)still have one more away match on Tuesday the first of May against Doncaster (the match that should have been played on Easter Monday) but I can’t make it due to work.

It was an early start, Wigan is a long way up the M6. We met up at Fat Boy’s for our normal pre-coach trip breakfast. Breakfast was fine but there was definitely a sense of foreboding in the air. Even Stevie our eternal glass overflowing optimist was saying things like ” If we can come away with a draw I’ll be happy.” the rest of us were more along the lines of “If we can avoid another 4-0 defeat we’ll be happy.” (They beat us 4-0 in the game at Kingsmeadow before Christmas). Wigan, who knocked Manchester City out of the cup, and are top of the league and already promoted could have tied up the title if they beat us and other results went their way. We on the other hand still needed at least two points from our last three games to be mathematically safe from relegation.

On to the coach for the five-hour trek up north. In retrospect I think we should have taken the train, and will do next time, but that won’t be for at least a couple of seasons.
We had a stop at a service station on the M6. As well as ourselves there were fans from quite a few other clubs grabbing a coffee. Brighton were traveling up to play Burnley, Portsmouth were off to Bury, and going in the opposite direction Rochdale were off to Oxford No hassle, but a bit of banter because Portsmouth and Rochdale are in the same league as ourselves. Brighton being a Premier League club just ignored us.

We arrived at the ground about one o’clock and got off the bus about one thirty because a jobsworth steward insisted that we couldn’t park in the place marked “Coaches” in big white letters. So we had another tour of the suburbs of Wigan to get to the place where we were allowed to park. Fred and Barry, who had come up by train saw the coach on its mystery tour and called us to say they were in a pub about five minutes walk from the ground so we wandered along to join them for a pre-match pint.

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The ground, The DW Stadium, was the smartest (photo above) we’ve been to this season (apart from Wembley), but then it’s not all that long ago that Wigan were a Premier League side. The ground feels a bit big for them. It was their last home game of the season and they had the chance of clinching the title, but it was still only half full. They do share the ground with the local Rugby League team the Wigan Warriors who I think tend to draw bigger crowds.

Our team selection seemed to be dictated by the players we had fit. No Wardrobes*. Three attacking midfielders and our right-footed left back to provide a bit of muscle. As Stevie said “When Harry Forrester and Dean Parratt seem to be the defensive midfield we could have problems” I’m not sure either of them can spell the word “defend”. We lined up 4-4-2 or possibly 4-1-3-2. With Callum Kennedy (who is left footed) slotting in at left back.

The game started pretty evenly. They were trying to pressure us at every opportunity, but we seemed to contain their attack reasonably comfortably and we always looked dangerous on the break. Twenty four minutes in LTB** latched on to a slight mistake by their centre back, fed The Pig*** and The Pig did score. 1-0 to the Wombles.  To be honest I had not expected that. A few minutes later we could have gone two up, but their keeper produced a brilliant finger tip save to push Dean Parratt’s shot over the bar.  They came back at us, but we were fairly comfortable in defence, and George Long was having a magnificent game in goal. The first half ended with us 1-0 up.

At the start of the second half Wigan threw everything they had at us but our defence was holding, even if there were a few heart in the mouth moments. We could have gone 2-0 up at about the 60 minute mark. Harry Forrester made a good interception just inside our half, and had a clear run to the edge of the penalty box. He had Lyle Taylor unmarked to his right and Joe Piggot unmarked to his left, but chose to try a shot instead and put it over the bar.

They equalised shortly afterwards. I thought at the time our centre back Deji Oshilaja was fouled in the build up, and having seen the video replay a few times I am even more convinced that he was, but neither the referee nor his assistants seemed to see it. I’ll embed the video, see if you agree with me.  From my point of view (admittedly biased) the referee seemed to ignore a lot of Wigan’s fouls, but gave everything against us.

There was another twenty minutes of almost constant Wigan pressure to endure, but we held out for a hard-earned draw. Possibly we could have won, but given the pressure that Wigan put us under for almost all the second half a draw was a fair result. As Stevie said at Fat Boys we came a way with a draw and we were happy. Even happier when we discovered that The Franchise (AKA Milton Keynes)**** had been relegated.

It all made for a contented trip back to South West London


*Our three defensive midfield players Tom Soares, Liam Trotter and Jimmy Abdou are collectively known as The Wardrobes, due to the perception of a certain lack of mobility among a section of our fans.
**Lyle Taylor (Baby) from the song we sing for him:
Lyle Taylor Baby, Lyle Taylor Woa oh o ( to the tune of “Don’t You Love Me Baby”).
*** Joe Piggot is (affectionately) referred to as The Pig.
**** The history of Wimbledon FC being uprooted and moved to Milton Keynes and the subsequent formation of AFC Wimbledon is well told in this Wikipedia article

Away Day No.2 (Volunteers’ Day)

 This time we actually got to see some football. Quite a lot of football as it turned out.

Once a year the club  (AFC Wimbledon) and one of our sponsors Cherry Red Records treat the club’s volunteers to a day out. I qualify because I go along to the Work Weekends. During the summer we give the ground a good clean up and a fresh coat of paint ready for the new season. Because we are a fan owned club, and not particularly rich, we rely on people doing stuff for free that other, larger, clubs would pay contractors to do. The volunteers’ away day is a way of thanking all the people who give their time and effort to help the club out.

The day consists of coach travel to the game, a pre-match meal, and a ticket for the game. This year’s day out was to see Wimbledon take on Walsall in what could be described as a relegation six pointer. So normal away day protocols were observed, that is breakfast at Fat Boy’s before catching the coach. Then onto the coach for a zap up the M40 to Birmingham. Lunch had been arranged at Caulderfields Golf and Country Club.   who put on a very good lunch for a hundred or so of us, Having been very well fed and watered our sponsor announced that while he was still keen to support the day out it had in fact  been nine years since we had last won on Volunteers Day. So on to the match.

Walsall’s stadium is a tidy smallish place, probably about 12000 capacity but was only about one third full today.
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Pre-match predictions were fairly positive. Walsall had not been in particularly good form of late and we came into the game buoyed up by a cracking win against Charlton on Tuesday night. Six minutes in the positivity started to slip. We gave away a free kick about twenty five meters out on the right. Normally we deal with those fairly easily, but in Erhun Oztumer Walsall have probably the best dead ball player in the League. His floated free kick found the head of his player and we were 1-0 down.

We tried to get back into the game, but to be honest we looked lethargic and disjointed. Then on the stroke of half-time we gave away another goal. Our centre backs, who are normally our most reliable players, seemed to get mixed up and both left the Walsall striker for the other one to deal with. The result was he slipped through between them for an easy goal.

We were all a bit down at half time, apart from Stevie, who was predicting that we would win 3-2. However the precedents were not good. The last time  we had come from behind to win was over a year ago, and the last time we had done it away was even longer. So far this season the rule has been, if we score first we don’t lose and if the opposition score first we don’t win.

I’m not sure what was said in the dressing room, but it was effective. Within three minutes of the restart we had a goal back. Andy Barcham was tripped inside the box. Their keeper half saved the resultant penalty but Joe Piggot (Feed the Pig and he will score) was on hand to put the rebound into the net.

From then on it was all Wimbledon. Lyle Taylor hit the post, several chances scrambled away and seven hundred Wimbledon fans make far more noise than 3500 Walsall fans. Our second goal was classic old school Wimbledon. A long accurate punt upfield from our keeper George Long found Lyle Taylor who hit it first time into the back of the net. Cue minor delirium in the away end.

It was still more or less one way traffic but the decisive goal would not come. Joe Piggot was hauled down a couple of times in the penalty area for what looked like clear cut penalties, at least from where I was standing. Finally in the sixth minute of stoppage time, George Long played a ball to Lyle Taylor similar to the one that had brought about the second goal, this time though Lyle was hauled down by their defender – penalty.

Dean Parrett took the ball for the penalty, a good decision, because Lyle had hurt himself scoring his goal, and I’m not sure that he would have converted it. He placed the ball on the spot, Fred and Barry in front of me couldn’t look, took his run up and slammed it into the top left hand corner of the net.
Cue serious delirium in the away end.

Two very happy bus loads of volunteers headed back down the M40 South West London.
“It only took nine years”

A more neutral report on the match is available on the BBC Sport website

Away Day

I haven’t written very much on the blog for the past year. Possibly a good sign, in that I am beginning to get my life into some sort of order after losing Grace almost two years ago. Don’t get me wrong, I still miss her intensely and if I could I would do almost anything to have her back with me. But my life is moving on and I am learning to find my own way of living it. With that in mind I had decided to try a slightly new slant to the blog.

Football and AFC Wimbledon in particular have taken on an importance in my life that is probably greater than it really should be. However with that in mind I thought that I would start writing about the games that I attend. Starting with today’s (April 2nd) game away to Doncaster.

The day started out well. Stevie suggested that we get a train up to Doncaster about 10:30 so that we would have time to get lunch before the game. I thought that was a reasonable idea and agreed. We met as we usually do before away games at a café for breakfast this time at Rosy Lee’s in Morden, because we were getting the train. Usually we get the Club Coach and we meet at Fat Boy’s just outside Kingsmeadow. With a pretty good (but not up to Fat Boy’s standard) full English inside us we got the Tube up to Kings Cross.

We met John at the station, decided that the Leeds train looked less crowded than the Edinburgh train, so we hopped on that instead. We had decided to pay the extra £10 to get open tickets so it didn’t matter what train we caught. This turned out to be a very good decision.

There were a fair few fellow Wombles on the train, so the conversation was mainly about our prospects for today. I thought that we could come away with a point. Stevie, who is an eternal optimist, was predicting a 5-0 win for us. The others weren’t quite so confident. To be fair we haven’t had a great season and we are seriously flirting with relegation to League 2 so I fully understood where they were coming from.

It all turned out to be academic though. John got a text message from a mate saying that the game was off. He sent one back saying that he was a day late for April Fool’s day. Unfortunately after a bit of searching the BBC, Doncaster and Wimbledon web sites, we found out that it was true. The game was off due to a waterlogged pitch. After Friday’s game which resembled water polo rather than football, we wondered how bad it really was. All the other games in the area had been called off as well, so it probably was the correct decision. It left us with a decision to make as well,  what to do with the rest of the day.

Our first thought was Plan “B”.  Peterborough were playing at home so we could get off the train at Peterborough and we would at least get to see some football. This was squashed by the man in the seat in front of us who pointed out that this train did not stop in Peterborough. OK plan “C” then. We couldn’t think of a plan “C” at least  not one that suited us all. We eventually settled on plan “Z”  and caught the next train back to London.

The Therapeutic Quality of Football

I have recently started to watch live football again. I did go along to watch Wimbledon before Grace became ill, but after her diagnosis, I stopped. Most Saturdays, if Grace felt well we would do something together and if she wasn’t then I didn’t like to go off and leave her for longer than it took to do the shopping.

I think I have mentioned before that this came about because my brother persuaded me to go along to watch Hibs on Christmas Eve. It is probably worth mentioning that I am a Hearts supporter (the other Edinburgh team). I enjoyed the game, and the thought occurred  that if I could enjoy watching Hibs then surely I would enjoy watching AFC Wimbledon even more. So I dusted off my old scarf, splashed out on this years replica top, and bought a ticket for the game against Oxford United on the 14th of January. Fortunately, it turned out to be a good entertaining game, with Wimbledon winning 2-1.  I have since gone along to a few more games, all of which I have enjoyed, strangely enough even the ones we lost.

I  know that football has helped me in the process of grieving. What I am trying in this post is to work out how and why.

Saturdays, especially during the winter had a tendency to drag. Because I went to working a three-day week after I turned sixty and because I normally do all the domestic stuff, shopping, washing and etc., on a Friday I don’t have much to do on a Saturday. Also on Saturdays most people (who work five days a week) are doing other things. Going to the football is an enjoyable way of filling that gap.

What I have found is that it gives me ninety minutes when the only thing that is important in the world is what is happening on the pitch. That helps. The feel good factor of winning helps as well. Strangely enough so does the disappointment of losing. Setting it against losing Grace, losing a football match doesn’t seem to be quite so important. Supporting the Wombles means that (unlike say supporting Chelsea or Celtic) losing a game doesn’t come as a surprise. I was going to say that no one dies, but as this is the twenty-eighth anniversary of the Hillsbourgh disaster we know unfortunately that occasionally this isn’t true.

AFC Wimbledon has given me something to be part of, something to love even. For that I can only be grateful. (So much so that I have invested in a season ticket for next year)