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Question Time

UPDATED: all four people I asked have now responded

Last Christmas, I invited a selection of SW19 contributors to give their thoughts on the season so far. You can check it out here.

Anyway, last week I got Jim “Jampot” Potter, Greg “Ewell Don” Valentine, Richard “911” Brown and Jay “Baskers” Baskaran back around the SW19 round table, tied them to their chairs, and gave them a list of question to gauge just how they felt about things five months on.


How would you rate our first season in the Conference?

JB: On the face of it – fantastic, our first season, still part time and eighth in the league.

RB: Overall it has been an encouraging season.  Finishing 8th, whilst a slight disappointment bearing in mind our position in February and March, was a good achievement.  Certainly there was some positives to come out of the Season (bigger crowds, more professionalism and better away days).  It will be difficult to maintain the excitement level going forward unless we are in the shake up next season. I expect away support to decline for the long away day trips.  Overall 7/10.

JP: Competent if slightly disappointing in the end. However to hit relegation form just after Christmas was disturbing and though, technically and mathematically we were still in with a shout of the playoffs up until about 3 weeks to the end of the season I think most of us knew it was beyond us. But you hope. We certainly need to have learnt out lesson this year.

GV: I’ve read the comments made on the GB and cannot understand some of the blood letting that’s been going on. Personally, I’m very pleased with how things have gone. We finished in the top 10 (a position that most supporters were hoping for / predicting last summer) and we cannot be disappointed with that. I was pretty confident that we wouldn’t go down with the new acquisitions that TB and SC made as many had played at that level before and so knew what to expect. Disappointing end to the season but perhaps some of the players ‘knew’ that they would not be in next seasons plans which led to the disjointed performances. It must be difficult to play well with an axe swinging over your head.

Was the division as you expected it to be?

JB: In part – yes. I thought that the games would have more energy to them, with more pace – maybe that’s because we were the ones lacking? We did get the obligitory 5-0 thumping, although it came at the opposite end of the season to what I thought.

RB: Initially the games seemed faster but fortunately we seemed to adapt quite quickly to this new style. At Christmas I suggested that it was slightly easier than we anticipated, although this may have been due to the fact that we were picking up away wins fairly readily.

I was disappointed with some of the larger clubs, such as Cambridge and Wrexham, who failed to deliver, although no doubt they will try to repair that next season.

JP: Pretty much. I had, like most entered with trepidation a division where we would face the likes of Luton, York and Cambridge. But in truth in those early days we were more than a match for them, and lost only because we came in with an inferiority complex. That, once eradicated after the first half of the season should have seen us push on. However it was not to be. Like all divisions (except maybe Newport in the BSS ), the wins and losses generally were shared out across the division which is to be slightly expected with a new youngish side.

GV: Pretty much so. As I said previously, it was a 3 tier division and we were in the middle one. Going full time will hopefully allow us to compete with the ‘big boys’ of the league. Overall there was a better quality of football each week than in the BSS as you would expect.

What was the highlight of the season?

JB: In all honesty, the opening day vs Luton – it’s what we were all waiting for. Also beating them 2-1 whilst we were both sets of fans were sining anti-Franchise songs was good.

RB: Luton away, the Kedwell goal.  5-0 victory on Boxing Day – I really thought we were going to be pushing for the play off. The night at Millwall was a great experience.

JP: Probably has to be the performance at Millwall. Although we lost 4-1 in the end we put up a typical ‘Wimbledon-style’ performance and when Taylor scored you did just wonder ‘if’. The scoreline flattered them in the end and I was very proud of the team and support that night. It showed we were on the right way again. Nice touch by the club to provide ‘coach travel’ too.

GV: Definitely beating Luton Town away. Gutsy performance, great result, fantastic atmosphere at a shit ground! Another highlight was 3,000 Wombles out singing the Millwall fans (even at 4-1 down). I’m pretty sure they’de never seen anything like it before.

And the lowlight?

JB: January 2010 to April 2010.

RB:  Our run in for the last two months where we simply gave up. The home game against Barrow summed it up.

JP: Simple – H&Y away. It came to me to epitomise what went wrong with the second half of the season. I dragged my brother-in-law along (again) to what is his most local game, expecting us to push on from the Boxing Day performance. Except I think all our players were still in the pub from the night before. H&Y might have not had the ‘stars’ we had but that was the first time in the season where the team didn’t put in the effort. I hoped it was a one off. I was wrong

GV: Three spring to mind; starting off the new year losing at HandY. Worst performance of the season and it was bloody freezing. Also, the defeat at home to Workington in the FAT was soooo disappointing. A great opportunity to get to Wembley and we blew it gig style. The passing of Alan Batsford (RIP).

Who was the top player of last season?

JB: Has to be Kedwell – strong, brave and full of passion. If I were that way inclined, I would.

RB: Undoubtedly Danny Kedwell was Player of the Season and he rightly received the Awards from supporters. Mention should also go to Luke Moore, who came in and did fantastically well early in the season and also to Brett Johnson, who again early in the season was outstanding. Clearly Chris Hussey before he left offered us something that we never replaced and this is something we need to look in to in the summer.

JP: Well, hard to vote against Danny Kedwell isn’t it? Did the job in front of goal and pretty much all over the pitch (didn’t he play in goal one game?) But outside of his obvious choice two players caught my eye – Stephen Gregory and Ricky Wellard. Gregory was awesome until his injury and that seemed to totally disrupt the rest of his season – never the same player. Wellard grew in stature as the season moved on and looks an excellent prospect. What I would like to see is him having more balls to demand to be involved in things. For the last 10 games of the season its been crying out for him to take pretty much all the free kicks we have on or around the box. Both Hatton and Hendry have been better prospects to be used at Twickenham this season!

GV: Apart from DK which is a given, Seb was most impressive for me. Mature head on young shoulders (and he doesn’t slag off supporters when he makes a clanger like another keeper I won’t mention).

Who was the biggest disappointment?

JB: The fact that our players have Anterior Cruciate Ligaments…

RB: Paul Lorraine – it never really happened on his return, which is a shame as I liked him first time round.

JP: Paul Lorraine. He started ok and then got progressively worse. His new nickname around my part of the main stand (and on the Guestbook) BAMBI is of course taken from the film of the same name, and the image of the young deer on the ice. More than one I wanted to ‘Thumper’ him. In the air he was a tower of strength at the beginning but run at him, have the ball on the ground and……… shit we are in trouble.

But even his heading ability deserted him towards the end of the season. Ad in a propensity to drop back a further 5-10 yards behind the rest of the back four to give him more time to play the ball on the ground and he invited pressure on the back line. Is it perhaps any surprise that the defence appeared not so go in the 2nd half of the season. Though he put in the guts and effort, that wasn’t enough from a captain. Too many times I thought he was the one being baled out, rather than him bailing others out.

GV: Quiche was the biggest let down. His return was greatly anticipated but I have to say he really struggled in the 2nd half of the season. In fact I would go as far to say that he became a bit of a liability. Having said that, there were quite a few others who looked promising in their first few games (Duncan, Blanchett, Hendry and Poole) but didn’t live up to expectations. I’m not sorry to see them go.

What were your views of the loanees brought in?

JB: I can crimp something out with more talent.

RB:  The January loanees never really grasped their positions.  Glen Poole certainly has talent and has proved that at a high level, although didn’t quite gel in the mid field role.  Blanchett at the left back was never going to be enough to replace Hussey.  Nathan Elder actually performed better than most people gave him credit for and although the goals to games ratio did not look good for us, he did make useful contributions.  Will Hendry started brightly, but faded towards the end of the season, possibly due to a lack of match fitness.  Overall 5/10 for the loanees.

JP: Disappointing. None really shone and you do wonder if there was any need. Elder started ok and perhaps if we had had a couple of players who could deliver a decent cross he might have scored more. Of course midfield was and still is the problem area at this club and the likes of Poole didn’t improve it. Poole had the right aggressive attitude which he showed in a couple of games but it was too little too late. In fact that was a characteristic of all these players. Brought in, often from higher divisions their impact should have been NOW not a month or two down the line. And in some cases they never made that impact.

GV: Personally, I’m not a great fan of loanees. Firstly, they are either not good enough to get into the first team of their parent club or they’ve been out long term injured and need game time. Cumbers is they only one who has been a success during a loan spell here. I’m a great believer of bringing the youngsters on and this season we had an opportunity (as we did in the last few games) of seeing what they could do.  I really wanted Elder to do well but it just didn’t happen for him. Still, he gave us a laugh with his ‘miss of the century’ at the TE!

What are your views on us going full time in 2010/11?

JB: Brave – would have ideally liked to have had one more pop at staying part time. However, the last half maybe showed that it could have ended in disaster!

RB: This is a positive step forward, although I am surprised that the Dons Trust Board passed it without even discussion with the Dons Trust membership. Whatever your views on the relevance of the Dons Trust, and I am aware that several readers of this feel that it is insignificant, it was still a major decision that the Club took without being put to a formal vote.  That said, it is a positive decision and will help us go forward, albeit, it will take 2 or 3 seasons to bed down before we really see the benefit of this Yoof policy.

JP: Surprised. I expected another year of part-time but it does seem we could be arguing over semantics here. There appears to be no definitive definition of what full time actually is. OK, TB has defined his version but that’s not the same I suspect as at Man U, is it? Well, certainly from the youth situation and cultivating talent to play for the team and which might proved interesting to clubs higher up in due course (a la C Hussey) then it’s probably worthwhile. And if it progresses the promotion and formation of a better reserve set up its got to be good.

There is a fair argument if we don’t invest now things will get more difficult in the future with more teams aiming to hit this sort of arrangement. How they will fund it is another matter, but in a sense that is irrelevant to us – its not in our hands. What it does mean though is both players and management have got hit their prospective, public targets.

GV: It’s the next logical step if we are to achieve our aim of league football by 2013/14. It brings with it new challenges and an element of risk. Hopefully the club will always operate within its limits and will budget sensibly when giving TB his suitcase of cash to build a squad. I’m ok with paying a little more for my season ticket if I get to watch a decent team each week

Apart from the playing side, what were the positives from last season?

JB: I definitely had a good laugh on the terraces.

RB: Going to some more enjoyable away grounds, Oxford, Cambridge, York, Luton and Wrexham.  In addition, having scores read out on Radio 5 Live for the Sports Report at 5.00 pm every Saturday.

JP: I think the appreciation of the volunteer base was certainly more visible than before. It’s still not perfect and there have and will be problems but generally the teams work out OK. The upgrading of KM seems to have been worked on well such that disruption has been kept pretty much to a minimum and the handling of ex-league club crowds seems to have been successfully accomplished (though I suspect we might have to watch Haydon doesn’t exact revenge next season). The main positive is still that we have the likes of Erik at the top of the club and that we are playing and paying within our means. And a good DT election with plenty of candidates bodes better for our future.

GV: Ground improvements. Franchise capitulating after Christmas. Managing to complete the 50 mile Eastbourne walk (thanks to my fellow walkers!)

And what were the negatives?

JB: Moaning fans…

RB: No sell outs all season.  The ‘Fundamentalist’ squad at the top of the Dons Trust.

JP: I’d have liked to see the crowd average rise again this year, if only to reflect the fact we were in a higher division. Perhaps this is a signal of two things: poor second half performance and limitations of the stadium as it currently stands with respect to size, space and visibility of the pitch. Though we have coped with large crowds relatively well I realise not all has been honey and light. Somehow we need to make KM more friendly and the experience better during the game. I appreciate the work required will be expensive and time-consuming.

Which leads me on to the other side of KM and whether we should stay there or not. Whilst I appreciate the desire to return to Wimbledon and I think it is right for the club, it only is if it can be achieved without putting the club at risk. The club is no bigger than its fans and that follows for the stadia as well. If the fans don’t want to go to Wimbledon, what do you do? Ok, its an unlikely scenario but the bitterness expressed in some quarters for and against the prospect of a move back – and it still remains a very distant possibility – was disappointing. The polarisation expressed at times was worrying and I do fear that in the future there may be some elements in our support who could scupper in one way or the other, what we have built so far.

Finally communication this season has been crap. The OS has been a joke and thank god for the internet and SLP/Surrey Herald. I am sure that the fear of sell out crowds, touted at the beginning of the season, meant we missed out on floating supporters wanting to take in a game when they couldn’t be informed the week before that tickets would be available. In that respect perhaps more budget needs to be assigned so the message gets out there. Not everyone has or looks at the Internet/OS.

GV: None that I can think of.

Who or what were the best ….

– home game?

JB: Luton
RB: Hayes and Yeading
JP: Hayes and Yeading
GV: Sailsbury at home cheering Danny Webb in goal!

– away game?

JB: Luton and Grays
RB: Forest Green Rovers
JP: Histon
GV: Luton, followed by Kettering.

– opponents?

JB: York City, home and away
RB: York City
JP: Stevenage
GV: York City

– fans?

JB: Luton away
RB: Gateshead/Workington.
JP: Barrow.
GV: Gateshead.

– ground?

JB: Luton
RB: Oxford United
JP: Millwall
GV: Oxford (oh, and Ash only for the home made burgers! Mmmmm)

…and the worst:

– home game?

JB: Grays (say no more)
RB: Barrow
JP: Barrow
GV: Grays. Toss up between Grays and Barrow but Grays edge it only for the embarrassment of losing at home to a team with 10 supporters in attendance!

– opponents?

JB: Hayes and Yeading at home
RB: Forest Green Rovers
JP: Rushden and Diamonds
GV: Histon

– fans?

JB: Stevenage
RB: Luton
JP: Luton
GV: Luton (which they ultimately proved when they lost at home to York)

– away game?

JB: Histon – bit shit
RB: York City
JP: Hayes and Yeading
GV: Hayes and Yeading

– ground?

JB: Histon
RB: Histon
JP: Hayes and Yeading
GV: Kettering for their sloping tarmac away end and Grays (apart from the blonde on the balcony!)

Rate Terry Brown and other members of the managerial staff’s performance of last season

JB: Terry Brown is the model professional however I questioned his ability a number of times. Let’s see how dynamic he is next season.

RB: Considering we had just had two promotions it was always going to be difficult for the existing members of the squad to step up to the plate, therefore the season really depended on the new signings.

Luke Moore, Stephen Gregory and Brett Johnson proved to be tremendous signings.  In terms of playing, we never seemed to have a Plan B. It is rather like Arsene Wenger, if Plan A fails revert to ‘Plan A’.

On the basis that Terry Brown supposedly has the best non League contacts, I was surprised that the loan signings in January did not prove to be more influential on the team and whilst not wishing to criticise the management for the signings, I would hope that the Summer signings prove to be more effective.

JP: Yet again, as with the Ryman, I think TB et al got caught out believing they knew this division. Judgement might well have been clouded by the positive start but they didn’t seem to have the answer when things started to go wrong. Hopefully they will have both a plan B & C this season. Of course injuries have again played a significant card against them and this issue must be fully investigated and addresses. Something is wrong but what we don’t know. Yet.

Perhaps the most frustrating and confusing area on the pitch is midfield where the management seemed at times to be totally at odds to what all us fans thought. Ok, its their privilege. But none of us could see why Taylor was on the right hand side of midfield when we all thought his drive and enthusiasm was better in the middle of the park. This dogged blind adherence, particularly to the ‘diamond’ once the opposition had sussed it out, suggests an intransigence that I do worry about with TB. I hope he has learnt a touch of humility this year. And I’d love the opportunity to be given insight into some of his more strange tactical decisions last year…

I believe TB et al should be given their full tenure to achieve the targets they are set by the club. They just failed this year, if I remember right, and they still have opportunities to put that right. They will be judged by what they achieve in the timeframe they are given and that is right.

GV: 7 out of 10. I’m sure mistakes will be learned from. I’m happy with our management staff. My only criticism would be that TB doesn’t always pick his ‘form’ players in big cup ties.

If you could sum up the season in one incident, what would it be?

JB: Nathan Elder getting his ACL demolished at home and being the one to concede a foul.

RB: Nathan Elder’s miss from less than one yard in front of an open goal against Grays.  Sums up our season where we had chances but never took them.

JP: Probably Hendry’s missed chance against Rushden and Diamonds when, shortly after they went down the other end and scored. If it had gone in and we had gone on to win that game we might have made the playoffs. But in so many ways it summed up the team we had become - his lack of belief he could score the goal giving the keeper the chance to make a very good save. We just were not good enough by then. We knew it in our hearts and I think the players began to believe it too. Management didn’t seem able to change that. Once they scored they shut up shop – both in their ability to defend and run the game down with their time wasting tactics. They didn’t need to do that. By then they had the measure of us. But it summed up the difference between us and them; perhaps this season and next. The swashbuckling almost don’t think about it style had gone from early season to be substituted by a monotonous, repetitive grind.

GV: Losing on pens to the Met in the tin pot cup. Like a rainy bonfire night, we went out with a fizzle.

Thoughts on next season?

JB: Avoiding relegation will be great, however it would be nice to flirt with the Play Offs and have a stronger home form. Our ST holders deserve more points, especially with the new pricing. It’s going to be tough, especially with the new teams in the league. Eighth would be good again with a more even smattering of results.

RB: Would hope that Season Ticket sales hold up after last season and that we get off to a better start (last season we had a draw and a defeat for the first two matches).  If we are able to make four good signings I think we will potentially challenge for a 4th, 5th or 6th spot, albeit it is likely that Luton and either Oxford or York will push for the Top 2 slots.  Can’t see Darlington and/or Grimsby necessarily breaking in to the Top 2. Goalkeeper worries me, Seb Brown’s decision making is poor and I appreciate he needs game time to improve but I think he is some way from the finished product.

JP: It’s going to be tough because we will be a known entity. As a full time team there will be little room for excuses and it will be a new stick to beat us with. But with luck, with new players and perhaps new systems/styles we might yet again upset a few teams we are not meant to. But we will have lost that momentum a bit of the last two years an don’t be that unknown quantity for most of the teams in this league. Aim for the playoffs for me is the target; success is improving on our final place this season.

GV: Well the honeymoon season is over and 2010/11 will be interesting. At this moment in time we only have enough players for a game of 5-a-side so as yet we don’t know who our next hero will be. I would not be disappointed with another season in the premier so I am not predicting us to go up. I would love to have a day out at Wembley in the FAT final and a proper big 3rd round FAC tie (Man City away anyone?). It’s a shame Barnet survived as Blundell Park is a bloody long way away.

Finally, is there anything else you would like to add?

JB: Roll on PSFs… Oh, and a fuck-off striker. Oh, and a fuck-off midfielder. Oh… and a giant defender.

RB: The Dons Trust – Concern that the top brass at the Dons Trust are stuck in a ‘fundamentalist world’ and not able to move forward.  This may hinder us with both Football League and Football Association going forward and I hope that they grow up and don’t hold the Club back.  I know they were elected and I know they all want to help the Club, but the vote on the World Cup training issue went 70/30 against the ‘Fundamentalists’.  I would ‘hope’ that they recognise this going forward and don’t hold us back due to their entrenched views on Milton Keynes.

JP: Its still been fun, despite the end of the season form. I still think we are the right way to run a football club and I see touches of envy in the eyes of some of the other supporters I know (Palace fan in particular at the mo) So long as we do keep the faith; keep learning the lessons we are taught; keep our feet on the ground; and adopt the only mantra of ‘try your damn hardest’ of WFC then I think as a club and team we wont go far wrong.

GV: Of course, no Q&A session would be complete without a mention of franchise. I hope that Winkleman gets convicted on some kiddie fiddling charge, imprisoned and becomes Harry ‘the Hatchet’ McGivens ho for the next 10 years. Franchise get taken over by consortium of dodgy middle eastern business men who fleece the club of everything, conduct so many illegal irregularities that it forces the club into administration and a 3,000 point deduction. The ground is purchased for 1p by a local pig farmer who turns the pitch into a pig run for his prize porkers. All remaining frenzies commit mass suicide by repeatedly head butting a concrete cow. Amen