Monday 04 September 2006
The Daly news
In the first in an occasional series, Graham Stacey ventures into the AFC Wimbledon dressing room to hear the players' thoughts on the season so far.
?We're aiming to win promotion and anything less will be a big disappointment.?
That's quite possibly a quote one may expect from a manager trying to sign up a new player, but not on this occasion - these were the words of Dons' midfield maestro Wes Daly immediately after the 4-0 thumping of Folkestone last Saturday. And, he says, it isn't simply a case of him getting carried away after one good result.
?It's what we've been talking about since the very first day of pre-season and, with the players Dave has brought in, it's got to be the aim. In fact, I'd say that we are going for the top spot and ? while we'll take promotion however it comes ? I'd say that even finishing in second place would be regarded as disappointing. And that's not just my aim ? it's the whole squad's aim, and it's very achievable!?
Last year saw an injury ravaged Wimbledon squad finish fourth in the Ryman Premier League before crashing out in the play-off semi-finals, while defeat in the final of the Surrey Senior Cup saw the Dons end the season potless. But, Daly reckons the club are now well equipped to go one better. He said: ?We've definitely got a better squad now than we had at the same stage last year. No disrespect to anyone who has left, but I'm happy with everyone Dave has brought in and, player for player, I think we're that much stronger now. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that most of our players would walk into most of the other sides in this league. Just look at people like Scott [Fitzgerald]. You can see that he's got a great touch and his experience will prove invaluable.
?The bonus is the camaraderie within the squad ? everyone has fitted in well from day one, and we all have a laugh together so it feels as though we've been together for ages.
?I know some people maybe expected us to win our first four games and the fact is that we didn't. But we were never really worried within the squad. We all have a shared belief, and we knew it would come right. Folkestone was one of those days when it seemed to click and I hope we can build on it.?
A lot has been made of the various systems employed by the Dons this season, with 3-5-2 being played throughout pre-season, but with 3-4-3 and 4-4-2 both having made appearances more recently. And it's something Wes has been asked to comment on in the national press. He said: ?What I said in the Non-League Paper was misconstrued to be honest. I wasn't saying that I thought we should change our formation. I was asked which formation we had created the most chances playing, and I said 4-3-3. We had a couple of good results playing 4-3-3 last season, drawing away to Braintree and beating Fisher, and it seems that whenever we play that way we create chances. But I wasn't suggesting there was anything wrong with how we were playing this season. Dave was straight on the phone when that came out, believe me!
?We've worked hard on our style of play this year. Last year we were much more direct, but the coaches have been drumming it into us to pass it around more. We want to create more chances when we have possession, and give our strikers more opportunities to score. In that respect, I feel that we've started the season well ? we've been more patient and we've been creating the chances even if sometimes we haven't always converted them.?
Following his 94th minute equaliser away to Walton and his 81st minute finish against Folkestone, Daly is second only to Roscoe Dsane in the goalscoring charts. He puts this down to a new role within the side. He said: ?I've been given licence to get forward a bit more this season. Mark Rooney is playing a bit deeper behind me so I feel comfortable getting into more advanced positions. If there's one area I'm critical of myself in it's that I don't get enough goals. Last year I set myself a target of double figures and ended up with seven. This year I'm setting myself a target of double figures at least, and already I'm getting into goalscoring positions so I'm hopeful.?
But what some fans may not know is that Daly could well have been turning out for another club altogether following an offer from a Conference side in the close season. He said: ?Dave called in the summer and told me that Stevenage had made an approach for me, but that was it really. I know the manager [Mark Stimpson] as he was manager of Grays when I was there, and Stevenage are a big club, but nothing came of it and I've got no regrets about staying.
?But I make no secret of the fact that I want to be a full-time professional footballer, and I hope that can happen one day. Who knows, hopefully I can realise that ambition with AFC Wimbledon in the not too distant future. I feel that, as a club, the sooner we go full-time the better, certainly from a playing perspective ? by training every day you instantly gain an extra yard and you are much sharper. And we can only benefit from that as a team.?
Speaking to Wes, it's obvious that he isn't a man to make wild predictions without being able to achieve them. So when he says that we're gunning for the championship, and that he is going to score at least ten goals along the way, I'm inclined to believe him. And one thing's for sure: around 3,000 Wimbledon fans are behind him all the way.