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Tuesday 15 May 2007
History Repeating

The arrival of Terry Brown and Stuart Cash today as the new management team has left Wimbledon fans dreaming once more of emulating Aldershot Town. Matt Rickard catches up with the dynamic duo and likes what he sees.

When Aldershot Town missed out on promotion from the Isthmian League in 2002 the man they turned to was Terry Brown. After nine successful years, taking part-timers Hayes from regional football also-rans to Conference challengers, Brown came highly regarded.

He didn't let anyone down. Teaming up with former left-back Stuart Cash ? a man signed by both Brian Clough and Martin O'Neill in his professional playing days ? the Shots romped to the Isthmian title, 11 points clear of nearest challengers Canvey Island ? then managed by Jeff King, now boss of Chelmsford City.

It was these parallels that led Wimbledon to move quickly to appoint the dream double act. Commercial director, Ivor Heller, was delighted to introduce the pair to the waiting press. "Even before we advertised the job, we had plenty of interest. In all, we got almost 60 applicants, and we spoke to a dozen of those. We knew we had to move quickly, this being a very important time for the club. Given their record, and their plans for bringing further success to Wimbledon, appointing Terry and Stuart is a great move for us."

Brown is in no doubt where the challenges lie ahead.

"The Ryman league is a slightly different proposition from when I last managed there. I would say it was a stronger league when we went up but I will qualify that by saying that there are two or three very dangerous sides. I have the utmost respect for Jeff King ? he's a fantastic manager and he has assembled a good footballing side which will be even stronger this year. I think any side that finishes above Chelmsford will go up."

Terry Brown, 54, becomes Wimbledon's first full-time manager and with extended training, the introduction of match and player evaluation software and the signing of an as yet unannounced player-coach, the club is entering an exciting new era. Brown was keen to stress that this didn?t mean ripping up the playing squad.

"Dave Anderson did a great job here and has left the nucleus of a very strong side. I went to the Bromley game, which if you hadn't had the sending off, I think you would have won. He has left us the nucleus of not just a good side, but a young and hungry side. It's our job to supplement that with a couple of senior players who have actually won things. There can be a massive gulf between being a good footballing side and being a winning side."

Brown and Cash will meet the players this week, with Roscoe Dsane a familiar face.

"I said to Dave after he took Roscoe that if he could remain fit you have got one of the best strikers in the Conference so yes I would love to keep him, but I'm fully aware that there are a lot of Conference and one or two Football League clubs sniffing around him."

And if Roscoe does remain, will he be getting a bit more protection than was often the case last season?

"We will be bringing in a target man. You've got a Roscoe and a Jolly but you have to have an alternative to that. Sometimes you need to knock the ball forward a little bit quicker and take some pressure off those littl'uns. I don't want to see Roscoe and Jolly being battered about by big centre-halves. If we can get a proper target man who can knock in 15 or 20 goals then that, more than any position, is essential at this level."

Cash, 42, who leaves the assistant managers role at Lewes to join Wimbledon, explained how the relationship between Brown and himself works:

"We work very much as a partnership. We trust each other and the combination has proved successful. The comparisons between Aldershot are valid and the expectations are very similar. But we have the knowledge and the experience of winning this division. We know what it takes and what kind of players it takes to get out of this league and my role is to work closely with the players to improve them technically and mentally."

Training will also be shared as Brown explained.

"I like coaching, Stuart likes coaching so we work together and share duties. We do believe in splitting up coaching. It is a case of horses for courses ? there is no point doing the same training session for forwards as for centre-halves so between myself and Stuart and the new senior player-coach, we can all work on various aspects of play."

One thing that will not faze Brown and Cash is the pressure the AFC Wimbledon job inevitably brings, having guided Aldershot through the same scenario. Less than two years after taking over Aldershot, the pair led the team out in the Conference play-off final, eventually losing on penalties to Shrewsbury. The following year another penalty shootout saw the Shots fall in the play-off semi-finals.

"If you want a team to lose on penalties, me and Stuart are fantastic at it." Brown admits disarmingly. "But seriously we set our own standards anyway. We have got a lovely football club, a generous wage bill and a club, at this level, that players want to come and sign for. We are very much aware of what is required and if you look at Dave's record here its phenomenal. Unfortunately football being the beast that it is, all that matters is 'did you get promotion?'. It's no good us coming here and playing great football for two years but not going up. Our expectation is promotion."