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Friday 13 June 2008
What's happening at Kingsmeadow - feature number 5

It’s now only two weeks until pre-season training starts.

Terry Brown didn’t sign anyone this week. This is partly because he has been away on a well-earned holiday, and partly because there are one or two players who he is tracking where patience is needed. We have left Terry alone this week, with no calls from the club to interrupt his holiday and he has, quite sensibly, not called us.

One call he did get was from Robin Shroot, as has already been explained on this site. While we are disappointed that Robin doesn’t see his future at AFC Wimbledon, we wish him well and it is now clear that we need to recruit another player.

The only transfer development has been the opening of negotiations with Braintree Town re the transfer of Chris Sullivan. Readers may remember that Chris is caught by the Bosman rules and the club can either agree a fee with Braintree or choose to go to an FA tribunal. The same issues will apply to Robin when he signs for another club.

One football development this week has been completion of the preparations for pre-season training. A letter went out to players yesterday, setting out the training schedule. Meanwhile, plans to hold a residential training weekend for the first team squad were being finalised, subject to Terry’s approval on his return. This is the first time we’ve done this and so it is very much an experiment. The purposes are to do some intensive training and to give Terry and his management team a chance to go into more depth with the players about the approach to the season. It will also allow the board to take the players through a brief induction course, explaining the origins of the club, so that they understand the sensitivities around this subject, plus making sure they know about the volunteer base of the club, etc. The event will take place from 4 – 6 July, at the end of the first week’s pre-season training.

Back at the stadium, the most visible development this week has been progress on the extension to the main stand. As can be seen from the following photos, the Kingston Road tea bar has gone and the rubble is being removed.

Goodbye to the tea bar.

Removing the rubble.

It being a building project, there are bound to be problems and one has surfaced. The water pipes that feed the pitch sprinkler system lie in the way of one of the piles, so the pipes will need to be diverted. It isn’t a major problem and we don’t expect it to delay us. The piling machine itself arrived today and, having been manoeuvred into position, it is ready to start drilling on Monday.

The piling machine arrives.

At the other end of the main stand, as the photo shows, the scaffolding has started to go up, to enable the extension of the roof towards the pitch to take place. We may as well say now that the roof won’t be the prettiest sight you’ve ever seen; the roof over the new seats will be metal while the extension to the existing roof will be fire-resistant plastic, matched as closely as we can to the existing roof. This work needs to be finished by 19 July to allow the old part of the stand to be usable for our first home friendly.

The scaffolding for the roof extension goes up.

Still talking about the stadium, while David Charles and Erik Samuelson were sunning themselves in the fleshpots of Blackpool last weekend, a team of volunteers was cleaning and improving the stadium. Lots of painting was done – some of it unauthorised – and other general tidying up was completed. A lot of the work isn’t visible to the casual observer, for example the grass behind the John Smith stand was cut down; we are told the team found six footballs and two ball boys once the grass had been removed. There is more work to be done during the second stadium clean-up weekend on 5 and 6 July, and more volunteers would be very welcome. If you can help, please call the office (020 8547 3528) between 10.00 am and 4.00 pm on a weekday or email here.

Preparations for the new season continue. During the week the turnstile operators and ticketing team met to discuss ‘what went well and what we could do better?’. The meeting was attended by David and Erik, to make sure that any changes that affect the stadium were noted. As always, this was a very constructive meeting, attended by about 15 of the team.

During the meeting the team discussed practical issues around locating away fans in the John Smith stand, at the Kingston Road end. This conversation was continued in a meeting between Phil Clark, the club’s safety officer, Luke Mackenzie, our Chief Steward, two of the police team who look after us on matchdays, and the ubiquitous David and Erik.

We agreed with the police that we will continue with ‘the Hornchurch approach’, as it has been dubbed, next season. This means that Wimbledon fans will be able to re-occupy the Kingston Road end. As part of this change, the club plans to re-open the portaloo in the corner next to where away fans will stand; it was closed last season when it became apparent that it was unsafe but the problems will be fixed and we hope to re-open it soon.

Other meetings in the week were the agms for the Suburban League (see this site) and the Surrey Youth League, attended by David, where most of our youth teams participate.

For the staff at the stadium, the season feels really close now. We are receiving masses of correspondence from the Conference, including requests to put up a ‘Blue Square south’ welcome sign and a backcloth sign too- “to be put where you normally do your post match interviews”!

Moving on to season ticket sales, to date they are 1,188, a mere 25 up on last week, as the rush slows to a trickle, now that the May deadline is long gone. A substantial proportion of the latest applications are new, or lapsed ST holders re-applying, which augurs well for the final total, as we are still 300 ahead of the same date last season.

Finally, tomorrow night we have taken a table for the Ryman League annual dinner and awards night. This is usually a well-organised and enjoyable evening and it will be all the more so since we will be celebrating our promotion amongst a number of the good friends we’ve met during our stay in the league. In passing, we are not required to attend the agm, which is on Monday, following some rule changes last year. These changes, sensibly in our view, abolished the requirement to attend the agm for clubs which are leaving the league.

We will report back on the evening as part of next week’s feature.