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Friday 27 June 2008
What's happening at Kingsmeadow - feature number 7

Pre-season training starts in only three days.

First, congratulations to new signing Tom Davis and his partner Cheryl on the birth of their first child earlier this week. They have named her Sienna.

With Terry Brown back from holiday and Stuart Cash back in the country, football affairs moved back to the fore this week, with two signings, Elliott Godfrey and Belal Aiteouakrim. Both players have excellent track records as goal scorers and Terry’s squad is now close to completion. This leaves us to resolve the situation regarding the ‘Bosman fee’ for Chris Sullivan, where we have not reached agreement with Braintree.

We thought you might be interested in hearing a little bit about what happens in discussions with potential new signings. By the time we meet them, we already know pretty much all we want to know about them, so the meeting is usually about explaining the club to the players and, of course, discussing wages.

Terry sells AFC Wimbledon very well. He almost always starts by saying ‘this is a Proper Club’, before going on to explain the background to the club, our volunteer base and our ethos. After showing them the pitch and eulogising about the quality of the playing surface, Terry talks them through his plans for the season – and, finally, wages. After hearing Terry’s talk, both Elliott and Belal signed on the spot.

Fans will have a chance to ask Terry and Stuart about their plans for next season at the ‘Meet the manager’ session on Friday 18 July in the main bar. This is being held to coincide with the launch of the new kit and the souvenir promotion programme. Watch the club’s web site for details of exact times.

Also on the football front, preparations are in place for next Monday, when pre-season begins with a heavy week of work, followed by the training weekend at Bath. At that weekend, each player will be presented with a folder containing his personal plan, setting out how we play, what we expect of players in each position, etc. The folder will also contain a short summary of facts about the club and the code of conduct (see later).

Talking of the pitch, it is looking very good, with the rather bare goalmouth areas now filling in very nicely. There are still three weeks to go before our first home pre-season friendly and any minor bare patches should have been dealt with well before then.

Off the pitch, the following photo shows that the purlins (the grey horizontal struts which support the roof extension) were being completed yesterday, Thursday.

Preparation for the roof extension is nearly complete.

The next step is that the roof extension should start to go on next week. Once that is done the builders will install new speakers for the PA system and replace the old and obsolete lights.

The part of the project relating to the new seats is progressing, with the recently installed piles due to undergo sonic testing to confirm they are OK, before they are linked together by concrete ties. The photo shows the necessary groundwork going ahead.

Preparing the ground for linking the piles together.

Elsewhere in the stadium, as you can see from the next photo, the Blue Square ‘welcome’ logo was put up earlier this week. So, if you still can’t quite believe we’ve been promoted, perhaps this will convince you!

It’s official, we’re promoted!

Meetings continue to take up a lot of time. On Thursday, David Charles attended the Football Conference Youth League AGM at Burton Albion FC. The league continues to grow with 17 new clubs entering teams. Although a few clubs have left, the league has increased to 61 clubs. We will be in one of the four southern divisions.

Other than the usual business of an AGM, the main contributions were a presentation by Roger Gochin, in which he recalled the three year vision for the league that had been agreed in 2007, the progress made to date and the plans for the next two years. The main development was the transfer of the league from its independent status so it now comes under the umbrella of the Football Conference based in Birmingham.

Sir Trevor Brooking delivered the key note address in which he set out the work he was doing at the FA in relation to youth football, not just at the top end of the scale but at grass roots level, the arrangements for coaching at the lower age group and the difficulties and frustrations he faced in putting his proposals into practice. It was interesting to see the importance he placed on training and developing the skills of the 5 to 11 year age groups, so that it was possible to identify talent at an early age and hopefully mould them into the English footballers of the future.

On the subject of youth football, we have been having discussions with Marcus Gayle with a view to him taking a role within the club’s youth section. It is early days yet, but Marcus is particularly good with young players, so we are very keen to get him involved.

Returning to the exciting subject of meetings, there is a pre-season meeting of Conference clubs at Burton the Monday before the season begins, which requires the attendance of Erik, David and Terry. We expect that a chunk of the meeting will cover the ‘Respect’ initiative and, to some extent, we have pre-empted that discussion by strengthening the code of conduct. As explained earlier, this will be covered at the training weekend.

On Tuesday, David and Erik met Susan O’Brien, who acts as a consultant for the Conference. She tells us that they want clubs to have five year stadium plans, so we took her through our plans, which probably only need a little bit of writing to put everything into context – we would then probably already meet the requirements. She also advised us on the situation regarding future grants for stadium improvement and we discussed involvement in the community, where she gave us some very useful advice.

Finally, re meetings, we’ve announced a meeting of AFCW PLC shareholders on Monday 14 July, asking shareholders to approve a resolution to increase the loan from Barclays Bank and to extend the period of the loan. This is similar to the Dons Trust SGM in April and, with the Trust’s members voting its majority shareholding in favour, the resolution is bound to be passed.

For some time now, we have been trying to improve the club’s web site, partly by updating some out-of-date areas and partly through new initiatives like the brief post-match summary and, indeed, this feature.

A little while ago we formed a group to look at the future of the club’s site. The project quickly divided into two; looking at quick improvements and remedies to problems, including content; and a longer term view of what we want from the site, which will involve consultation with users. We will be presenting a summary of progress and broad timetables to the Dons Trust board early in July. In the meantime, while improvements will be made, it will be a gradual process, so please don’t expect any dramatic changes in the near future.

There will be another update feature next weekend and they will continue until the season starts. Meanwhile, look out for a new feature in the very near future.