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Friday 04 July 2008
What's happening at Kingsmeadow - feature number 8

The first pre-season friendly ('PSF') is one week away.

There were two major events on the football side during the week. The first was the start of pre-season training, on Monday. The club held a trial game the previous Saturday, where about 40 players were invited to show their skills. We didn't advertise the game since we are always inundated with applicants and it might have got out of hand. There are also issues with parking in the car park at Woodies pub, where we are anxious to avoid upsetting the landlords by lots of people parking in their car park but not using the pub. So, if you come down to watch training, please bear this in mind.

Pre-season training started with extensive running on the first night, where Luke Garrard and Tony Finn completed the most laps of the pitch in a fixed time. It was pretty obvious that the players have kept fit in the close season and one or two have obviously been working with weights, given how they've bulked up. There were also sessions on Tuesday and Thursday which involved circuit training, running and some small-sided games. Later today, management and players set off for Bath University for the training weekend.

The second major event was the release of the fixture list for Blue Square South. As noted on the club's site, we start at Newport County against former Wimbledon star Dean Holdsworth, who moved there after a very successful first season as a manager at Redbridge. We've already spoken to Dean and he is thrilled to be starting his new role with a game against us.

When the fixtures were being designed we were asked to submit an analysis of the distance between us and all other teams in the league. The idea is obviously to try to arrange the longer journeys on Saturdays when there isnít a possible FA Cup or Trophy game, so that we avoid long journeys in midweek. You will have seen that we were allocated Fisher Athletic. While Hampton & Richmond are the nearest club to us, the person devising the fixtures must also take into account the distance between all other clubs and, on balance, they made the selections we now see. We asked that the August and Easter public holiday games should be against Bromley, and those games were allocated to us.

Earlier today we announced that Michael Haswell has gone on trial to Brighton & Hove Albion. Last Monday the Brighton chief scout called us to ask if Michael could go there to train and play a couple of friendly games. To be honest, our first instinct was to say 'no', as we don't want to lose Michael, or anyone, from the squad. But after careful reflection, we felt that we owed it to Michael to have a go. The issues are a bit complicated: we don't want to lose one of last season's best players; he might not be signed and may come back dispirited; but the clinching issue was that we say we won't stand in the way of players who get a genuine chance to move to a league club and, as a club, we honour our word. So we said OK.

At any home game there are probably scouts from three or four clubs Ė and that's just the clubs who tell us. Some of them are there to watch specific players, some to see who is on show, and some just appear to be blagging free entry to a game they happen to fancy. Brighton have always been very open with us about their interest in Michael and, while it doesn't mean we would be any happier to lose him, if he was to leave we would feel that he was going to a club that would treat him properly, and that is something we take a genuine interest in.

As a last item on football, if you are after some AFC Wimbledon action sooner rather than later, the reserves are playing on Tuesday 8 July, kick off 7.30 pm, at Chertsey, now managed by former Dons star Kevin Cooper.

We announced today that we have been successful in our grant application to the Football Stadia Improvement Fund, re the main stand project, to the tune of over £147k. This is great news, as it means that the amount we borrow to pay for the work will be that much lower.

On the subject of the main stand project the foundations for the extension are now being worked on in detail. The blinding was laid earlier this week, as shown in the following photos:

Concrete pouring starts 2.

Basically, this process creates the base on which the reinforcing steel will be laid and then the concrete will be poured onto it.

Concrete pouring starts.

The work on the remainder of the stand continues, with the material for the roof extension due to arrive next week. Following discussions with the safety consultant, we have had to make some changes to the lighting arrangements in the stand and that is adding to the timescales for that part of the work. So, time is getting tight for having the work completed and getting the scaffolding down in time to provide access to the seats for our first pre-season friendly on 19 July. We have a meeting with the councilís safety consultant and the fire brigade on Monday to talk through what we need to do to ensure safe access while the work continues.

Moving on to financial matters, during the week we announced that Proto and Co have resigned as auditors. Peter Proto has put a great deal of work into the role and has then donated his fee back to the club each year. However, pressure of work meant that he was finding it harder and harder to give up the time necessary to audit the four companies that comprise the Dons Trust group, so he has stepped down.

We are very grateful to Peter for his advice and support over the last six years. He will continue in an advisory role, which will give him more flexibility over when he spends time on club matters. Meanwhile, we have had several expressions of interest for the appointment.

Last weekend we released a podcast on the OS. This was an experiment but it seemed to be well-received so we plan to do more, on an ad hoc basis, as interesting topics arise.

Next, an update on season ticket sales. These now amount to 1,308 which is still close to four weeks ahead of last season's sales. With the fixtures now announced we expect a surge in sales over the next three or four weeks.

Finally, if you'd like to help with the clean-up weekend, which is on Saturday and Sunday, you can just turn up on the day. Bring suitable tools if you can, but the most important thing is to bring yourself Ė any time after 10.00 am on either day will be fine.