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Friday 21 May 2004
Meeting Mr Anderson

After the excitement of the Family Fun Day and his first chance to meet the players properly at a brief training session on Wednesday, we kept the tape running while Dave Anderson told us about his background, his plans and his willingness to go for a pint.

First of all the manager outlined his football background and explained what prompted him to apply for the AFC Wimbledon job:

"I played for Glentoran and Bangor in Northern Ireland after being at Wolves and Sheffield United as a kid. At Glentoran I was the youngest player to travel in the UEFA Cup at the age of 16. Then at Bangor I got the injury that ended my career.

"After that, I spent some time in Manchester and London out of the game and met my wife in London. I got back into football about 20 years ago. I was mates with Ian Stewart, the blond winger at QPR, and Alan McDonald, the captain. They got me into coaching on a Sunday and it went from there. Steve Hawkins, who's now the manager for North Greenford United, took me to Harrow Borough to manage the reserves, Then the ex-West Ham goalkeeper Tom McAllister became manager and offered me the job of being his assistant. I've been assistant manager there three times. I spent time at Aylesbury and St Albans and was manager at Southall and North Greenford.

"From St Albans, Frank Murphy phoned me up and asked if I wanted to be his assistant at Hendon, so I went there. After two years he left, so I did the job for three years. We finished eighth, second and fourth in the Ryman Premier, though this season we were second till the last game and I could hardly get a side out through injuries. We also won the Middlesex Cup for the three years I was in charge.

"But I felt I'd taken the club as far as I could. Financially I did more than I should have done for the budget and people started to expect the same for less and less and less.

"I left on very good terms, they've invited me back to the player of the year awards on Friday and I've chatted with the Chairman and he's happy for me to go, so that's nice. It shows I was appreciated, well thought of and left in the right manner, something you have to do.

"Realistically, I've wanted this job since I came to watch the Wallingford home game. I've never written a CV in 15 years in football, and probably been out of work for three weeks in those 15 years, but I practically ran to the car after that game to get started on one and apply. It's very, very exciting.

"Obviously I was aware of the club before that. Steve Hawkins had told me about it and my reserve team manager, John Morris, was at Bedfont. Other people had more knowledge than I had, but I was aware of it - everyone in non-league football is. I was aware of things like the crowd size, but you have to come and experience it for yourself to truly believe it.

"Your first thoughts are that it's a little bit intimidating, but I only deal with the football pitch and that's never intimidating. I feel I have the knowledge to deal with that, so when I looked at the football pitch it was fine. But when you look around you, you think, blimey! I've been in the Ryman league for 15 years, so I feel I know it and I've proved I can do a job over three years as a manager. And if you're driven like I'm driven, and people here should be driven the same way, then you want to go as far as you can and take on the big challenges. You want to work with big clubs and big crowds - that's why you're in the game. If you can't deal with that, then you shouldn't really be in the game.

"I want to take this club all the way because this club can go all the way. Personally, where do I want to go? Obviously, the Football League eventually. And this club will go to the Football League - I might not be the manager for that period of time, but that's how it is set-up and where it is going."

Dave explained what he thought he would bring to his new role:

"First off, I bring 15 years experience of the league we're going into. You tend to get to know things in 15 years - that's a vast part of why I've got the job I think. But beyond that, I'm UEFA 'B' qualified, I've played schoolboy and youth internationals, I've got lots of contacts in the pro game, access to pro clubs and I'm friendly with some high profile managers. I bring my knowledge of how to play football, and also my staff's knowledge. I wouldn't for a moment say it's all down to me. Jon Turner will be coming in as my assistant and his knowledge of players is second to none. I've worked with him for three years at Hendon and he's a manager in his own right.

"It works. It's big headed to say it works, but it's proven. It's in black and white. So I bring all that and a tremendous passion for the game, I don't necessarily expect players to be as passionate, because people are all different, but I expect them to be as dedicated and to conduct themselves in the way I conduct myself.

"I don't want to sound like a sergeant major. I can enjoy myself more than most at times, so I'm not saying there won't be enjoyment, don't get me wrong. The players will enjoy their training sessions, they'll be taxed and taught, they'll know what I think of them and I think they'll like how I work. We had the first session on Wednesday night just to get to know each other."

And the manager promises a hands-on approach to training and coaching:

"The vast majority of technical stuff I do. Obviously the staff are involved as well, but anything technically or tactically on how we're going to play, or set pieces and how we're going to work, that's down to me. The staff will take particular sessions when I oversee them - go in and work with people one-to-one. Football works when you as an individual know what you're doing, then as a unit, then as team. It's very structured, You start with each player knowing what they're doing, then each unit, like the back four or the midfield, and then the whole team.

"I feel I'm a good manager to work for. It all sounds very serious sitting down having an interview like this, but at the end of the day I think the most important thing is just to be honest with people. I wanted that when I was a player and all players will tell you the same - that they want the manager to be upfront and straight.

"Of course, when it's bad news, sometimes players decide they don't really want that! But I'll be straightforward with them. They will be left in no doubt what I think of them. And I mean if they're good, they'll be told that I think they've been good. If they've been bad, then they'll be told technically why I think they've been bad. If I think they've been taking the mick, they'll be ripped to pieces, no matter who they are. There's no big cheeses in my dressing room, because I'm not a big cheese. I don't mean in terms of banter - that's why were all here after all, but in terms of attitude and application.

"I expect some people might say they can't do it. There will always be some players you will fall out with, but I don't think they'll get anyone easier to work for. I'm very pro-players - I'm very loyal to my players and my staff. Anyone who applies themselves is welcome, but we're not here to make the numbers up, we're here to be successful.

"Players have generally said they like working with me. There'll be plenty of micky-taking and laughs - a happy club is a successful club for a start. Again, it's hard to say things like that at the start in an interview, but as it develops I think people will enjoy working with me. And when you go for a drink with the players, you don't sit down as their gaffer. Sometimes of course I'll keep my distance, that's what being the gaffer is about, but at other times I'm very happy to join in. We're all the same when we clock off work and if I sit at the table with the players or fans, I expect to get the mick taken out of me. We will have fun and celebrate success, don't worry about that."

Dave is adamant everyone in the current squad is in his plans for pre-season:

"We had the first session on Wednesday night. I told them that was like the trailer for the film they're about to watch. It's better to do that than to sit them down and bore them with a CV or a blackboard. We ran through some of the things we'll be working on and I think they enjoyed it. We all had a drink afterwards and got to know each other - it was very relaxed but the mood seemed good. So the first job in pre-season will be to get know everyone down here and see what they're about.

"Of course new players will be coming in over the summer as well. But what footballers always want is to get a chance and everyone here will get a chance. Anyone not up to it can go, but exactly the same applies to players who come in from outside. No-one can have too much of a chance. Everyone will be able to show what they can do, but I want to win the league next year. I can promise one thing, I approach the job with no emotion for any players, not the ones that are here, and not the ones I'll bring in. They'll be judged on performance.

"No-one here's for a ride and you have to earn your money. But I don't want to sound like a sergeant major and I think people are looking forward to working with me. I think the players will be happy, enjoy sessions and enjoy working. There'll be some days when we don't get on, but that's the way football is. They'll find out I don't bear grudges. I'm not into that, I just get on with the job. And I know how to win football matches."

And tactically Dave believes that the team will need to be flexible:

"People have become aware of me this year and at Hendon we were mainly playing 3-5-2, so people think that's what I do, but the year before we played 4-4-2. To be successful you have to be able to play every system. We played 4-5-1 this year at times. We played with two behind a front one away to Bognor. They like to pass wide, so we had two people there to release on the full backs and stop them joining in. You have to be able to do things like that, but we had to work very hard on the Thursday night to achieve that. We had the match report and we ran through it to get it right. Against Canvey we played two up front, but when they had deep possession we dropped off. You have to be able to work it differently.

"So there's no set system yet - by the time the season starts the players will able to change from one system to another. You have to be able to do that, because people watch you as well. So far, Wimbledon have been largely able just to play their own game, but that's about to change. People's mindset changes when you do well, not so much at home where they'll try to win, but away they come for a draw. You have to have patience - you can't be gung-ho or you'll get one down and be in trouble. So you pass the ball, draw them out and move it quickly and sharply.

"Some games, like for example Dulwich, we'll be looking at their team and adjusting. But there will be others where we'll go out and say here's our system, here's how we play. But we'll pay attention all the time - if we find out they've got two crap fullbacks we'll play with 4-4-2 with two wingers.

"The players have to be capable of playing every way and have the knowledge to change system at a signal from the bench 20 minutes into a game. By the first league game those tactics will be there and ready. The first day of season is when we go to work. The build-up in pre-season will be chop and change, but in the last two games I'll be looking to play the side that'll start the season.

"Those six weeks are when you get that work done first, but it doesn't stop. At Hendon we worked hard every Thursday tactically. We worked hard on play every night. You work the back four defensively: hammer then, hammer them, hammer them, so when they're under the cosh there's no panic, because they face it for 20 minutes every Thursday night.

"So there'll be plenty of coaching sessions. The club has agreed we'll play our midweek games on Tuesday next season, so it'll be training on Thursday and either training or playing on Tuesday. If there's no game, Tuesday will be a hard session. When Man United won the treble, they had no days off. If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for us to be in three days a week. Players individually may get a night off here and there if they're fatigued, but after a while everyone wants to be in for the craic anyway."

Dave expects the first team, reserves and U-18s to work closely together:

"The links are very important. The players on the bench for the first team have to get time in the reserves, otherwise you can't call on them to play. The schedule's difficult with the Suburban League, but I'll rotate people on the bench to keep match fitness up. And anyone dropping down to the reserves should be playing like it's a first team game - showing the younger players why they're in the first team and bringing them on. No-one should be sitting back and saying, 'I'm a first team player, I don't need this.' They must be showing the reserve team lads where they need to be.

"I expect the link between Nicky's U18s and the reserves to probably kick in after Christmas. He needs time to get it structured and rolling and then we'll start to look to bring people up to the bench, make sure they get 20 minutes here and there. The progression will be there in the same way. Lower than the U18s I'll be aware of, but it's off the radar at this stage."

And Dave had a special mention for Nicky English:

"I met him on Sunday and I'm pleased and delighted that he wants to stay on and take on the Under-18s. I genuinely mean that - if I wasn't pleased, I'd have made a case for him not being here. Of all the fans at the club, I think I understand what he went through most. I wanted to meet him and we did that. We're both football people, we've both been in the game for a while and I think we're more used to these kind of situations than the fans are. Nobody else at this club understands what he went through more than me, because I'm a football manager and he's a football manager. He knows that and respects that. We had a chat that was very positive, truthful and honest and I'm absolutely delighted he's staying and he's now a member of my staff. He'll get the same openness and loyalty everyone else will get and I have no doubts I'll get the same back."

Dave turned to the subject of the fans:

"We've got two things in common, me and AFC Wimbledon supporters. First, they're all managers. They all go to the pub on Saturday night to pick their team and I do that. And the other thing is that they're all AFC Wimbledon supporters. And I'm one of those now. And the one thing that makes the football world go round is opinions. So if the fans want to know who I am, I won't humour them. I'll tell them what I think, because that's what's you do in the pub on a Sunday night. They don't want to hear you talking round the houses and patronising them, so I'll tell them what I think. And they can tell me what they think. We won't always agree, because that's impossible. Five people in the pub on a Saturday night pick five different teams, but I think it's important to know that people can come to speak to me.

"I must have met hundreds on Sunday. I'm not very good with names, but it was hundreds. If it was possible to make me want to do better, it did that. I never wanted to disappoint, but I really don't want to now. Because they're genuine people and I'm genuine and I think our relationship will be great, I'm always available, happy to chat one-on-one if I've got time, even on the bad days. And we will have bad days. This club hasn't really had any of those yet, so I'll be the guy who has to front that, but I think that as football fans they'll be knowledgeable enough to see we're going in the right direction.

"There's on thing I was told by Ian Dowie, when he was at QPR, that really stuck with me. He said, 'You've got to remember one thing when you go somewhere, you can't just do it, you have to buy into it, it has to become part of you, you can't be cold shoulder - you have to be part of it and physically feel it.' I understand what he means now - and he's done alright on it hasn't he?

"So physically I've bought into it by joining the Dons Trust, but mentally you have to understand what this club is about. This club has made every football club in the world realise who owns it and I think it has made a few pro clubs sit up and think, 'Maybe we'd better not do that,' because at the end of the day the power is with the supporters. And I think that's magnificent. It's taken the power back where it should be.

Finally, we put Dave on the spot by asking where he wanted to be in 12 months' time:

"I want to be in the next division. We're aiming to finish with promotion, ideally outright and not via the playoffs, because I like to have a week's golf in May. I'm not going to be silly enough to say, 'We're definitely going to win promotion this year,' because that gives other teams petrol to pour on their fire, but I don't want to be in this division for more than one year. I want to be back where I was with Hendon and this club deserves to be there. We won't turn down the play-offs of course, but the top two is where we want to be. And that's what we've got to work towards.

"But the one thing I will say is that it's going to be a bit harder than it has been. I think the fans realise that, to be fair. They're football supporters and they're passionate but I'd say to them we're in a new division, but we intend to do the same in that division as the club did last season. People ask if the start is crucial, but really every game is critical.

We have to build the squad quickly, make sure immediately we get a fit squad, properly prepared, tactically prepared and ready to play 50 cup finals, because that's what they'll be. And that what I want and every player wants - you have to want the crowd and the atmosphere and pressure every game to be successful."