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Friday 07 November 2008
Whatís happening at Kingsmeadow - FA Cup countdown

It has been an incredibly busy week at the stadium, with lots of FA Cup-related activity and various other projects also being worked on. Plus the usual day-to-day work, of course.

Late last week, Setanta sent a team down to the stadium to look around and plan out where they want to film from. The Setanta teamís job is to push for the best possible coverage and while we want to help them to get that, we have to balance that with trying to look after the fans. We hope weíve got the balance right.

The biggest problem was that there was nowhere in the ground to commentate from. The obvious place is the halfway line but the gantry wasnít big enough. After a lot of discussion about what might be possible, we reluctantly agreed that we needed to remove the current gantry and replace it with a larger one. That work has been going on and will be finished on Monday when the roof is put on.

Bigger John Smith's main gantry (in progress)

The gantry is heavy and extends over the roof; to make it safe it needs supporting and so there are three vertical supports between the dug outs. People standing behind the dug outs will need to peer round them. We are sorry about this but it seemed the best compromise from a whole range of options, none of them ideal.

There is also a gantry above the Kingston Road end and, again, the support poles obscure the view a little. The Kingston Road end gantry and the view from behind the gantry are shown below.

Kingston Road End camera tower

Behind the Kingston Road End camera tower

There are also three camera towers, one at each of the John Smith stand and one between the floodlights and the toilets at the Tempest End. The towers beside the JS stand will slightly impair the view if you stand in the very corner under the roof - see the following photo. The tower by the floodlights will not affect anyoneís view. There will also be about four cameras around the ground at pitch level.

John Smith's camera tower

The Setanta trucks will go in the car park behind the houses on Kingston Road and they arrive on Sunday. That car park will, however, still be the way into the ground for Wycombe fans. Dons fans in the Tempest End will enter via turnstiles 5 and 6 at the Tempest End (turnstile 4 will be installed at that end in December), and we are exploring the idea of directing Dons fans to the John Smith stand, via the Athletic Stadium, so that they enter at the south east corner of the stadium. This will reduce pressure on the Tempest End turnstiles and make it easier to direct fans into the correct area. We will be carrying out a rehearsal of stewarding positions, entrance to the stadium etc on Sunday and following that we will make a decision about possible entrance via the Athletics stadium.

During the week our caterers have been working hard to get a new Kingston Road tea bar ready. We are very hopeful that it will be complete in time for the game. As you may already have seen on the official site, there will be various places inside and outside the ground where fans can get food.

There has been a lot of less visible work around the ground this week. New ĎA boardsí have been installed in front of the extension to the Paul Strank stand and these boards, plus various others, have new advertising hoardings on them. We hope that some new signage will also be in place in time, while we have extended the press area by putting in an extra bench and some power points.

Whatever we did to improve the press area, it would have been unable to cater for the demand from the press for places. At the time of writing, we have over 40 coming (including photographers), which isnít surprising as ours is the only game being played on Monday night. They will be accommodated around the ground.

On the subject of the media, there have been interviews with most of the national daily papers and all the local papers, plus Setanta Sports News, with Terry and Marcus particularly in demand. Meanwhile a Football Focus team was down at the training ground on Thursday, quizzing the players about their knowledge of Wimbledonís history. The usual, but not always, unspoken aspect of each interview is who we might play if we get through.

With no other games on Monday night, we were worried that we would be inundated by requests for places for scouts and managers, so we agreed with Wycombe that we would offer places to the two teams that each of us plays next, and no others. While we always try to be hospitable, the ground will be rammed full and setting aside tickets for lots of scouts ahead of our fans didnít feel right.

Inside the ground, we commissioned a new telephone system about a month ago and it is now being installed. This will, hopefully, allow us to respond more readily to calls and, when the end arises, we will be able to set up more people to operate the credit card hotline (the current system makes it very difficult to have more than two people on the CC hotline).

The building is filled with workers on other projects, with telephone engineers installing ISDN lines for Setanta and BBC Radio Five Live; electricians and plumbers working on the new tea bar; scaffolders building the gantries and towers for Setanta; plumbers upgrading our heating systems; builders creating a new office in the corner of the back bar; and the auditors!

One service which the FA provides to clubs at this stage is a company which has measured the pitch for a cover, in case of frost or exceptionally heavy rain. They will decide whether to use the cover, which we have to pay for, if used. They have been providing regular localised weather forecasts too, which make it pretty clear that we wonít need it. Lewis Taylor remarked that the Horsham FA Cup game last year could not have gone ahead without such a cover.

The programme for the game is now at the printers after much hard work from the team. It will be 8 pages larger than usual, at the same price.

In the middle of all this we have been selling tickets. So far as we can tell, almost all of our fans who come regularly have got a ticket. Having said that, we know that some people didnít get exactly the ticket they wanted for the game and we are sorry about that. We are looking at how we might do things better next time, which might be as soon as Tuesday if we get the right draw and result. If, by any chance, that should happen we will have a week longer before the game and a lot more experience this time around, although it is unlikely that the new phone system would be ready in time (and launching a new phone system while selling tickets for a game is definitely not a good idea).

Turning to the game itself, the players trained on Thursday night and everyone is fit, except Lewis Taylor. They will be training again on Saturday morning and carrying out final preparations for the game. Terryís final pre-match thoughts will be posted on the official site over the weekend and then all we need to do is make as much noise as possible as we support our team.