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Saturday 15 May 2010
What's happening at Kingsmeadow - number 1, 2010

Even though the season is now over, everything at Kingsmeadow is as busy as ever. Although there is no major building activity this close season there is plenty going on behind the scenes.

On the playing side, Terry spent the first two weekdays after the season ended, speaking to players who were being released, before setting about discussing terms with retained players. By the end of that week, seven players had re-signed with three still in negotiation. All of the signed players have committed to AFC Wimbledon for two years.

Since then, two more retained players have signed, with one of them, Kennedy Adjei, going on season-long loan to Sutton United, as explained on the club’s web site. And, of course, Ryan Jackson signed just before the end of the season.

During contract discussions, players were given feedback on last season and Terry made clear his expectations for the coming season. He also explained to all the players that we are looking to get into the Football League with them but we won’t stand in their way if a good offer comes in for them. He also explained that ‘a good offer’ does not mean a club in our league or, indeed, from most of the clubs in the two leagues directly above us.

Christian Jolley’s signing, the first from an outside club, was announced yesterday. We go to great lengths to get our signings right, especially when they are relatively unknown, emerging talents. Christian was watched in total seven or eight times, first by the club’s player scout (as opposed to opposition scout), Luke Dowling, and then by Simon Bassey, Stuart Cash and finally by manager Terry Brown. Aware of interest by at least two league clubs, we moved quickly to finalise a deal, which involves a small fee to Kingstonian and a pre-season friendly where all the proceeds will be ours, unless they exceed an agreed level, when Ks will be entitled to a minority share of the surplus.

All the players have been given exercise and weight training sheets, designed by fitness and conditioning coach Jason Moriarty, to keep them in shape during the summer break. In addition, on Thursday 13 May all the players came into the stadium for their fitness levels to be recorded and for Jason to make sure they all lift the weights correctly. Until pre-season training resumes, there will be seven Thursday sessions designed to keep tabs on player fitness, and every player is expected to be present at least three of the sessions, fitting them in around their holidays.

As regards other signings, Terry Brown has had detailed discussions with a few targets and with one, a centre back with a top Conference club, we came close to agreement. In the end we were unwilling to match the terms that he was offered to stay put. Terry is not hurrying and, with some players still discovering that wage expectations need to be lowered in a recession, the club is not rushing into any deals.

One subject that it taking up a lot of time is pre-season friendlies. The principal objective of PSFs is to enable the team to prepare properly for the coming season, with a secondary objective to make the games attractive to fans (and thereby maximise the income we can make).

Getting the timing right is always a balancing act. If games are agreed too soon then, as has happened in the past, we might miss the one opponent we’ve been after for years, but there are also risks in waiting too long.

We have now announced two home and one away game against League One teams (one of which may well be a Championship team by the time we play them). With the season’s start being put back to 14 August, this has cleared an additional Saturday and so we have been able to reach agreement in principle to play an XI from a Premiership team on that date. They’ve asked us to defer any announcement for the time being. We first approached this club for a game in February 2009, which gives an indication of the time it can take to get the games we want.

There is always something that can derail any arrangements, so it isn’t definite until it’s agreed in writing; that’s why we always wait until that stage before we announce games.

With next season starting on 14 August it will end on 30 April, so there is a longer than usual pre-season period and Terry will be considering how many more pre-season games he wants to play. While the start date is a little bit late, an earlier start might have meant the season ending on Easter Saturday, as Easter is so late in 2011.

Something that happened, but not at Kingsmeadow, is that the under 13 team won the Tesco Cup for English teams last Sunday at Pride Park, home of Derby County. On Sunday 16 May, the team will appear at Bolton Wanderers’ ground, the Reebok Stadium, to compete for the British crown.

Neutrals at the Pride Park games were full of praise for the blend of team play and individual skills that manager Tony Wilson, supported by Mark Robinson (head of the club’s senior academy), has instilled into the boys, saying that they were the best footballing team and worthy winners. We wish them well in their attempt to bring the British title home on Sunday. Nigel Higgs, the director responsible for all the club’s youth teams, posted the full list of this season’s successes on the club’s web site – see the news item date 9 May. The girls’ teams successes, specifically the under 16s completing the treble, were reported in a news item on 10 May.

Off the pitch, the end-of-season dinner was followed by the club’s first comedy festival in the marquee; both events were a great success. Ivor Heller is now hard at work on other commercial ventures designed to provide the profits needed for Terry to recruit a team that can compete at the highest level in the Blue Square Bet Premier, as it is now to be known.

Renovation of the pitch started last Monday, even before the marquee was taken down. The pitch has now been seeded and will be subjected to regular care and maintenance throughout the summer so that it is ready for the first pre-season home game on 10 July. Pre-season training starts on Tuesday 29 June, which is under seven weeks from now.

One small but very noticeable improvement to the stadium took place last week, when we upgraded to high definition projectors and new screens in both bars. Early feedback is that there is a massive improvement in quality and the FA Cup final will be showing today for anyone who wants to watch alongside fellow fans.

Season ticket applications continue to come in at a very healthy rate, at this stage mainly from fans who wish to guarantee their seat or their place on a particular terrace for next season. The deadline date for securing your existing spot is first post on Monday 31 May. The availability of a monthly payment scheme is proving very popular, with the proportion of applicants choosing this option much higher than last year.

Finally, the first of two volunteers’ work weekends will take place next Saturday and Sunday, with a range of jobs that need doing to make sure that our stadium stays in good shape. Details of how you can help appear regularly on the club’s website, or you can call the office on 020 8547 3528 and leave your details, so that one of the team can contact you.