Saturday 29 May 2010
What's happening at Kingsmeadow - number 2, 2010
Since the last 'What's happening at Kingsmeadow' we have signed Lee Minshull. We had Lee watched by Luke Dowling, our talent scout, two or three times during last season and Stuart Cash, Simon Bassey and Terry all saw him too.
We've been making quiet progress with other possible signings. They include an attacking left back, where we are very close to a deal, and we have made an offer to a forward who can play either side of Danny Kedwell in a 4-3-3 formation. We are also hoping to take loan players from professional clubs. Instead of looking at young players who have been released from pro clubs, we are targeting the ones who have been retained and put on full time contracts. Their managers want them to get regular football; with our club held in high regard the clubs are willing to enter into long term loans for some of their brightest young talents. And we are talking to an experienced centre half who would bring much-needed steel to our defence.
Terry has several other irons in the fire although he is keen to keep some options open, while making sure he only signs the players he really wants. On that subject, we hope to finalise Sam Hatton's contract when he returns from holiday in a couple of weeks.
It is clear that some clubs are still paying substantial wages on long term contracts. This is being done in the context of a league where, according to their 2009 accounts, at least sixteen of next season's clubs don't have enough money to pay their short term debts and fourteen of them made significant losses. The Supporters Direct conference on 12 and 13 June (see the club's web site for details) will no doubt be talking about such matters.
Looking forward to next season, our pre-season friendlies have been finalised, giving us easily the most attractive range of games we've ever had. We were delighted to finalise a game against an Arsenal XI and the final piece in the jigsaw was the Tiverton away game which, with the Exeter match the next day, will allow Terry to give 22 players a good run out over the weekend. The team will be staying over on the Saturday night as a team bonding exercise before the season starts two weeks later.
The fixtures for next season are expected to be released no later than Monday 5 July. We face more long journeys, with local teams Grays and Ebbsfleet having dropped out of the league while Stevenage and Oxford have been promoted. With Grimsby, Darlington, Fleetwood, Southport and Newport County coming into the league, we are planning ten overnight stays and a resultant increase in costs. In the light of the increase in the number of long journeys, we have done our sums and were pleased to be able to freeze the prices of our supporters' coaches for another season.
Dons midfielder Steven Gregory played two games for England C last week. He made his debut in a warm up game against an East of Scotland league XI where he played 45 minutes. Steven obviously impressed manager Paul Fairclough because he went on to start the first game of the International Challenge Trophy 2009-11 where England won 2-1 against the Republic of Ireland at Waterford, with Steven playing the full 90 minutes. Our congratulations to Steven for a great start to his international career. A match report can be seen here.
There is still lots of work to do at Kingsmeadow. The pitch has been re-seeded and the excellent weather, combined with frequent watering, means that it is probably a week ahead of where it was at this time last year. The pitch looks very lush and the bare patches are disappearing by the day.
Season ticket sales as at Friday night were 1,499, which compares well with the same date last season. We expect a bit of a rush on Tuesday, which is the deadline for reserving your existing seat or place on the terrace. We are a little bit surprised that take up of the option to pay by monthly instalments is just over 20% of all applications, only slightly higher than last season's 18%; we thought the option to pay in ten instalments would be very attractive but if fans are happy to pay in full then the cash is very welcome!
Once the Tuesday deadline has passed, data input will continue for a few days and then we can start processing new applications for seats and terrace spaces. If you've applied for a change of area or if you are a new applicant, please remember that meeting the large number of such requests is a long and complex task, so please don't ring up to see how your application is progressing.
A week ago we held the first of two work weekends. About 40 volunteers on the Saturday and over 20 on the Sunday set about cleaning up and repairing the stadium, cutting down the excess vegetation in the car park, painting large parts of the stadium, and many other jobs, as the following photographs illustrate.
At the same time, several members of the merchandise team were working hard to finalise the bar coding and testing of the new tills which will allow much better stock control and provide better management information.
Everyone who took part was provided with lunch and regular refreshments. Many thanks to everyone who took part, especially Margaret Adam who once again organised the entire event superbly. If you can help with the second work weekend on 26 and 27 June, please call the office and leave your contact details.
Looking forward to next season, we have appointed new caterers to run the burger bars. With four burger bars fully operational next season, we hope that we will be able to serve fans faster and reduce the queues. We are currently working with the caterers to get the design right for the new cabins. There are few other works around the stadium, as all the necessary improvement work for the Grade A rating was completed during last season. There is more work to be done re barriers and we will need to implement a control room one day, but there is no need to do so before we have won promotion into the Football League.
Finally, even though the close season feels as if it has only just begun, the players return to training in just over four weeks' time, and our first pre-season friendly is only six weeks away. Between those times, there is a World Cup to watch, to while away the days until the Dons are back in action. If you want to watch the World Cup games alongside Dons fans, and on our new massively improved HD screens, look out for details on the club's site over the next few weeks.