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Monday 16 May 2011
What's happening at Kingsmeadow - summer 2011, number 1

With the final game of the season played last Wednesday, preparation for the pitch renovation started today, Monday, with the removal of the goalposts. Over the winter, the pitch suffered badly from a combination of the severe weather and our use of pitch covers for rather longer than was, we now realise, advisable. But now the renewal starts. First, the meadow grass, which spreads quickly but is less suitable for football than other grasses, will be removed. Then 40 tons of sand will be spread, and the pitch will be verti-drilled and reseeded. We expect the renovation to take about eight weeks, so the pitch should be ready for the pre-season games, which we expect will start on the second Saturday in July.

Talking of pre-season games, we have held back from arranging too many at this stage because the start dates for the Football League and the Conference are a week apart, and if we win promotion we may only have four Saturdays to choose from. At present we have agreed four games, two with non-League teams and two with Football League teams. Details will follow in the near future.

First, however, there is a promotion final to play. On the pitch, team preparations continue, with Monday and Tuesday training this week as usual, followed by a day off. On Thursday morning the team will have a light training session followed by lunch and will then travel to the team hotel, near Manchester.

On Friday morning the squad will train on the Eastlands pitch and familiarise themselves with the facilities at the City of Manchester Stadium. Just before noon there will be a press conference at the stadium, after which the team will return to their hotel to relax and prepare themselves for the game on Saturday.

An important part of the week will be spent going over scouting reports from Luton games. To supplement the usual scouts’ reports, Terry and Stuart went to both the play-off semi-finals themselves and will bring their personal insights to bear when preparing the team. Terry always talks about the squad being a family, and there is a tremendous sense of togetherness about it, with the players exuding a quiet but strong confidence that they will win back Football League status for Wimbledon.

We have been asked what time the team will return to London and where they will head for. This is still being finalised, and we will make an announcement as soon as we are certain of the arrangements.

Media interest is increasing as the game approaches. While the resolution of the relegation battles in the Premiership will no doubt occupy many pages of print next weekend, we’ve already been approached by various national newspapers and BBC News. No doubt the interest in the game will increase when people are reminded that Wimbledon and Luton met in very different circumstances 23 years ago. After last Wednesday’s game we recorded a series of interviews with our players, and these will appear on this website over the next few days, along with special features like this one.

The office is extraordinarily busy preparing for the game and speaking to the Conference admin staff several times a day. We have an excellent relationship with Luton Town, and club secretary David Charles is also in regular contact with his counterpart, Adam Cockfield, making sure that we exchange views on preparing for the game.

Every couple of hours during the working day we get updates on sales by SeeTickets. By 12.30 pm today, after taking into account the bundled coach and match tickets we are selling ourselves, Wimbledon fans accounted for sales of 5,262. We will announce updated sales figures every day this week. In the meantime, we understand from the Conference that we won't receive tickets for the game (i.e. the ones we have sold as part of a bundle with a coach place) until tomorrow, Tuesday.

Regarding travel, we quickly sold the 300 reduced price coach tickets, and any further coach bookings will cost £20. Earlier today we had a meeting with our coach provider to work out the logistics of getting fans on to the 24 (and the number is rising) coaches we expect to take. We are picking up at The Grove and Kingsmeadow as usual, but the number of coaches is likely to cause problems, not least because there is an athletics event scheduled for Kingsmeadow on Saturday.

We recently received a police plan which specifies the approach routes to the stadium for coaches from each club, and which pubs are designated as being for Wimbledon fans. We understand that fans who booked through SeeTickets will be sent an email later this week setting out the relevant details. At the same time we will publish key information on this website.

Something else we have been looking at closely is who to invite to the game. Initially we were told that each club would be allocated 20 of the 220 places in the board hospitality area, although this has since been increased to 30. There is also a hospitality area where Dave Bassett has agreed to talk to guests before the game. We have invited famous names from our past, and while we are still awaiting replies from some of them, we are delighted to say that Lawrie Sanchez will be there. We are also inviting former AFC Wimbledon players. After giving this some thought, we invited every player of the year as a way of getting a good cross-section of former players. So far, Matt Everard, Andy Little, Ben Judge and Jason Goodliffe have accepted their invitations, while we are awaiting replies from Lee Sidwell and Richard Butler, and we are still trying to track down Antony Howard. Sam Hatton and Danny Kedwell tell us they expect to be there anyway.

Watch for interviews with players and other features on this site as the week progresses.