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Sunday 19 June 2011
What's happening at Kingsmeadow - number 5

After a weekend containing two league AGMs in close succession and our farewell to the Football Conference, we can now concentrate again on preparations for the Football League.

First, we must say a little more about Danny Kedwell’s transfer request. Danny submitted a written request immediately after returning from Las Vegas and the day before he set off for another holiday, this time in Florida. Following this there were several conversations and we thought he had agreed to withdraw his request. However, it subsequently became clear that he wanted to leave, and we reluctantly agreed.

At the moment we aren’t going to comment on where we have got to with transfer negotiations, except to say that several clubs have expressed a serious interest. We know that fans want to know more about what is happening, but our job is to make sure we get the best deal we can, and sometimes that means not making everything public. As soon as there is a clear decision we will announce it on this site.

Turning to players coming into the club, last Friday we announced our second new recruit, Jack Midson. Terry Brown tried to sign Jack two years ago but lost out to Oxford United, who could offer him full-time football – something we couldn’t do back then. We have kept an eye on Jack, and now that we too are full time, and with the added attraction of being in the Football League, Terry was delighted when Jack agreed terms nearly two weeks ago. The signing couldn’t be completed immediately for a number of reasons, one of which was that Jack needed to pass Mike Rayner’s medical tests, and this couldn’t be arranged until Friday.

It is worth mentioning that Terry always planned to sign Jack – he has not been signed as a replacement for Danny Kedwell. So if Danny does leave the club, we will be seeking another striker.

One other reason why we’ve taken a while to make signings is that all our players have to sign a Football League contract, which differs substantially from the ones we’ve used in the past. We have some specific wording that we prefer to use for some contract terms, such as options, and we wanted to get assurance from the League that this wording was acceptable. Now that we’ve got that, we can go ahead and complete the formalities for players who were already retained under their option clause. As a result, Ricky Wellard and Brendan Kiernan signed up on Friday, with Jamie Stuart having done so a little while before that. We have a schedule of signings for the coming week, and Terry is sufficiently relaxed about it to take a well-earned family break for a week – although we expect he’ll be phoning in regularly for updates and to track progress in his search for a centre-back and a striker.

Our schedule of pre-season friendlies has been disrupted by the unexpected requirement for us to play a preliminary round in the Carling Cup, and also by one of our League opponents pulling out of a game on 16 July. In addition, our plans for the first game on 9 July have been frustrated by unforeseen events, so over the last few days we’ve been revising our plans.

In the light of these changes we have arranged and confirmed several games. In particular, we are now playing some local rivals away on Tuesday 12 July (details are to be announced on Monday), and we are close to arranging a game against League opposition for Saturday 16 July. Some time ago we agreed a friendly against Bedfont Town for Thursday 21 July to mark the opening of a stand named after John Morris, who was our much-loved reserve team manager for several years. The game was agreed some time ago, and since then Bedfont Town have appointed widely-travelled Dons favourite Kevin Cooper as their manager, which will add some extra interest to the game. Sandwiched between those games is a Tuesday night fixture at Beckenham Town.

On Saturday 23 July we play Watford’s first team at Kingsmeadow. With the game against Crawley bringing our previously planned pre-season schedule to a premature end, we’ve inserted a game at Tooting & Mitcham on Tuesday 26 July. These games will appear on the club’s fixture list very soon. We hope to make an announcement about 9 and 16 July very shortly.

Amidst all these developments, plans continue for the 2011/12 season. We continue to respond to the wide range of Football League requirements. Last week Ivor Heller and Keith McGuinness went to the FL offices in London with their counterparts from Crawley for a presentation about the League’s commercial partners and the resulting opportunities for us. Other members of the club will soon be spending a day at the FL offices in Preston to be briefed about how each area operates and how we will communicate with them.

Meanwhile, Nigel Higgs and his youth development team are working hard on proposals for achieving Centre of Excellence status, which would bring with it better protection for our young players and some funding. This too has involved meetings with FL representatives, who have been very supportive and helpful. When these plans are finalised, Nigel will make a full announcement of the changes and the exciting future for youth football at AFC Wimbledon. Linked to this is a decision to strengthen the reserves, under Marcus Gayle – more about that at another time.

All the above issues were discussed at a Dons Trust board meeting last Thursday at which the playing budget was also discussed. While our budget is one of the lower ones in League Two, it is nonetheless a substantial increase over last season’s. Terry is confident that the continuity within his young squad, strengthened by a small number of new recruits, will make us competitive in our first season in the Football League.

On Saturday, the club and Trust were well represented at Wimbledon Village Fair, opened by Ivor Heller, Seb Brown and Haydon the Womble, all very professionally orchestrated by TV presenter and commentator John Inverdale. The Fair saw the launch of new merchandise, particularly an ‘It only took nine years’ T-shirt and another commemorating famous penalty saves over the years. The Trust ran various activities including an outing for the speed gun that measures shot speed. And Haydon opened the ceremonies with a courageous (some might say slightly foolhardy) leap from the stage!

Fans are keen to hear about when we can release a DVD of the play-off final. Premier Sports TV have been very helpful with this but unfortunately the first DVDs they provided weren’t suitable, so there has been a delay. We now have the right material and work is underway. Watch the club’s official web site for more details.

Turning to developments within the stadium, Monday sees various meetings. First there is a meeting to review progress on what is generally called “the control room project”, although its scope is wider than that, as previously explained, since it also embraces new barriers for the John Smith’s Stand, a new entrance from the access road and various other improvements, including larger dugouts.

That meeting will be followed by one with Kingston police to ensure that we liaise effectively over the use of our new CCTV capability, and then a meeting with Kingston Council’s safety consultant and the Football Licensing Authority about our proposed new status as a designated stadium.

On Monday night, Erik and Eileen Samuelson and Kris Stewart are attending the Combined Counties League’s awards evening, which precedes their AGM. We were delighted to be invited to attend the evening, where Kris will be presented with a memento to commemorate our time in the league. It is just over nine years since Kris appeared before the CCL committee to argue the case for our acceptance into that league, and so he is the right man to receive the presentation. In another of the many intertwined links in football, the CCL is, of course, sponsored by Dons Trust board member Iain McNay’s company, Cherry Red Records.

On Wednesday we meet representatives of the Football Stadia Improvement Fund to discuss our application for a grant towards the cost of the control room project, followed by a meeting with our bankers as we prepare to draw down on our facility to help to fund that project.

Finally, the deadline for buying a season ticket at last season’s prices has passed. We are still catching up with processing, and no seat reallocations have yet been processed. Our current best estimate is that season tickets sales are about 2,600 – a record for the club.