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Sunday 07 August 2011
From the matchday programme

From time to time we reproduce articles from the programme that haven't been published elsewhere. The following is Erik Samuelson's page from the Bristol Rovers game on 6 August.

Good afternoon and welcome to the fans, officials and players of Bristol Rovers.

Isn’t this great? You all know the story; we don’t need to go into it again here. It’s enough to say that many of us thought we’d never get to where we are today – watching a Wimbledon side playing League football once again. The fact that we have is a testament to the hard work and determination of a huge number of Wimbledon fans, as well as the support our situation has brought us from dedicated football supporters everywhere.

Those sentences are taken (almost) verbatim from Kris Stewart’s programme notes for AFC Wimbledon’s very first home programme, when we played Chipstead in the Combined Counties League back in August 2002. I’ve quoted them for the simple reason that they seem as relevant now as they were then. Together we’ve achieved something very special by being here today, so whatever may be in store for us in the future, let’s enjoy that success today and every matchday this season.

It is a sign of what we’ve achieved over the past nine years that we have had almost non-stop attention from the media since we won the Blue Square Bet Premier playoff final last May. This attention culminates today with the visit of the Sky TV cameras for the live broadcast of this game. We shouldn’t be surprised by this coverage, because our progress from trials on Wimbledon Common to the City of Manchester Stadium is a good news story at a time when there are so many tales of financial meltdown and alleged impropriety in the world of football.

That’s all very nice, but we can’t relax or let our heads be turned just because we’ve regained the League place that we saw yanked away from us and up the motorway nine years ago. We now need to put even more energy into building a stadium more suited to League football than our present home can ever be. And, of course, into making sure that we thrive and continue to demonstrate ambition to progress as far up the football ladder as possible.

It is a while since I reported on our search for a new stadium. Just over two weeks ago, Ivor Heller and I together with our consultants, Colliers International, met Stephen Alambritis, the leader of Merton Council, along with Andrew Judge and Martin Whelton, the two councillors who will be at the heart of any regeneration project in the borough, plus members of the Merton team who have been working with us on the project.

Colliers presented the findings of their work. One site had previously been the front runner, but to make sure that we looked at all likely sites, Colliers widened the review to four possible sites for a new stadium. They evaluated the potential sites in more detail than before, including the financial viability of each site, as well as planning, transport and other key aspects of a regeneration project.

The meeting discussed Colliers’ findings and concluded that one site was not practical and the others need more detailed study. We will continue to refine the process, take soundings from other interested parties and narrow the target list down to one preferred site that has unanimous support.

The next phase of this work will take about three months, and we’ve agreed to meet Stephen and his fellow councillors again after that. To be clear, no project for a new stadium in Merton can succeed without support from the elected councillors – and I’m delighted to say that such support is very clearly in place.

I’ll finish by returning to Kris’s first programme notes. He said this: “Above all else, we’re here to enjoy ourselves. That’s my number one priority for this season. As well as winning the CCL, the Challenge Cup, The Cherry Red Books Trophy and the London Senior Cup.” The targets have been raised somewhat since nine years ago, but we are still as full of ambition now as we were then.

Enjoy the game.