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Tuesday 22 May 2012
Matt Everard: our hero of Herne Bay on the golden days

Our fans chased his signature on a chat site called Weird and Wonderful, before then-AFC Wimbledon manager Terry Eames finally signed Matt Everard in February, 2003. Matt was certainly worth the wait as he combined defensive prowess with the goalscoring ability of a striker. A true hero of AFC Wimbledon's early rise, he played a key role in promotions from the Combined Counties Premier and the Ryman Division One South.

Best moment at Wimbledon?
Definitely Herne Bay away in the FA Vase (3-2 win). I scored in the 93rd minute and it was one of the first important goals that I scored for the club. Back in those days, I looked forward to the celebrations after matches as much as the 90 minutes itself. The training was not as stringent as it would be at the club now and we had players who could have played at a higher level, but they enjoyed themselves together after matches. That was as important as the football for us. It was the right people in the right place, at the right time. I remember going to Wilkie's Bar afterwards and then back to Kingsmeadow for a few drinks after the Herne Bay match.

Best match?
Chessington and Hook United away when we won 5-3. Both sides had two players sent off and even though I scored an own goal, it stands out as it was one of those dramatic games. We were 2-0 down and came back to win and it was important as we had gone 80-odd matches without defeat. We used to regularly get over 1,000 fans for away matches, more than the club do now, because all the games were within a 45-minute drive. It created a great atmosphere.

How did your move to Wimbledon come about?
It was more the supporters (chatting to fans on Weird and Wonderful site), than the management. It was not a case of tapping-up as any player at that time would have loved to play for AFC Wimbledon if they were asked to. It was lucky at the time that I had an office job and to get out of doing a little bit of work, I would go on that site and talk to supporters about the club. I was lucky to have played for the club at that time and help Wimbledon to two promotions.

What was the key to AFC Wimbledon's success?
We had better players than everyone else at that level. If you looked at our side back then, we had players who could have played a good deal higher. That was the reason why I got so many goals. I scored 10-15 goals elsewhere, but when I came to Wimbledon I was playing with better players. That meant more corners and free-kicks and I was lucky enough to get on the end of them. Kevin Cooper (AFC Wimbledon's record goalscorer) could have played in any side and got the same amount of goals.

Why did you have a special rapport with the Dons fans?
I think because I was basically the same as them. I wanted the club to do well as much as they did. We had a great team spirit and camaraderie. I could not wait for every Saturday to come around and I loved playing in front of such big crowds at Wimbledon.

Any regrets about your time at Wimbledon?
I have no regrets at all. I had three years there, but it was really two-and-a-half years because of my injury. I would not have swapped it for anything. The cruciate ligament injury that stopped me playing was not because of any one tackle or anything. It was just because non league players in those days would just play through the pain of any twinges or knocks and I had dodgy knees. Mike Rayner did as much as he could have done to get me back. You are always a bit blinkered about your own ability and it is hard to say if I could have played at a higher level. Terry Brown came in for me when he was at Aldershot so he obviously thought I was capable of playing at Conference South level. But I did not really have the aptitude for it. I was 30 years of age when Terry came in for me and I was having a great time at Wimbledon.

What is your involvement in football at the moment?
I was assistant manager at Ash United for a couple of years, but I stopped doing that the season before last and I do not play in veterans games any more. I work as a tiler now and have two children and I don't have the patience now for management with players who don't want to train. I still go and watch Ash United as it is on my doorstep. My mother and father-in-law still go to the home games at Wimbledon as they started going when I was playing. I was there at Manchester last May and I went to a couple of games last season so I still support the club.