Thursday 05 July 2012
A decade of AFC Wimbledon heroes: Andy Little
The official website has reintroduced our series of features on the heroes of AFC Wimbledon's 10 years as we build up to Saturday, August 4.
Goalkeeper Andy Little will be one of several AFC Wimbledon favourites to play in an exhibition match with our supporters, which takes place prior to Simon Bassey's testimonial against a West Ham XI. Now aged 37 and a goalkeeping coach for AFC Wimbledon's youngsters, Andy built up a reputation as a reliable stopper during Crawley's climb up the non league ladder, but he regards his time at the Dons as the best part of his career. Andy is still remembered for his crucial saves during our FA Trophy upset at Aldershot in 2006 and he, unsurprisingly, selects that as his favourite match during five years at the club.
Best moment at Wimbledon?
I would have to go for my return to Wimbledon with Woking in the FA Trophy. I only played about half of the games during both of the promotion seasons so the best moment for me was the reception that I received from the fans when I came back. Woking won 3-2, but it was the Wimbledon supporters that made it so special. They were singing a few of the old songs and I really enjoyed the day. The first two years that I had at the club were probably the best that I played in my whole career and in the next two seasons we got successive promotions, though they were disrupted by serious injuries for me. It was great to be involved in the success of a club that were moving from non league towards the Football League.
That has got to be Aldershot away when we beat them in the FA Trophy when Terry Brown was the manager. We were big underdogs as we were in the Ryman Premier and they were in the Conference at the time. We were expected to win every week in the Ryman League, but it was different against Aldershot and maybe that helped us. It was one of those days when we rode our luck a bit, but I made a few saves and it turned out to be a great win for us. It was sad that we went out of the FA Trophy due to the Jermaine Darlington affair, but I suppose that’s life and those things happen.
How did your move to Wimbledon come about?
I had been at Crawley for five years, but they were planning to go full-time and I was not keen on doing that. I was managing a gym, a job I still do now, and I would have been worse off if I went full-time so it made no sense for me. Dave Anderson called me up and told me how much he rated me, but he confessed at a later date that he had never even seen me play when he signed me! I had followed the Wimbledon story, I knew they had started again and were making good progress by getting up to the Ryman Premier. I had other offers, but I decided to join Wimbledon and I can look back and say that I chose the right option.
What was the key to AFC Wimbledon's success?
The club has never stood still with either its managers or players. When I joined, Dave Anderson was going into his second season and had got the club up to the Ryman Premier, but sadly for Dave he did not quite manage to get us up in the play-offs. That meant that Terry Brown came in with his own players and he has never been scared to make changes every season. The club’s board have always backed him and each year he has been able to get better players in. Terry brought in players of the calibre of Jason Goodliffe, Jake Leberl and Marcus Gayle after taking over and that impressed everyone. The next season after we got out of the Ryman Premier there was another influx of players and that has happened every year since.
Why were you so loved by the Dons fans?
I am not really sure, but maybe I just clicked with the Wimbledon fans. Wimbledon have a great history of goalkeepers going back to the days of Dickie Guy, followed by the likes of Dave Beasant, Hans Segers and even Neil Sullivan. AFC Wimbledon had never really had an established goalkeeper for a number of years before I came in and I was maybe the first one who played consistently in goal for a few seasons for them. Maybe that is why they took to me, but it could also be because I was always happy propping up the bar with a pint of Guinness in my hand!
Any regrets about your time at Wimbledon?
Not really. Injuries happen a lot in football and getting two serious injuries caused me to miss a lot of games during the promotion seasons. I dislocated my fingers and suffered an anterior cruciate knee ligament injury. There is not a lot you can do about those kinds of injuries though and I still had great times at Wimbledon.
What do you think of the current situation at AFC Wimbledon?
The club has achieved its goals in the last few seasons. Reaching the Football League in just nine years was brilliant and hopefully the club can build on staying up last season. Hopefully, they can really push for a play-off spot. There are a lot of clubs with more resources in League 2, but maybe Wimbledon can revel in being an underdog again. Terry has a great record and he is not afraid to change things, but hopefully we can also start bringing a few more of our own players through too.
What is your current football involvement?
I have retired from playing now after helping Woking win the Conference South. I am still involved at AFC Wimbledon though as I am Head of Goalkeeping Development at the club, which involves coaching the Under 8s through to Under 18s. I am looking forward to playing in Simon Bassey’s testimonial. I will be in goal as “Bass” does not want me to show him up by playing outfield!