In the run up to the Papa Johns Troiphy match tonight for AFC Wimbledon against Arsenal, its interesting to look back five years in time to see what was happening then
Not quite to the exact day, but certainly, there are only four days difference, when a then League Two AFC Wimbledon, were beaten 2-1 at home by Stevenage.
Nothing quite so strange about that on face value… But when you look at the league position for the club after that match, then there are similarities
Indeed, if you compare then and now, AFC Wimbledon were sitting 13th as opposed to their current position of 14th in the table.
Points wise, meanwhile, The Dons had 28, from 21 matches and the exact same goal difference to that of today, which stands at -1.
The match after that defeat was a 2-2 draw in Wales against Newport County. So while a draw this evening against Arsenal’s U21s is hopefully to be avoided, so that the club can take strides towards the last 16 of a cup competition and emulate the recent experience of the clubs Under 18s. When they travelled to Yorkshire to Play Rotherham in the final of the alliance league, winning the game in the last minute, with the last kick of the match… From the goalkeeper of all people
So while the present day stats, based on the defeat on Sunday, make grim reading, the history records showed that not much has changed and in fact overall that season five years ago, the club went on a run which ended with play off victory against Plymouth at Wembley to secure their place in League One.
A similar run this season would be welcomed by all
Is history about to repeat itself? Here is hoping so……
Less than a month after moving into their brand New Plough Lane Ground, AFC Wimbledon, created unwanted history on December 5.
Playing against Bristol Rovers, themselves under new management, with ironically ex MK Dons Manager Paul Tisdale at the helm and playing a variation of AFC Wimbledon’s favoured 3-5-2, In rovers case, they employ an attacking free roving midfielder, to the Dons holding midfielder
The Dons Took an early lead, through a slightly contentious penalty, which was duly converted by Joe Piggot, himself a man in form and clearly liking playing at the new stadium, because this was in fifth goal since the move back to the clubs borough.
But, this seemed to inspire The Gas, as they are affectionately known, becaue within 11 minutes they were on level terms and then ahead, shortly before the half hour mark, though Wimbledon managed to level the scores up, through Ben Heneghan, only to concede late in stoppage time in the first half
HT AFC WIMBLEDON 2 BRISTOL ROVERS 3
The second half started much the same way as the first half had finished.
Bristol Rovers, put Wimbledon under the cosh for long periods and for some reason, best known only to themselves, AFC Wimbledon, seemeed content to play admiration football, when Rovers were in possession, (admiration football is watching the other player with the ball, without pressing)
This subsequently led to Rovers scoring a fourth goal, in the 63 minute, which ultmately killed AFC Wimbledon off and led to them
Creating Unwanted History
A first league loss back at the new ground, conceding four goals in the process and dropping to 14th as a result.
It’s safe to say that it’s been a tough year for all football fans after the sport was paused for three months earlier in the year, and ever since the majority of grounds haven’t had a return to supporters. But spare a thought for Blackpool fans who spent five years divided over the ownership of their football club. No sooner had they returned against Southend in March 2019, and COVID-19 put paid to the first full season under new ownership earlier this year. After spending five years staying away from Bloomfield Road as part of a ‘Not a Penny More campaign’, Pool fans are now being forced to stay away due to the risk of COVID and instead forced to watch a new squad, under a new manager, via laptop at home. But there is still a feeling of excitement and optimism building – despite the fact the fans can’t show their support first-hand.
In June 2019, Blackpool-born businessman Simon Sadler bought a 96.2% share of Blackpool Football Club, much to the delight of Blackpool fans after many turbulent years of suffering through the Oyston ownership. The reign of the Oystons, which started in 1987, is commonly renowned for the Seasiders’ downfall from the Premier League down to League Two, in the space of four seasons. In what could only be described as one of the worst ownerships in football history, where the owners sued their own supporters, openly mocked others via text and gloated around the town with OY51OUT as his number plate, on the field the club suffered back-to-back relegations and failed to keep hold of its previously impressive squad, assembled by Ian Holloway. It caused much unrest and discontent throughout the fans, with the majority opting to stay away and refusing to give any more money to the owners. The Oystons were eventually forced to sell the club, after losing a high court case to Latvian businessman Valeri Belekon, a man who previously owned a share in the Tangerines and was found to be owed £32m in court.
Simon Sadler’s purchase was completed in June 2019, sparking scenes of jubilation across Blackpool and beyond, as fans looked forward to their long anticipated trip back to Bloomfield Road, with some having boycotted the stadium for upwards of four years. Sadler’s purchase allowed fans to feel like their club is finally in the correct hands, after so many years of division and unrest. Sadler proved to the supporters that he was the man to take the Seasiders forward from the start, by interacting, communicating and meeting the fans face to face, something Blackpool were not used to.
Sadler has not only brought financial stability to the club at the perfect time, but also security for the once suffering fans, in knowing that their club is safe and in the correct hands. The prospect of new ownership was, and still is, an extremely exciting one for Blackpool fans. In aid of pushing the Pool back towards the Championship Sadler has immediately made the Seasiders one of League One’s highest spenders in terms of outgoing transfer fees. In his first transfer window Sadler supplied newly appointed Simon Grayson with over £1m, a fee which was eclipsed this summer as the club brought in 17 new players to support the new manager Neil Critchley.
It’s not all been plain sailing so far – the return of Simon Grayson last summer was initially seen as a solid appointment, given he’d previously achieved four promotions from League One previously – including once with the Seasiders already in 2007. Unfortunately, Grayson’s return to Bloomfield Road mirrored his poor recent spells with Sunderland and Bradford City rather than the earlier success he’d seen. Grayson departed in February, having been considerably backed in the January transfer window, after a shocking run of just one win in 12 matches
By March, the new man was appointed in the shape of Liverpool under 21’s manager Neil Critchley. The then-41 year old was relatively unknown when appointed, having only managed at academy level with both Crewe Alexandra and Liverpool. But as one of only sixteen coaches worldwide to obtain UEFA’s elite coaching badge, he certainly has an impressive CV – though there were questions over whether he could do it at First Team level.
Just two games into his reign, the outbreak of COVID-19 curtailed the rest of the League One season. Rather than sitting and waiting to find out when football would resume, Sadler did not furlough his scouting team and work continued as the board and new manager looked to assemble a squad to compete at the top end of the table this season. That allowed the club to steal a march on its rivals with free agents at the start of the window, as Keshi Anderson, Marvin Ekpiteta, Oliver Sarkic and Ethan Robson all joined by early August. They were accompanied by Jerry Yates and CJ Hamilton for substantial fees in the current climate. Critchley cited the club’s ambitious, forward-thinking direction as one of the key factors that lured him into the managerial role.
There’s no doubt in saying that this isn’t an overnight process. Especially with an almost entirely new squad, that even today are still learning about each other’s strengths, weaknesses and attitudes. This has been reflected by the Seasiders’ bumpy start to the campaign, picking up just one win from their first seven league matches. But more recently, the new squad has started to find its feet and get to know each others’ games. Mistakes were made early in the season as the side looked bereft of cohesion and togetherness, but now they are improving each week in terms of performances and results. Those mistakes helped to shape the squad into a stronger unit as a team, and a force against any side in the division in recent weeks.
Ahead of Saturday’s trip to Fleetwood Town, the Pool have won eight of their last 10 games in all competitions, with the togetherness, unity and cooperation of the team playing a massive part in some impressive results – particularly against Peterborough and Portsmouth who are up at the top end of the table. Critchley’s fresh, exciting and attacking football that was talked about with the boss’ introduction has been evident, something that is an extremely exciting prospect for all Seasiders fans who have long dreamed of such a reality.
The main thing for now is that the fans have the club back. Sadler certainly came to the aid of broken Blackpool supporters after times of such misery and despair under the previous regime. It was a very dark period in the club’s history, and simply by walking through the door, the club was already in a far better place. But not only that, Blackpool have been able to really build on the feel-good factor by showing ambition already both on and off the field. The final piece to the jigsaw is for fans to return and show the appreciation to the new group of players first-hand. This was possible once this season after the Seasiders were involved in a pilot event at the start of the season, allowing 1,000 fans into Bloomfield Road against Swindon Town, and hopefully in the coming weeks this will be able to be built on.
These fans have never stopped fighting for what they believe in, and Sadler – who is one of them himself – has shown just how committed he is to the cause, and how much this town, and football club mean to him. It’s clear to see that Sadler certainly bleeds tangerine, and has allowed the fans to feel at home again at Bloomfield Road – restrictions permitting. With an exciting brand of football in the pipeline and off-the field developments starting to gain momentum, Sadler is rebuilding and galvanising a the football club which has a proud history. Together, the owner, board, players and staff – as well as the fans – are all striving to work together and get this great football club back to where it belongs. The future is bright, the future is tangerine!
March 9, 2020 was the last game that involved fans watching their team live. The match was Leicester City vs Aston Villa and resulted in a 4-0 victory for The Foxes.
Who would have thought though that it would have taken until December to see fans to witness competitive sports in some of the lands most famous stadiums again?
Well, if you’re a supporter of a team living in COVID-19 Tier One or Two areas some fans will be able to watch their side live for the first time in almost nine months. This means 51 of the 104 clubs across the Premier League, EFL and Women’s Super League able to host a maximum of 2,000 supporters.
Which teams can have fans in stadiums again?
This means good news for Premier League’s London clubs: Tottenham, Chelsea, West Ham, Crystal Palace, Arsenal and Fulham. While also on the list are South Coast clubs Southampton and Brighton as well as the Premier League Champions Liverpool and their rivals Everton.
The other ten sides in the top flight, however, will have to wait to welcome back supporters. Being in Tier three areas such as Manchester and Yorkshire they will continue to play games behind closed doors. This means: Manchester United, Manchester City, Burnley, Sheffield United, Leeds United and Newcastle United . While midlands clubs Leicester City, Aston Villa, Wolverhampton and West Brom will also have to play games without their fans.
In addition, away fans from tier three areas will be unable to travel to games in tier two stadiums.
Indeed, on Thursday Arsenal will have the honour of being the first English team to play a competitive match, a Europa League tie against Austrian side Rapid Vienna. Being in a Tier 2 area, the Gunners will be able to play in front of 2,000 of their own supporters for the first time in nearly nine months.
Unsurprisingly, however, the 2,000 tickets were sold out within 20 minutes of going on sale. The first Premier League games, meanwhile, to take place in front of fans are set to be West Ham United’s encounter with Manchester United and Chelsea’s home game with Leeds United.
Will allowing supporters in certain grounds be fair?
The awkward question remains. Will having supporters back in certain grounds affect the outcome of the match?
Crystal Palace Manager and former England Coach, Roy Hodgson said:
“It will make a bit of a difference at Selhurst Park than it will do at some other stadiums, where the capacity is so much higher.
“But I don’t think it is a question really of what difference the fans are going to make, I think it is more of how nice it is going to be for those fans who are selected to be one of those who gets a ticket to see a match live again.”
While Fulham boss Scott Parker said:
“It’s a breath of fresh air, it’s what we all want. It’s what the fans want and what we want as a team.”
Understandably not everyone is in agreement. Leeds United Manager Marcelo Bielsa, whose side falls into the category of a tier three area, meaning supporters will have to wait a little longer to see their side live, said:
“It shouldn’t be about the category, or the consequences of being in a category, it should be about trying to maintain the competition as equal as possible with things that are controllable.
“I am just looking at common sense, which perhaps doesn’t go. The presence of fans has an effect on the results.”
Boton Wanders boss Ian Evatt, whose side play in League One and will also have to continue playing without the support of fans in stadiums, said:
“Without getting into a big political debate I just cannot believe the way (it has gone). For me, we’re a country and we should all be together, regardless. It should be one for all and all for one.”
What do you think?
It must come, therefore, as no surprise to see the football world split down the middle following this government announcement. There certainly is a compelling case for both arguments, on the one hand watching football without fans in the stadiums is not the same as stated by former Manchester United Manager, Sir Matt Busby.
Busby was once famously quoted as saying:
“Football is nothing without fans.”
There is, however, the legitimate question of fairness and equal competition when it comes to competitive sport. How do you create a level playing field?
Personally, however, I can’t wait to see to see fans bring the atmosphere and magic back to the sport again, no matter whom they support!
Feel free to share your views in the comments below.
Following the game against Doncaster Rovers, a number of the first team squad, returned positive tests.
As a result of this the weekends FA Cup first round tie at Barrow was postponed, to allow the affected players time to self isolate and recover.
24 Hours after this news was announced, the club then implemented a 14 day Fire Breaker, and everyone at AFC Wimbledon, is now isolating as a precaution
What this means is that the clubs next home game at Wigan, has also been postponed, till the results are known.
It isn’t known how the players contracted the virus, though in the games previously to being back at Plough Lane, the club were playing fixtures in the North, which as is known at this time, is where the majority of the worst cases are.
How Does This Affect The FA CUP for Wimbledon
Because this is a different competition to the EFL and as it was the the first round, it means that the club will treat the game as if were a replay and it will take place on a later date
So Both Barrow and AFC Wimbledon will be in the draw taking place tonight on BBC2, with them both having the Number 30 ball.
AFC Wimbledon’s next scheduled league game, ironically, is back in the north against Rochdale at the Crown Oil Arena. At this time the game is planned to go ahead