Published on October 25, 2012 | by Ben Bailey0
A new era for the Dons
The new era at AFC Wimbledon began with a loss. Unsurprising, all things considered. New manager Neal Ardley’s first game in charge following Terry Brown’s sacking last month, with a 2-1 home defeat to Cheltenham last Saturday.
It would have been unrealistic and unfair to have expected an instant turnaround of fortunes for the struggling Dons. Ardley had only been appointed on Wednesday, so the loss must be kept in context. But Ardley has created some much needed positivity and hope around the club for the first time I can remember since the beginning of last season.
Maybe it is because he is what some fans were describing as “one of us” at Kingsmedow on Saturday. Wimbledon is a proud club with a history and tradition that is taken very seriously. We Wimbledon fans have a mentality (not unjustly I might add) that the football Gods are, and have always been, conspiring against us. Our successes and triumphs have always come in spite of obstacles that would derail many lesser teams.
Neal Ardley is well versed in his Wimbledon history having played for us from 1991 -2002. He “gets it”. Sentiment can be a dangerous thing in football, but one would expect the board have made the decision to appoint Ardley with other factors in mind. At his inaugural press conference Ardley’s youth team managerial experience was talked up heavily. With the budget available to us (one of the lowest in the football league) his familiarity with developing young players should prove a crucial asset to our survival.
His experience at playing at the highest level means his standards and expectations of the players will be high. He will expect nothing less than 100 per cent from the players and has already talked about improving our fitness. The previous regime under Terry Brown had been accused of complacency, naivety and an all-round lack of understanding about the differences between non-league and league football. Criticisms that previous results prove have some merit.
As to where and how far big Neal can actually take the club, I am uncertain. I am a pragmatic man and my hopes are realistic. Some who know me may disagree and say I am a pessimistic bastard, but I believe in managing expectations.
Ardley can only do so much with the limited resources available and with a squad that currently lacks both quality and spirit, I do not foresee any miracles. Survival this year is the logical objective and one that is attainable. The change of personal was one that had to made to move the club forward in order to establish ourselves as a proper football league side. I have faith that Ardley can accomplish this; he is after all, “one of us”.
From The Independent.
In the 1996-1997 season “90 minutes” magazine did an assist table which had Bergkamp top with 21, then Ardley 20, Cantona 19 and Juninho 17. It seems Neal Ardley has long been a man in esteemed company.