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Wimbledon cannot afford to lose their League place

Club locked in relegation battle

icon afcwimb24 January ~ Wimbledon fans, who spent much of Wednesday clearing snow from the Kingsmeadow pitch, will be hoping that the players match that effort on it in tonight's televised clash with Port Vale. While Vale go into the match as league leaders, the Dons start the game in the relegation zone – one point and one place above bottom team Bristol Rovers. Despite a relatively promising start to the New Year, with seven points from three games, Wimbledon have managed a measly two wins at home all season.

Only one of those has come under rookie-manager Neal Ardley, against the aforementioned Rovers. Ardley knows that if Wimbledon are to continue as a League club next season, they will need to drastically improve on this record.

Having enjoyed a well-documented five promotions in nine seasons, relegation from the Football League would be a blow to the club. Wimbledon benefit immensely from their high profile at this level in terms of television coverage – this will be their third time on Sky since promotion to the League – and sponsorship deals, with new stand and shirt sponsors being unveiled tonight. Not only could untold damage be done to the club's short-term health but also its longer-term ambitions of returning to the borough of Merton, at a new ground on the site of the Greyhound Stadium in Plough Lane.

Following the sacking of Terry Brown, Ardley and assistant Neil Cox have gone some way to addressing Wimbledon's defensive frailties by recruiting former Scotland goalkeeper Neil Sullivan to add some much-needed organisational experience at the back. However, the team is still prone to giving away soft goals and with Port Vale having recently brought in Lee Hughes to partner the free-scoring Tom Pope in attack, it could be another testing night for Dons defenders and fans alike.

Wimbledon themselves have been far less potent in front of goal of late, with Jack Midson failing to recreate last season's goal-scoring exploits and record signing Byron Harrison spending as much time on the treatment table as on the pitch. West Ham loanee Paul McCallum has weighed in with four goals in the last three games and the extension of his loan may prove critical for survival.

Chris Hussey and Peter Sweeney have both joined from League One sides and Ardley is looking to bring in a couple more before deadline day. Not only would an unlikely win in front of the TV cameras lift the club out of the relegation zone but it might also help Ardley attract a few more players to the cause. Shane Simpson

On the subject...

Comment on 24-01-2013 13:05:08 by Arthur Nibble #754700
Byron Harrison's lucky to get where he has. Having had a disastrous trial with Southend, he suffered huge delusions of grandeur and went on strike at the Ryman League club whose books he was on, saying he wanted to play at a higher level. After several weeks of inaction, he moved to a team in the same division and then got signed by Stevenage the next season. Scant reward for the club Harrison reneged on.
Comment on 24-01-2013 16:52:23 by geobra #754859
When AFC Wimbledon were formed, would they have been delighted to be in the Conference National by season 2012-2013? I think so, and maybe surprised too. Would it really be so disastrous if, after taking five steps forward, they were to take one back? The tone of this article suggests to me that as a club they may be in danger of getting ahead of themselves. There are clubs in the Conference with than 120 years of history behind them who have never played in the Football League, but they survive.
Comment on 24-01-2013 22:45:18 by Bizarre Löw Triangle #754966
More fragile clubs than Wimbledon have been relegated before. They'll live.
Comment on 25-01-2013 08:57:49 by Paul S #755018
This is the sort of attitude that ncaused me to take a dislike to Wimbledon. They are no different to any other club, yet their fans have a holier than thou attitutde and seem to think they have a devine right to a place in the league. As BLT points out above, there are far more fragile clubs than Wimbledon - Barnet and Accrington for a start.

You never know - Wimbledon fans may enjoy being back in the conference!
Comment on 25-01-2013 09:58:09 by piggeh #755051
Paul S I think you have a grudge and seemingly wish to bring up your dislike at any opportunity. I can't see any part of the article that would suggest a "holier than thou" attitude, though I'm happy to be corrected.

Relegation would quite obviously affect a move to Plough Lane. The discussions have become much more positive over the years and especially now we are back in the football league. It will be more difficult to move to a new stadium playing in a lower league. It's pretty irrefutable.
Comment on 25-01-2013 10:09:01 by Paul S #755058
The big problem with moving back to Plough Lane is the greyhound stadium. There is a concerted effort being put into keeping greyhound racing at Wimbledon through the "We Want Wimbledon" campaign. The "WWW" campaign is for greyhound racing, stock car racing and the return of speedway. Why are AFC not part of this plan?
Comment on 26-01-2013 13:40:37 by Diable Rouge #755515
Yes, Wimbledon will still thrive in the Conference, yet perhaps the more pertinent question is whether the League can afford to lose them. With the Premier League already a lost cause in terms of footballing equity, and complaints about high ticket pricing stretching as far as Conference level (Alfreton), Wimbledon and Exeter are arguably the twin beacons of hope in terms of supporter activism. With foreign predation of club ownership increasingly pervasive amongst the 92 League members, the relegation of Wimbledon would prove indicative of the future direction of English football being set by MK Dons, Crawley and Fleetwood, to name but three regrettable examples.

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