Radio WDON has started its 13th season, so good luck and... Let’s talk Dons, mate

Just a mate on the mic (left to right): Rob Cornell and Geoff Hawley share banter during Dons 2-2 draw with Shrewsbury Town on Saturday 				              SP81999

Just a mate on the mic (left to right): Rob Cornell and Geoff Hawley share banter during Dons 2-2 draw with Shrewsbury Town on Saturday SP81999

First published in Sport
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Wimbledon Guardian: Photograph of the Author by , Sports editor

The London Senior Cup tie against Brimsdown Rovers on a chilly September night in 2002 boasted six goals and a penalty shoot out victory for the fledgling AFC Wimbledon side.

While the match is just another in the growing book of Dons statistics, it is more significant for reasons away from the pitch.

For the first time, fans Marc Jones, Chris Phillips and Matt Couper took to the air as Radio WDON – the AFC Wimbledon internet service.

And while the voices have changed over the years, WDON has been there through the highs and lows for 12 seasons, and it shows no sign of stopping yet.

The current incumbents – Mike Taliadoros, Geoff Hawley and Rob Cornell – have a chemistry borne out of a love for Dons and a shared sense of humour.

Taliadoros, who joined the original trio in their second ever broadcast just a few days after the Brimsdown experiment, said: “We love doing the commentary, it is a privilege to be able to broadcast to Dons fans dotted all over the world.

“I got roped in by Chris because we shared the same kind of Alan Partridge style humour, and I’ve been involved ever since.

“I’d done some media work before, but I’d never been on the radio until Chris asked me.”

Cornell also has a background in the media having run the sports desk at the Esher News & Mail, and he joined the WDON team in 2010.

“WDON is very much in the mould of Test Match Special, we have cakes and go off on a tangent, rattle on about stats and tell our Dons stories,” he said.

“To the exiled fans, we feel as if we are all in the room together, that you’re mates and you can talk together about the game.

“It’s good fun, and totally different to what I’d done in the past.”

He added: “It’s changed me as a person – it’s made me lighten up and enjoy sport and football a lot more as well.”

Wimbledon Guardian:

The early days (from left to right): Mike Taliadoros, Marc Jones, Barry James and Chris Phillips          Picture: Dave McKnight

Getting on the air is one thing, but staying on is another and the responsibility for making sure broadcasts do not drop lies partly at the feet of Hawley – much to his occasional frustration.

“I got involved about a month after the start in 2002, but drifted away only to start again in 2008,” he said.

“Now we’re in the Football League we’re allocated an ISDN line and you can plug in your £3,000 worth of tricks, but in the beginning it was a mobile phone connected to mixers, and I would butcher blue tooth earpieces to make more connections.

“It was surprising it held together at times and you try to do the best you can.

“So when you get feedback saying ‘What’s going on, what’s the point’ – I’m sorry there’s only so much I can do.”

He added: “At the end of the day, we’re fans. We’re not professional broadcasters, we do it for the fun of it.”

Radio WDON began its 13th season last weekend with the visit of Shrewsbury Town, and none of the trio can see an end.

Hawley said: “If it ends it probably won’t be at our hands, I don’t think we have put anyone’s nose out of joint – and we bring revenue in for the club with the subscription.”

Taliadoros said: “It will only end for me when they prise the microphone out of my cold, dead hand.”

Your best moment behind the mic?

Wimbledon Guardian:

Cue pandemonium: Danny Kedwell buries the decisive kick to propel Dons into the Football League in 2011           SP58231

When asked for their best moment behind the mic, all three were unanimous in their choice – Eastlands, May 21, 2011, Conference Premier play-off final.

Taliadoros said: “It was just the occasion, what it meant to the club and the sheer emotion of it all.

“Moments like that live with you.”

The broadcasters were housed in the Luton Town end, but that did not stop raucous celebrations when Danny Kedwall buried the decisive penalty.

Cornell said: “I have been reminded about this over the years, everyone was shrieking and shouting and there’s me saying ‘They’ve done it, they’ve done it’ in a high-pitched voice. That was a great moment.”

Hawley added: “Going to a big Premier League ground, we were not quite like kids in a sweet shop, but we felt like we were mixing it with the big boys and were quite wide eyed.

“We even got fed and got bottles of water.”

 

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