In the Summer of 2011, Radio WDON undertook their biggest challenge yet - to bring supporters of AFC Wimbledon around the world, separated by historic events, their debut Npower League season from start to finish.
This is that story…kind of.
A shortened pre-season schedule, due to a brief Carling Cup appearance at old foes Crawley, commenced just under 50 days since the hoopla in Manchester. A Venezuelan keeper and Polish defender were among the trialists and added a touch of mystery to the suspense.
While the Dons preparations went unbeaten, fitness coach Jason Moriarty soon became aware of the commentators limitations though - when attempts to cut out one less sausage and rasher of bacon from around the corner at Fat Boys proved a step too far.
Further silverware was added at Bedfont Town in the form of the John Morris Memorial Trophy. Jack Turner the hero this time between the sticks for another penalty shoot-out, against a side managed by record goal scorer Kevin Cooper. Local bragging rights also went the Dons way as the Lanes Cup was claimed at Tooting.
A rogue pitch sprinkler going off during the Staines match paled into insignificance when it came to the unusual. That eclipsed by the unique conditions at Bedfont, a ground located directly at the end of one of Heathrow Airport’s runways. Plane spotting inevitably broke out with Jumbos leaving the proceedings below - forcibly punctuating commentary every 30 seconds.
Shortly before the much anticipated big kick-off against Bristol Rovers, sister channel afcwimbledon.tv gained access to the New Malden training compound with their producer’s shiny, new HD quality toy to smuggle out how preparations were coming along.
Welsh under-21 midfielder Reece Jones was on best behaviour giving a guided tour and the Dons successful first few months to league life could well have been down to a secret weapon - fitness mats swiped from skipper Jamie Stuart’s home. Hopefully the Mrs wasn’t too cross.
Daniel Mann had the camera thrust in front of him for a change, adding to his CV after commentating on AFC Wimbledon’s first Football League appearance on Sky Sports - what was still an immensely proud day for the club, despite a 3-2 defeat. The great (FA Cup winning-captain Dave Beasant) and the Gould were also present as WDON captured their reaction for the archives and posterity.
However, by the end of September mixing it in the big leagues seemed to be progressing well. Sure, we’d take a spanking or two (or three) along the way as Terry Brown had predicted as part of the learning process, but lofty heights were reached at an early stage and, more importantly, with significant points on the board.
Victories on the road came at Plymouth, Dagenham and Bradford. Port Vale and Cheltenham were dispatched at home where former England goalkeeper Ray Clemence caught sight of Seb Brown, having come to watch now Euro 2012 squad member Jack Butland.
New goal scoring hero Jack Midson told WDON he’d put aside his tennis coaching for now and struck up an effective new doubles partnership on the pitch with Christian Jolley up front. Wimbledon were back in the League and WDON was enjoying the ride.
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