Neal Ardley says he is under no illusions about the size of the task facing the Dons against Cheltenham tomorrow, but he hopes our supporters will lift the players.
Wimbledon face last season’s play-off finalists at the Cherry Red Records Stadium in Neal Ardley’s first match since he was appointed as our new first-team manager in midweek.
Neal Ardley does not have a full squad to choose from as Dale Bennett (back), Pim Balkestein (groin) and Mat Mitchel-King (back) are all still out injured. Stand-in captain Sammy Moore is also a doubt with an ankle problem, though Stacy Long has recovered from a foot injury and has trained for the last two days and Curtis Osano has got a full week of training under his belt.
It is an exciting match for the club as it marks the start of a new era at AFC Wimbledon and Neal Ardley is relishing the opportunity of being back with the Dons.
Speaking to Dons Player, the boss said: “It has all been a bit mad since Wednesday. I thoroughly enjoyed the press conference and meeting the fans. I am under no illusions about Saturday though. It will be a really tough game and hopefully the boys will step-up and will run on adrenaline after a great win last week. Hopefully, the fans will be able to give us a lift as well because we have a tough schedule of fixtures coming up. We want to try and get off to a great start, but it will be hard. First and foremost, we have talked about us being hard to beat and not conceding goals because that has been a problem. Eventually, I hope we will develop and give the players a bit of freedom to express themselves, to show what they are capable of.”
Of course, Neal Ardley has a special bond with our supporters from his days as a player with Wimbledon and the 40-year-old admits he still retains a bit of that Crazy Gang spirit that served the club so well.
“You cannot underestimate what we had back then,” Neal added. “Even though I have previously mentioned that the game has changed in the last 15-20 years and things have moved on, we had something really special back then. It gave a good grounding to the players who were brought up in that way. There were no airs and graces from any of us. I think that has stood a lot of people in good stead during their football careers and beyond.”
Cheltenham are once again shaping up as likely play-off contenders this season as they are currently sixth in League 2 after five matches without defeat. Manager Mark Yates is still without his captain Alan Bennett, who is serving the second of a three-match ban.
Visit Dons Player to view the full Neal Ardley interview with WDON commentator Rob Cornell asking the questions. Wednesday’s press conference is available in full for those who have yet to see it. Supporters are currently able to access our premium site for free for a two-week period up until 5 November.
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