The men who created a glorious history
Wimbledon’s history has been decorated with cup success and remarkable rises. Each time it has been inspired by one individual: the manager. Here we look back at five of the best:
1, ALLEN BATSFORD
(July 1974 to January 1978)
P: 231, W:131, D: 51, L: 49, win %: 56.7
After winning the Amateur Cup with Walton & Hersham, Batsford couldn’t have picked a bigger challenge than the Wimbledon manager’s job in 1974. Inheriting just seven players, he brought five of his Walton charges with him and moulded them into a side that won three successive Southern League championships. He also guided the club to a memorable 1-0 victory over top flight Burnley – the first time a non-league side had completed that feat in 55 years.
In the next round his side took Leeds United (the dominant team of that era) to an FA Cup fourth Round replay at a packed Selhurst Park where only a deflected own goal by Dave Bassett separated the sides.
When the Dons were elected into the Football League in 1977, the club infrastructure was hopelessly inadequate – typified by a Boxing Day game away to Rochdale where the players had to travel in their own cars – and frustrated by this, his tenure was over by January. He moved on to Wealdstone, with assistant Brian Hall and laid the foundations for the Stones’ Conference/FA Trophy double in 1985. Always involved in football whilst his health would allow, Allen was happily welcomed back into the fold with AFC Wimbledon after a benefit dinner organised by his adoring supporters in 2001. Batsford worked his players hard and often and his planning and preparation were meticulous.
Allen Batsford was a popular visitor to Kingsmeadow, offering his sage advice and guidance, before sadly passing away on 28 December 2010 at the age of 77.
(August 1955 to April 1971)
P: 869, W: 468, D:156, L: 235, Win %: 53.9
Henley was Wimbledon’s first coach of the modern era. A former wartime wing-half with Arsenal, he played 181 games for Reading before a spell managing Irish club Bohemians. Although Wimbledon were technically still an amateur side, Henley’s professional outlook was massively influential in an era when club benefactor Sydney Black transformed the club into a powerful force. Four Isthmian League titles were won in six seasons between 1959 and 1964, but the jewel in the crown came in 1963 when the Dons defeated Sutton United 4-2 to lift the Amateur Cup at Wembley Stadium.
There was an irresistible (though not universal) desire for a fresh challenge though and Wimbledon joined the professional ranks of the Southern League in the summer of 1964, winning an immediate promotion to the Premier Division at the first attempt. That title would elude Henley’s side – still with many of the Isthmian League side who’d remained loyal to him – but they did win the Southern League Cup in 1970. Yet at the end of the following season, his 16-year tenure was ended as the club sought to move forward once more – this time with a younger player/manager in Mike Everitt, ironically another ex-Highbury man and Henley was awarded the proceeds of a testimonial game against Oxford United.
TERRY BROWN (pictured above)3,
(15 May 2007 to 19 September 2012)
P: 306, W: 151, D: 56, L:99, Win %: 49.34
A useful striker as a player, it was success (and longevity in a profession not normally noted for it!) as a manager at each of his three clubs thus far that have established Terry Brown’s noteworthy reputation.
Nine years at Hayes between 1993 and 2002 saw him take the Missioners from the Ryman League to third in the Conference, before he beat 50 other applicants to land the Aldershot Town job. He repeated the journey with the Shots and was only two penalty shootouts away from returning them to the Football League during five years at the Recreation Ground.
When AFC Wimbledon looked for a replacement for Dave Anderson, Brown was an almost universal choice and piloted the Dons out of the Ryman League at the first attempt in a dramatic play-off final at Staines. The Blue Square South title followed and after an eighth place in their first season in Conference National, 2011 saw his penalty shootout hoodoo lifted when Danny Kedwell’s decisive spot kick completed their meteoric rise back to the Football League.
(31 January 1981 to 17 June 1987)
P: 303, W: 144, D: 74, L: 85, Win % 47.5
An Amateur Cup winner with Walton & Hersham as a player, he was manager Allen Batsford’s on-pitch lieutenant and midfield enforcer as the pair won triple Southern League championships together and took mighty Leeds United to an FA Cup replay that propelled the Dons into the Football League.
As his playing career drew to a close, he learned his trade as Dario Gradi’s number two before being appointed Wimbledon manager in January 1981. Save for a 72-hour sojourn at Crystal Palace in 1984 and a relegation in his first full season in charge, Bassett – with a team fashioned largely from youth products and cast-offs – took the unfancied Dons from the Fourth Division to the top flight and then finished sixth in his first season at the summit. He went on to manage Watford, Sheffield United, Crystal Palace, Barnsley and Leicester City, before spells as a media pundit. He has been a regular visitor to Kingsmeadow and helped with the recruitment process of AFC Wimbledon manager Neal Ardley.
5, BOBBY GOULD
(26 June 1987 to 18 June 1990)
P: 140, W: 57, D:43, L:42, Win%: 40.1
Bobby Gould first made his mark against Wimbledon on 17 November 1969; the then 23-year-old scored twice as Arsenal beat the Dons 2-1 in the final of the London Challenge Cup at Plough Lane. The Coventry born striker’s playing career spanned 16 years, taking in the likes of Arsenal, Wolves, West Ham, Bristol City, Bristol Rovers and Hereford as well as his home town club Coventry City.
Gould’s managerial career began with a brief stint as a caretaker manager of Chelsea. He then had two spells in charge of Bristol Rovers and one at Coventry, before he took over at Wimbledon. The Dons had just finished sixth in the first season in the top flight, an achievement that persuaded Watford to move in for the then Dons manager Dave Bassett. Following him out of Plough Lane in the summer of 1987 were the likes of John Kay, Kevin Gage, Mark Morris, Glyn Hodges and Nigel Winterburn.
minute header from Lawrie Sanchez completed a remarkable fairy tale and secured a 1-0 win over hot favourites Liverpool.thGould was faced with a massive re-building job. In came Terry Phelan, John Scales, Eric Young and Clive Goodyear – all cheap buys from lower league clubs. The first three would all go on to play international football. But his most important signing was Don Howe. The former England coach was persuaded to help Gould and the transformation was complete. With Howe’s insight, Gould guided the Dons to the 1988 FA Cup final, where a penalty save from Dave Beasant and a 36
in 1988/89 thUnder Gould the Dons finished 12and eighth the following season. But he remained at loggerheads with the club’s owners and when in the summer of 1990 he refused to extend his contract beyond December the dye was cast and he left. His assistant Ray Harford took over. Gould went on to manage the likes of West Bromwich Albion, Coventry City and Cardiff – and most notably Wales from 1995 to 1999.