Supporters welcome to attend free event on Saturday
Paddy Sweeney's farewell party takes place this Saturday and supporters are welcome to turn up on the night to provide an extra special send-off for Wimbledon's long-serving Bar Manager.
The free event (doors open at 7.30 pm) will feature one of Paddy's favourite bands Bad Influence performing at the Cherry Red Records Stadium.
Dublin-born Paddy, who has worked for AFC Wimbledon since 2003 and spent three years with Kingstonian before that, has decided to finally retire at the age of 68.
During a working life that has included spells as Bar Manager at the University of Hertfordshire, Kingston University and here, Paddy’s passion for music has involved watching bands and organising gigs over the years. He recalls watching The Police perform live in the late 1970s and just five years ago he organised a gig that involved Bad Influence playing at Kingsmeadow Live.
“The most enjoyable part of the whole experience for me over the years has been the music because that is my first love,” said Paddy. “When I was working at the universities there was music on and I remember a gig at Hertfordshire University when The Police were a rising band – it was phenomenal. Here, of course, we have had Kingsmeadow Live and that has been a real shot in the arm.
“I organised a gig here for Bad Influence in 2008 and we had a lot of AFC Wimbledon supporters here because they are a local band. It was one of the best gigs that I ever put on. I used to organise gigs for Kingstonian and we had Wee Willie Harris along back in 2002. Bad Influence are an absolutely brilliant band, especially for those who like guitar-based rock music. They have played previously with Paul McCartney and Fleetwood Mac.
“One of the most pleasing parts of the job has also been seeing the fans here on matchdays. When I worked at university there would be 500 or 600 students at a gig, but to be bar manager here with over 4,500 supporters at some games means it has certainly not been boring.”
One of Paddy's fond memories was when the AFC Wimbledon squad arrived back at the club after their Premier Challenge Cup win that completed a Combined Counties League double in April, 2004.
“There were so many people back at the club to celebrate the win and Trevor Williams said that all the players could have any drink that they wanted from the bar,” Paddy added. “Danny Oakins came over and asked if he could have a bottle of Champagne and I was a bit taken aback as you don’t often get someone taking liberties like that! Danny was a nice guy though and I asked Trevor if that was OK and he said it was fine.
“A lot of people were sorry to hear that I was leaving when I told them, but I said that I was going to give it one more season last year. I have had great times and I could not have asked for a more exciting time in the world of football. Before I came here I never knew anything about football, but seeing so many fans here on matchdays has been a highlight and winning promotion to the Football League at Manchester was wonderful. When I think of the friends that I have made here I will have to come along and say ‘hello’ by coming to a few of the games.”
Though Paddy, who lives in Chessington, recalls the music events he has been involved in as stand-out moments, the club getting an award for the standard of its bar service is a real source of pride.
“One of the highlights was getting an award last year during the year of the Olympics,” Paddy said. “We were awarded the Gold Award for the quality of the bars and our cellars. This was attributed to myself and the bar staff by Carlsberg after a thorough inspection. It was for the quality of the beers and the products. It was the best award we could get for telling the customers that they would get a good pint here.”