Club physio departs with great memories
Mike Rayner’s contribution to AFC Wimbledon was invaluable during almost nine years at the club and we today publish the article about our long-serving physio that appeared in the Fleetwood programme.
If you missed it, Mike talks about the early days when Dave Anderson brought him to the club, those marathon cycle rides for club funds, and playing a crucial role in turning the Dons into a more professional outfit.
Dons Player subscribers can now watch a video interview with Mike, which was conducted at the training ground on his final contracted day at the club last week.
Below is the full article that appeared in the Fleetwood programme:
Mike Rayner has always strived to go the extra mile in his role as club physio and his dedication to the cause is perhaps best summed up by those gruelling cycling rides at home and abroad.
Mike says that his decision to step down from his long-serving duties at AFC Wimbledon – and indeed football – has been a tough one, particularly after such a memorable and fulfilling nine years.
For such a keen cyclist, those long pursuits to Gateshead and up to Mount Ventoux have provided an enjoyable release away from the “fast and furious pace” of filling such a demanding role at a football club.
However, they also increased professionalism at the club in his field with funds raised for new heart rate monitors and gym equipment.
Since the days when Mike first joined Wimbledon in 2004, he has made a big contribution towards AFC Wimbledon’s rise through the leagues – and not just by getting so many key players ready for big promotion battles.
It all started when then Wimbledon manager Dave Anderson threw him into the deep end before a pre-season match at Banstead Athletic in July, 2004.
“Dave told me he had a couple of players for me to look at and it turned out to be seven in total and they all had new injuries,” Mike recalled. “It was welcome to Wimbledon so I thought. That certainly does not seem like nine years ago. Those days with Dave were a lot of fun, but he was also working hard to instil professionalism into the players. Though they were good players we had to work hard on that side of things. Though Dave was very professional, he always made sure there was a good bond between the players and encouraged the social side of things. I think the camaraderie we had showed with the results we got on the pitch.
“When I first came here we had just two club doctors who did a fantastic job. Now we have four club doctors, St Johns Ambulance staff and a paramedic pitch side. We therefore have a lot more people to help out with situations that could occur.
“We have also come such a long way in terms of facilities since we had to set-up in a cold treatment room at Tolworth. In those days I used to drive down in my car from Kings Cross to Tolworth, where we trained in those days, with rehabilitation equipment, loads of tape and massage boards in the boot of my car,” Mike added. “I then used to set-up at the training ground basically operated a mobile physio unit from my car. I am proud to say that I have helped the club raise funds for heart rate monitors and new equipment at the club gym in New Malden. We have made great strides in terms of becoming more professional. I think I can hold my head up high in terms of what has been achieved at the club.”
Behind the scenes, Mike has nursed so many of Wimbledon’s best players back to full fitness and helped them play crucial roles over the years. But what are the memories that stand out during the last nine years for Mike?
“The club’s promotions for obvious reasons and those games have a lot of medical memories for me,” Mike added. “Against Fleetwood in the Conference play-off semi-final I was had to deal with Gareth Gwillim’s hip injury and that eventually forced him off in the final. There was Jon Main’s metatarsal injury when we were in the Ryman Premier and trying to get promotion to the Conference South. We knew that we had a limited time to get him back before the end of the season, but it was a real pleasure when we got him back for the AFC Hornchurch game. Jon worked so hard and he got his just rewards, it was a great goal too as he ran with the ball from the halfway line to score in the semi-final match and I was chuffed for him.
“When Terry Brown came to Wimbledon he brought his own type of player in, they were real men who knew who to win games. With Marcus Gayle and Jason Goodliffe I used to joke that they had ‘Old Man’s Syndrome’. There was a lot of time spent in the treatment room when you had those two in the same team! They were as good as gold though and they worked their socks off to get fit. Sometimes we would be working on ‘Gayley’ an hour before the game just to get him on the field. Everyone worked together though and the results we got showed that. Terry was a very good man-manager with that group of players.”
Mike admits he will miss working in football, but he believes that now is the time to leave Wimbledon.
“I have got strong interest from a clinic in Guildford and Godalming and I am looking to go back into private practice there. If the club ever needs any help or second opinions I would jump at the chance again. “I have put my heart and soul into the role, but it is time now for me to look after my family in the next few years,” he said.
“It has been my own decision and I caught everyone off guard really. I went in to see Erik Samuelson to hand in my notice and all the management team and club directors were in that evening. I think everyone was a bit shocked I had done it, but people seemed to understand my reasons. I knew in my head that it was the right decision, but I did it with a heavy heart and it has been tough to go through with it. Working in football is fast and furious and I have loved it. However, it also involves long trips around the country and long hours. I want to spend more time with my family and see my kids Oralie and Neve grow up.”
Those cycling fundraising missions also provided fond memories with fans, players and volunteers all getting involved in an effort that encapsulated what AFC Wimbledon is all about.
Mike said: “The Velo and Blue events started about four years ago and I must thank Russell smith for inviting me on the first one. It was a 24-hour event around Dunsfold test track (top gear testing area). We raised the funds for charity and the Dons Trust. The next year we organised the ride to Gateshead to raise the money for heart rate monitors for our first professional season. This was Robin 'rocket' Bedford's first trip and he has been hooked on cycling ever since!
Another event saw us raise funds for the disabled access viewing at Kingsmeadow with a three-day cycle to Paris. There were 10 of us on this ride, including Marcus Gayle, who found out that he didn't like the hills!
“Last year was the toughest and most ambitious event. A team of 10 cycled up Mount Ventoux France, in a day. We raised funds for The Anthony Nolan trust (a charity which helped Terry Brown's wife Susan with leukemia) and we also raised a substantial amount for better equipment for the club gym. I must thank all the riders and helpers who took part in these events. We raised a lot of money, which made a big difference.”
There is no doubt that Mike Rayner has also made a big difference at AFC Wimbledon and everyone at the club wishes him every success in his future career.