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Neal: fans motivate me

11 October 2013

Wimbledon manager on his first year

as he led the Dons to a dramatic final-day survival and transformed the club’s playing squad.Neal ArdleyIt was certainly an eventful first year as AFC Wimbledon manager for

with Neal, and this is published below:Dons PlayerThough this season’s crop have experienced two successive defeats, AFC Wimbledon are still in a much better position that when Neal was appointed on 10 October, 2012. To celebrate his year in charge yesterday, we featured a Q & A on

What was your best match?

I liked Southend United away when we won 3-1 and played really well, but I have to go for Fleetwood at home for obvious reasons.

What was your worst match?

At home to Southend United when we got beat 4-0 because it provided a realisation of the job in hand at that point.

Your biggest challenge since you took over?

I could name a few, but I think the fact that we were not good enough when I came in, we had 10 players injured and were overloaded with loan players, was tough. I could not really change the team for a long period and that was the biggest challenge. We had to work with what we had and that was a group of players that were physically not up to it until we got to January.

What was your biggest achievement?

The club staying up is obviously the biggest overall achievement, but when I look back on everything my first transfer window stands out. It went right down to the last hour of the last day and we never gave up. I had to use every ounce of my persuasive powers considering I was inexperienced at the time to get the right type of players in and I think that made all the difference.

Who would you say is your biggest influence as a manager?

My biggest influence is Terry Burton. I have spent so much time with him over the years, starting when I was a player at Wimbledon, and at Watford and Cardiff. He is top drawer and you listen and learn from what he has to say. You try and take all these experiences and be your own person as a manager.

There has been a big overhaul in playing staff since you were appointed as manager. What rating would you give yourself out of 10 for your transfer dealings?

I’d say seven and a half. In January we got it right and we had to bring in a certain type of player. I think since January it has been very good, but it is a case of watch this space as regards the summer just gone. I’m confident that we haven’t done too badly.

What is the best part of the job?

The satisfaction of winning games of football, knowing that you can make a difference when the team is playing how you want it to play. There have been games when I have come away and thought ‘that is what we are working towards’. It is satisfying when you can bring so much pleasure to the fans who love this club so much.

And the worst part of the job?

The worst part of the job is learning to deal with the frustrations of defeats and poor performances. The fans here are passionate and they will often question things that you do as a manager, but I can assure them that no one questions themselves more than me.

What do you hope to achieve by this time next year?

Progress is the aim and are we a better outfit and a better club that when I took over? I would like to think so. If I can stand here and say that we are stronger and better this time next year then that will be job done.

Neal’s verdict on his year in charge appeared on Dons Player and subscribers to our premium site can now watch a video interview with Harry Pell.

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