Dons defender aims to finish career on a high
Andy Frampton spoke enthusiastically about his Dons career so far and what he hopes to achieve at the club in an interview for our match day programme on Saturday.
The Wimbledon-born defender also talked about the worries of being released by Crystal Palace as a youngster, his great days with Millwall, and his bruising encounters with Dons teams of the past.
We today republish Andy’s interview in full below.
Andy Frampton says that the prospect of ending his successful career by helping hometown club Wimbledon to promotion was a key factor in turning down League 1 football with Gillingham.
The 33-year-old could have stayed with Gillingham after earning a League 2 title winners medal last season, but the lure of joining Wimbledon and linking-up with former team-mate Neal Ardley made it an easy decision.
And concluding transfer talks on the phone at 5.30 am while holidaying in New Zealand was therefore not too much of an inconvenience!
“I have been asked quite a few times, particularly by members of my family, about what it means to go back and play for the team from where I was born and maybe finish my career here,” Andy said. “Joining Wimbledon was quite special I have to be honest. When I signed I was very excited by what could happen here in the next couple of years. It is great to be a part of a club with such a rich history. Seeing from a distance the way that the club went was very sad, but it is great that the club bounced back; it is a big club with a lot of fans in these parts and, of course, everyone remembers the FA Cup Final and what the likes of Dave Beasant did.
“Not many players at any level of football leave a club after winning a Championship medal. I was very proud and honoured to get that on my CV. They gave me the option of staying for another year, but they wanted to talk to me about my future and it looked like I might not play much. I am 33 not 38 and I want to continue playing as much as possible because you are a long time retired.
Neal Ardley gave me a call at the end of May; he spoke about his plans and the type of players he wanted to bring in. It was not ideal timing for me to go on holiday to visit my brother in New Zealand. I spoke to the gaffer at 5.30 am one morning when I was in New Zealand, but we had several conversations before that. I got on well with the manager during his playing days and I know what he is all about. There were a lot of factors that made me want to join Wimbledon.”
Andy, who was brought up in Purley, Surrey, was picked up by Crystal Palace when he was playing for Croydon Schools at the age of 11 years and he progressed through the ranks into the first-team. However, the defender recalled a tough encounter or two with Wimbledon’s Crazy Gang during his early professional days and how his time with the Eagles really toughened him up.
“I played against Wimbledon when our manager was there and they were tough encounters,” Andy added. “I can remember getting elbowed in the head by John Hartson – I could not get around him. It wasn’t deliberately malicious though and as a young player I had to be ready for the rough stuff. Wimbledon were always a tough team to play against. I played around 40 games for Palace, but it was probably the most worrying moment of my career when I was told I could leave. As a player you have not yet gained enough experience and you worry that you may end up in non league. Some managers don’t look at players playing at that level. I was very fortunate that Brentford were interested and they offered me a contract straight away.”
Andy established himself as Brentford’s first-choice left-back at Griffin Park with Martin Allen as manager. The current Gillingham boss paved the way for successive League 1 promotion challenges, but both ultimately ended in failure – it would become a familiar pattern for the Bees – and Andy left for Millwall in 2007.
Following a difficult start to his Millwall career when he was barracked by the home fans, Andy emerged to enjoy what he regards as the best times of his career. After play-off final defeat to Scunthorpe United in 2009 – a season which ended with Andy receiving the supporters’ player of the year award – Millwall went one better in 2010 by beating Swindon at Wembley to earn promotion to the Championship.
Andy says that having experienced, battle-hardened characters, including the likes of former Dons striker Gary Alexander in the changing room, was the key to success – and he says there are similar signs at Wimbledon now.
“It was a bit of a baptism of fire for me at Millwall and I grew up a lot during that time. I had to really dig deep during the start of my time there. I wasn’t helped by picking up an injury and that was maybe another reason why the fans were having a go at me. It turned out that I had a broken toe and the time out maybe allowed me to look at the bigger picture and why I was not at my best. I stuck at it and my time at Millwall stands out as my most enjoyable time in football. It was gut-wrenching to lose against Scunthorpe in the final, but we went back to Wembley the following season and got promotion.
“We had a number of strong characters in the dressing room with about six of us that were properly on it every week. Of course, ‘Gaz’ was at Wimbledon last season and supporters will have seen what he is capable of. I made a lot of good friends at Millwall and I am still in touch with them now.”
Of course, defeat against his old club in the Capital One Cup this season was a blip for the Dons, just one of two losses so far. However, Andy believes there is plenty of cause for optimism after Wimbledon’s start – and he sees similarities with the promotion chases he has been a part of in the past.
“It is a new group, but we all started to get on really well during the pre-season tour. We all want the same things; the players are all winners and are hungry to do well. We proved that against Scunthorpe on Saturday by coming from behind to win. We also have young lads with good legs and they helped drive us forward in the second-half. I want to help the lads out as much as possible; my strength is organising and talking to players at the back. I really do think that we can surprise a few people this season.
“Neal Ardley puts on training sessions that I have not so far experienced in my career and sometimes he has come up with an idea during the middle of the night. That shows his dedication to the job and he expects a similar level of dedication from the players.”
Andy, who turns 34 next month, has completed his UEFA B coaching licence and is aiming to start studying for the A qualification next summer, is planning for a life after playing. Hopefully, it will be a few years yet before he hangs up his boots after the dream scenario of helping his hometown club to promotion.