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Behind the mic with WDON

31 January 2014

Rob's blog and You Tube video of Exeter commentary

It’s been an eventful week for our WDON broadcasting team as they commentated on a winning goal in monsoon conditions and watched a former Premier League defender roll back the years at the age of 42.

.Dons You TubeThe manner of Wimbledon’s winner against Exeter was particularly unique for WDON to report on and video footage of their reaction to Jack Midson’s goal and the subsequent storm that engulfed the Cherry Red Records Stadium can be viewed by clicking on 

Of course, the WDON will be back on duty tomorrow afternoon with coverage from the Kassam Stadium. But first we take a behind-the-scenes look at a particularly significant Tuesday for commentator Rob Cornell (pictured above left with the rest of the WDON team and Jonathan Meades after Wimbledon's great escape against Fleetwood), who attended his first Wimbledon match on 11 October, 1980, when the opponents were…………..Hartlepool!

It was a rather long wait for Wimbledon’s new hero Danny Hylton to emerge from the dressing room, but his work was certainly not done for the night as an assembled press pack were waiting patiently for his reaction to a dream debut.

They included myself for Dons Player and Danny, less than 24 hours after completing his loan transfer from Rotherham, was met by “Slavo” (Wimbledon’s Communications Executive) before providing an interview in the Academy/Press room at the stadium. That concluded a tiring, but rewarding day for not only interviewee, but also the interviewer!

It had been a relatively early call to get over to the New Malden training facility for a midday kick-off between Wimbledon and Gillingham in a development match. It offered a chance to further my research on Wimbledon’s up-and-coming talents, but it also came with that misguided hope once again that I may still some day wear the Blue & Yellow on the field of battle.

Just as we were stirring our half-time cuppas in the clubhouse and preparing to leave our balcony view at the training ground for the second-half, I noticed a 42 year-old substitute joining the majority of hungry, younger players involved in the game. It was that man Neil Cox. A thought flashed through my mind a day before I became the same age as Wimbledon’s assistant manager; I was watching a former Premier League player show that he was still in good nick in comparison to yours truly, who has been led astray by WDON colleagues Geoff Hawley and Mikey T offering up cakes and other matchday treats. I can still, just about, cling onto the dream though!

There was a much more serious issue to Neil’s participation though as he passed on his valuable years of experience by partnering promising centre-back Oluseyi Daley in defence. Watching pitch side and chatting to Mark Robinson, Jeremy Sauer and Michael Hamilton about the academy set-up offers a unique and privileged insight. Goalscorer George Oakley has been highly-rated by Wimbledon’s academy for some time and has been training with the first-team recently. Development Coach Shaun North is understandably looking to push as many of his Under-21 squad as possible in Neal Ardley’s direction.

First-team coach Simon Bassey also keeps up a presence from a distance, perhaps monitoring contenders to follow in the footsteps of Tom Beere, Will Nightingale, Charlie Fayers and Chace Jacquart in making the bench for a Sky Bet League Two game. Tom and Will are on the comeback trails after injury and both provide enthusiastic updates on their progress. There’s a real sense of togetherness though as they watched their team-mates eventually lose out 2-1. Midfielder Dan Pearse shows a commendable attitude in defeat out on the pitch. The youngster plays in every match as if silverware depends on the outcome.

The attention to detail of Wimbledon’s coaching team is particularly noticeable. Following his first-half appearance, ‘Bayzo’ is close by the goal area for the second-half as he guides young goalie Billy Bishop through the game in his role as goalkeeper coach. ‘Bayzo’ and his motivational skills have no boundaries at the club and beyond. Just a day earlier he had offered a few choice words about the state of my barnet! Less than 24 hours later and I’ve had a long overdue short, back and sides. It’s not long before ‘Bayzo’ notices and I was serenaded from the other side of the pitch with an impromptu song from the man himself. That memory is now second only to being alongside Terry Brown at one of these games last season. Afterwards, the opposition’s coaching staff went right along the line and shook my hand presuming I was one of Terry’s support staff!

That afternoon and back at the desk of communications executive Chris Slavin I was offered the chance of an early first look at the evening’s match programme for the visit of Hartlepool United. Inside, I was delighted to read about Wimbledon’s “best” encounter against Tuesday’s opponents. It was THAT Division Four clash from 1980. Wimbledon 5 Hartlepool 0 was my very first Dons game and that put me in a positive frame of mind before kick-off as I told ‘Slavo’ once again all about the exploits of Galliers, Cork and the rest.

Over 33 years later, the Dons were in the process of earning a markedly grittier win against the “monkey hangers”. In commentary, Geoff had quite rightly pre-judged Ivor Heller’s announcement to the press area that Ross Worner was the sponsors man of the match. However, I was again impressed with Aaron Morris and his impressive comeback from a lengthy spell on the sidelines in a Dons shirt.

It was another former Aldershot player who was in demand after though as an orderly queue formed for reservations at the Hylton. Before we departed I spared a thought for a player who could be a future Dons strike hero. I’d seen Callum Overton at the training ground match earlier, where he was getting behind his team mates. Now he was doing the less glamorous role of an aspiring footballer by helping to tidy away on a first-team match day. “I’ve been in since nine this morning, but I’m not finished yet!” said Callum with a smile. It’s worth remembering though that hard work and dedication can go a long way.

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