Behind-the-scenes with our WDON commentator
The League 2 fixtures for 2014/15 will be announced on Wednesday, 18 June, and WDON commentator Rob Cornell will soon be dusting down his microphone and headsets for another busy campaign.
But before contemplating another season on the road, Rob took time to reflect on a nine-month journey that began at Torquay United and ended at Imber Court with London Senior Cup glory (Rob is pictured with the cup above).
Joined by fellow ever-present Mikey T, Rob clocked up thousands of miles to bring the story of AFC Wimbledon’s season to the airwaves for Dons Player subscribers.
Below is Rob’s tale from a marathon season behind the mic – and it’s one that plenty of Dons fans will identify with as he trawled the country to follow his team.
As the season came to a close I had this rolling soundtrack going through my head, which sums up the journeys we’ve been on. It’s either the Johnny Cash version of “I’ve Been Everywhere” or more realistically the JAM’s “It’s Grim up North” which includes Rochdale, Morecambe, Scunthorpe, York and Accrington as destinations.
Actually, some of our best performances as a team came on the road. Congratulations Chesterfield, Scunthorpe, Rochdale and Fleetwood by the way. Arguably Wimbledon’s performance of the season came at Spotland, but it will also be sorely missed because of a particularly appealing chippy right next to the stadium.
Indeed, Neal Ardley’s men were not found wanting against the leading sides in the division and these away days just happened to be memorable for other reasons! A stroll along the beach, along with fish and chips, at Fleetwood was the magic formula for a hard-earned point at Highbury and a rather pleasant Italian on the Essex Riviera was my preparation for a valuable victory at Southend.
Burton hosted Volunteers Day and formed part of the season run-in that became known as “Ardley Time”. A goal deep into injury-time from Darren Jones celebrated an important day in the club’s calendar.
Though Plymouth remained a happy hunting ground, it also produced one of the most sad and distressing sights of the season. The hot cabinet in the press room at Home Park had been raided by the BBC before our arrival! That meant there was no Cornish pasties for any of the AFC Wimbledon press team after a six-hour journey on the supporters’ coach and no opportunity to make kit man Robin ‘Rocket’ Bedford jealous! And to think that Alan Seabrook is usually our friend!
Unsurprisingly, Wimbledon’s best wins on the pitch were also my favourite matches to commentate on – the two often go hand in hand.
Home broadcasts jumped to the next level last season with Geoff and Charlie Kemp working together to compile extended highlights and WDON commentary for the Dons Player service. Portsmouth suffered a wake-up call to life in the division after a 4-0 beating in November. A bumper highlights package on Dons Player, now complete with WDON commentary thanks to Geoff Hawley’s expertise, followed. Captain Alan Bennett and goalscorer Sammy Moore talked positively in the post-match interviews about maintaining the challenge as the Dons were still within range of the play-offs at this stage. With Michael Smith banging in the goals at this point, it seemed that anything was possible.
Of course, two-goal Andy Frampton was the star of the show against Pompey and complete with his accompanying headgear, he was the subject of my video slide on WDON. Still available on the WDON Facebook page, Tom Petty’s “I won’t back down” was the tune of choice for the man Neal Ardley referred to as a ‘Warrior”.
Following the amazing 4-3 win against Cheltenham, the club’s relaunched You Tube channel scaled remarkable new heights. A video of THAT memorable flurry of four goals in two minutes and seven seconds, complete with countdown and commentary, was watched by over 80,000 people all around the world. The points may have been taken away, but the team spirit shown on that day will never be forgotten and it was a good effort off the pitch too. It was a day that got the adrenaline pumping for me in a way I’d never experienced since the famous penalty shoot-out in Manchester on 21 May, 2011.
There were a few contenders for the Radio WDON player of the season. Andy Frampton, Ross Worner and Barry Fuller were joined by a late flourish from previous winner Sammy Moore.
It was the Dons vice-captain who reigned supreme in the end. A terrier on the pitch, Barry’s a gentleman off it. He would always make time for post-match interviews whenever he was requested by Communications Executive Chris Slavin to fulfil them for the official website or for local media. A video interview over seven minutes in duration after Morecambe highlighted the pride Barry felt at winning the club’s Player of the Year award.
Being down at the training ground to help out with gathering stories during the season offered me a unique and privileged glimpse into first-team matters and also the academy. It’s the nature of football that players get moved on, but it can be a little sad to see players on the released list that you’ve worked up a good rapport with. Regular appearances at the training ground can often result in a plethora of nicknames, in my case I earned three! ‘Bayzo’ (Ashley Bayes) christened me ‘Bobby’ – a name I’ve never been called in my life. And he bellowed it across the pitch during the pre-match warm-up at grounds up and down the country. ‘Slavo’ came up with the ‘Cornell Kid”, which I’ll take at my age, but perhaps the biggest honour came from a now departed Dons favourite. The nickname ‘Wiggins’ or ‘Wiggo’ was regularly bestowed on me from Jack Midson. “It’s meant as a compliment” said the man who famously kept the Dons in the Football League. The rationale was that my sideburns reminded Jack of Sir Bradley Wiggins. I tried explaining they were actually inspired by Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters fame, but he wouldn’t have it.
What I won’t miss, until August at least, are the early starts on ‘Laurence Lowne Tours’ from the Cherry Red Records Stadium. Running in the dark during the Winter for a 7.00 am start on the coach can be tough. However, the memories of turning around at Leigh Delamere services after Newport was called off and then waiting for a replacement bus at the same location two months later certainly tested everyone's patience more. However, once you get past early tiredness on the supporters’ coach, it can be a good experience. Sharing stories with regular faces on the supporters’ coach certainly passes the time and surely Beaconsfield services must become a more regular stop-off during 2014/15. A quick pint at the Wetherspoons to wash down a Steak Bake at Greggs (at more realistic prices) makes this a great destination to break up a journey. Laurence’s decision to stop-off at this venue even earned him a song with Petula Clarke’s ‘Downtown’ changed to ‘Lownetown’. ‘He’ll take you from door to door… Lownetown” were the words invented by Mikey T. Tim Hillyer, of club shop fame, is also a very useful man to know on these journeys as he often has spare meal deal vouchers for service stations and travel tips at his fingertips.
However, after all these miles in pursuit of glory, it finally happened with my shortest away trip! The London Senior Cup Final was played at Imber Court and that meant a venue was finally in walking distance. A few weeks later and I happened to be at the club to interview new signing Sean Rigg when the London Senior Cup was delivered. I couldn’t resist getting a picture taken with it. After so many months making marathon journeys, glory had arrived virtually on my doorstep. ‘It’s a funny old game’ had never been so true.