WDON commentator on the club's signing spree
It’s been a busy time during close season with Neal Ardley having completed a string of exciting additions recently and WDON commentator Rob Cornell provided an inside track on what goes on behind the scenes when the club prepares to announce a new signing.
Neal Ardley was stood in the doorway to the entrance at the club office looking tanned and relaxed.
“How are you Rob?” came the greeting with a broad and welcoming smile. “All the better after the text I received last night,” I replied with a laugh, as I quickly made way for the real reason the boss was looking to extend a warm Wimbledon welcome.
Across the car park at the Cherry Red a smart, but casual figure had also just arrived, ready to complete the formalities of a high-profile deal for not only the Dons, but also in League Two. Matt Tubbs was in town and Neal was aiming to bring to a close two months of hard work on a significant season-long loan signing.
I’d got the call from Communications Executive Chris Slavin the night before to prepare to interview Neal about his latest addition.
After receiving the news of a deal being near completion, my professionalism momentarily slipped away to being a lifelong supporter, for about half an hour, as I walked around the house punching the air and exclaiming: “We’ve got him!” Good job the rest of the family were out.
“I’ve signed another good-looking lad! I‘m building a team of them this year,” joked the manager later on, as we sneaked onto Gabor the groundsman’s smart laser-levelled playing surface, for a first photo opportunity with the Dons new front man just before he headed back down to Bournemouth.
Just a few days later we’re assembling again, this time in the physio’s room, in anticipation for the arrival of Adebayo Akinfenwa. “Oh you’ve done it again!” were my words for Neal and his team.
It’s goals that matter though and with Tubbs and Akinfenwa the gaffer has secured proven goalscorers at this level to add to those earlier arrivals of Sean Rigg and Dannie Bulman. Mark Phillips was also captured earlier this week to add a significant signing for the back-line.
It’s a well-oiled machine behind the scenes now when the club is gearing up to announce a new signing. I’m fortunate to see just some of what goes on when a new face arrives. After the welcome, it’s down to the business of the all-important medical. It can take around an hour at the very least.
This is an essential and detailed part of any transfer, but it can mean “a waiting game” for the club media team down the other end of the corridor. As I later stated in my video chat with Neal about the signing of Matt Tubbs; “Good things come to those who wait.”
Of course, there’s meetings to be had to thrash out the finer details on that A-4 sized document the player in question has come to sign.
Finally, he’s guided down the corridor to the media hub. “This is where it all happens!” says Neal. Having been introduced to Chris, it’s my turn to make acquaintance with our exciting new signing. “This is Rob, the club has its own radio station (WDON) on match days and hopefully he and his colleagues will be commentating on you banging in a few goals!” adds ‘Slavo’.
With the ice broken, Chris and I get down to the business of filming, conducting and producing exclusive interviews - as we do with every new signing - providing in-depth coverage for Dons Player subscribers of the exciting event.
Neal has a well mapped out procedure. He deals with the player and also keeps Chris informed of the progress of the transfer and that of any other potential deals in the pipeline. As you can imagine, it’s an interesting briefing.
Above all though, it’s evident that Neal has a steely determination and solid mantra that matters are conducted thoroughly and professionally throughout the club and that can only be a good thing as he looks to attract more talent to the squad.
A lot of time (and money!) can be spent on his mobile at this key time of the year too making sure Wimbledon add the names at the top of his wish-list. Even on his recent, very brief, family holiday, transfer talk is never far away. Neal revealed that one of his daughters asked after a long conversation: “So is the ‘Tubbsy’ deal done yet?!”
From my perspective I’m glad to report that so far we’ve added ‘good talkers’ to the rota of player interviews for next season. Sean, Dannie, Matt, Mark and, in particular, ‘Bayo’ all provided excellent content in their initial inquisitions, and look promising on that front with more to come from them when called upon next campaign.
Ade proved a real pleasure to interview and was really switched on with all his answers, making my job easier. His personality will be a massive hit with the Dons fans this season and I could only look on in astonishment when Akinfenwa’s quotes upon signing were posted on Twitter and the club’s social media went into meltdown!
I’m told Dannie Bulman is a good character to have in the dressing room too, but he’ll have some way to go to take over from current “Head of Morale” Ashley Bayes!
Maybe a challenge for the crown of light entertainment master will only be a good thing for the players to witness at times, during another physically and mentally demanding season. Indeed, they’ll soon be getting ready to return for nine more months of effort and focus.
Someone recently asked me: “So I guess not much goes on at the club at this time of the year?"