A behind-the-scenes blog from Rob Cornell
Our WDON team has clocked up the miles recently to provide their unique coverage of Wimbledon matches and commentator Rob Cornell takes us through an eventful week that included meeting new signing Tom Richards at the training ground.
Rob, who is flanked above by Dons captain Alan Bennett (left) and fellow WDON commentator Mikey T (right) at the Brentford match earlier this season, provides a behind-the-scenes blog about last week below.
in his mission to get home. That’s certainly the way I felt attempting to return from Newport County and Fleetwood after providing radio coverage on these matches and post-match interviews. At times it felt like we were partaking in our own version of that famous classic comedy film “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”, minus the flying. For those who haven’t seen it, Steve Martin plays the role of a harassed traveller – the late John Candy provides an unwelcome distraction – as he endures misery
I’d mentioned in a previous blog my frustrations at only getting as far as Leigh Delamere services when the Newport match was initially postponed in December and second time out I was just about to leave my front door when I was told that the “dome tents” had not worked on the Rodney Parade pitch. So onto attempt number three last Tuesday and initially it was most definitely a case of third time lucky; the delight of commentating on a great winner from Kevin Sainte-Luce and making it on time for the supporters’ coach afterwards. Of course, at the heart of it all was a desire to relay events from South Wales and the Fylde Coast to AFC Wimbledon supporters at home in their living rooms.
However, Leigh Delamere service station had a final sting in the tail for us on our return across the border as a broken exhaust box saw us scrape back there by coach in the early hours of Wednesday morning, before awaiting a replacement coach. Cue a 3.30 am arrival back home. Thoughts of what a defeat would have felt like in those circumstances crossed my mind. Commentating on moments such as Charlie Sheringham’s late equaliser and a landmark 1,000 league goal for AFC Wimbledon makes it all worthwhile.
The night’s event on the pitch kept our spirits high as we waited for a replacement coach to turn up in the small hours. There was to be double joy for yours truly as I vowed to splash out a fiver on a service station toastie if we were still there at 2.00 am. I’m pleased to report desperation didn’t get the better of me this time and we were long gone and still in pocket by then. Who can argue that we’re not health conscious, budget saving broadcasters at WDON?! Saturday back at Kingsmeadow for Wimbledon versus York may change all that with our usual helping of cakes and treats on the back row of the press box!
Life is always interesting when you get to spend time with the management and players, gathering stories and picking up the vibe ahead of the action, and this time was no exception. I was still on a high come Thursday and expecting an upbeat atmosphere at the training ground for our usual press call at New Malden, ahead of Wimbledon’ s trip to Fleetwood.
There’s still a hurdle for AFC Wimbledon officials to clear before the loan signing can be confirmed as Premier League approval is required and it’s not until 6.00 pm on Friday that a prepared story on Tom’s signing can go live. Before embarking on a short walk to the training ground with Communications Executive Chris Slavin, we’re told by Club Secretary David Charles that a new signing is expected to meet Neal Ardley at the training ground this afternoon. Young full-back Tom Richards from Fulham will be Wimbledon’s latest recruit. We’re there to witness Tom’s arrival at a completely new environment for him. Neal guides Tom in by mobile to the clubhouse for a tour of training ground facilities and a few introductions. Tom then changed into some of his new kit, which we had hand delivered, for an official website exclusive photograph. It provides me with a glimpse from behind the scenes of a young lad taking his first steps into League 2 life.
So with Tom’s first-day nerves having quickly eased and with a “good luck” from the media team after hitting our interview targets for match previews, we were looking forward to a long trip up north for Fleetwood versus AFC Wimbledon.
Our early start out from the Cherry Red Records Stadium conducted by “Lowne Tours” delivered us well over two hours ahead of kick-off, and not far from Blackpool it was a surprisingly mild and sunny day. After the midweek breakdown and memories of arriving at Exeter just 10 minutes before kick-off earlier this season, perhaps the “Football Gods” owed us. But nothing is ever that simple (see later).
With time on our side, we could smell the sea air and headed for the beach with the local delicacy of fish and chips as a reward. On the long coach up, our conversation turned to Brit Pop bands and coincidentally a sign at the seaside informed us that Toploader were playing in the area that very night! More my eldest sister’s taste, back in the day, but there was to be no “Dancing in the Moonlight” for the media team ultimately, just the relief of getting home by the skin of our teeth!
Time passed as we munched away on a cracking pre-match meal, but it wasn’t long before we spotted a couple of fellow Dons. Two familiar faces had the same idea of a stroll along the beach in March and very soon Golden Goals King Roger Dennis and Ian Hidden, of club shop and merchandise fame, stopped off to educate us historically and geographically about our picturesque location. Eventually, we remembered why we were up north with a text message from Wimbledon captain and honorary WDON team member Alan Bennett welcoming me to the area.
In commentary, we highlighted young Tom’s impressive debut along with a towering performance from fellow defender Will Antwi, while Michael Collins produced arguably his best display so far in a Dons shirt. Afterwards, Barry Fuller, Wimbledon’s captain for the day, is the subject of our Dons Player interview and he talks passionately about building on two great away results. Onto the match and the three-pronged WDON attack of Mikey T, James Whittaker and myself witnessed a strong Dons display in almost every department that ensured a point against promotion-chasers Fleetwood.
On the way back, our journey turns into a nightmare after a delayed train from Blackpool North results in a missed connection at Preston for the London train. It’s been that kind of week! However, in adversity we formed an unlikely band of brothers with a Brazilian TV camera crew! They’d been covering Bolton versus Blackburn, a match far removed from what we’re likely to see at the Maracana Stadium this summer.
Finally we arrive back in Surrey, via London, with another early morning finish! Yes, the WDON crew can sometimes suffer in following our art, but I certainly never lose sight of those great memories of covering Wimbledon all over the country.