Dons Player update ahead of trip to Newport
Neal Ardley said he held a lengthy meeting with his players earlier this week to remind them about the commitment that AFC Wimbledon supporters expect from their team.
Speaking during an in-depth interview for Dons Player, Neal talked passionately about how AFC Wimbledon had battled through adversity to earn a Football League place and the prospect of a move to a new stadium in Plough Lane.
The manager wants to see that reflected on the pitch after a below-par display against Stevenage, starting with Newport County on Saturday.
Neal said: “After what happened it was probably the worst three days I have had since I’ve been at the club, as far as how low I felt and the stuff that went on in and around the game. We had the players in very early for about two-and-half hours before training. There had been a lot of things said and done and it hurt as you would expect it to.
“That message has got across to the players. We talked about what this club represents and what everyone has been through in the last 13 years. We spoke about the qualities they have shown. For me it’s simple; the fans only expect what they have given to the club. They have a deep care for the club and have faced adversity. They battled away to show spirit and come together.
“We need to do that in our performances. If we do that in our performances both on and off the pitch, there will be something for the fans to be proud of in their team. Any good quality football and bits that come on top of that are a bonus. That is the message and is the spirit we want to see. I am confident that the performances will show that, even though it does not guarantee you a result.”
The Dons will be strengthened for the trip to Newport County on Saturday by the availability of Barry Fuller again after suspension. Neal also said that James Shea and Andy Barcham are both ready to return to the squad after a “mini pre-season” that culminated in Monday night’s development match against Cambridge United.
The Wimbledon manager added that he maintains belief in his squad to get through a difficult spell of six games without a win.
“Saturday’s performance was poor, it was probably our worst of the season and that’s disappointing,” said Neal. “It happens sometimes and you have to put it aside. Obviously, there is the stuff that has gone on in and around the game, both the good news before and the bad news afterwards. For me, the most important thing is that three games ago people were talking to me about being on an unbeaten run and now they are saying we haven’t won in six.
“You can spin it whatever way you want to spin it, but we are just five points off the play-offs. All the way through the season, including when things were going well, I was saying that you know a sticky spell is just around the corner in this league. Chesterfield won the league a couple of seasons ago and they lost six out of seven games. It happens that sometimes you have bad spells when a couple of mistakes happen and no matter how hard you try the confidence dips. We are having a little bit of a sticky spell, but we’re only five points off the play-offs after losing twice in eight league games.
“We have to retain the belief that there has only been three occasions when our opponents have been better than us. We have to add that spirit and ethos that the club expects so that we can try and take it forward.”
The full seven-minute update from Neal Ardley is now on Dons Player and an interview with Barry Fuller will follow tomorrow.