Former manager on 2004/05 season
It was mission accomplished for Dave Anderson at the end of his first season in charge as AFC Wimbledon clinched the Ryman Division One title in 2004/05 to continue the club’s rise.
As part of our countdown to fixture release day on 17 June, we asked the Northern Irishman (centre in above picture), who is still a popular figure with Wimbledon supporters, to select his key matches of a glorious campaign, which also ended with silverware in the Surrey Senior Cup.
Ashford Town (h) on 14 August, 2004 (won 5-1)
A new-look Dons squad got off to a bad start as they fell behind early on, but doubles from Richard Butler and Jamie Taylor, along with a strike from Steve Butler, earned an emphatic win.
“I remember thinking how quiet the ground was with so many people in it because Ashford took the lead,” said Anderson. “We came back to win and scored really good goals. That was important because we had six or seven new players in the squad. Part of my job specification was to get promotion in my first season and it helped that we made a good start. It was a real bonus what we achieved in the cup.”
Sutton United (a) on 5 April, 2005 (won 1-0)
Wimbledon pulled off what was a big cup shock at the time as Conference South outfit Sutton were left stunned. Anthony Howard notched what turned out to be the winner in this Surrey Senior Cup semi-final tie and he had to hold his nerve at the other end too as he ended up in goal! Goalkeeper Paul Smith dislocated his shoulder and that meant Howard was handed the gloves during nine minutes of added time.
Anderson recalled: “It was about 10 minutes, but it felt like four hours! We were hanging on at the end, but to beat a Conference South team was a great achievement. Antony Howard scored with a header and it was a brilliant win to beat Sutton in a semi-final at that time in the club’s history.”
It was a victory that paved the way to more silverware as AFC Wimbledon earned cup success in a final at Woking for the second successive season with Walton & Hersham beaten after extra-time.
Anderson recalled the great atmosphere that greeted his side as they entered the pitch at Woking with the majority of the 3,809 crowd getting behind the Dons. Indeed, Anderson used it an incentive to attract new signings to AFC Wimbledon.
Though frustration followed in the next two seasons as Wimbledon were beaten in the Ryman play-offs, Anderson remains hugely proud to have played a part in the club’s rise.
“I always knew it was going to be a big job, but I never quite realised how big,” said Anderson. ”I had managed to get Hendon near the top of the Ryman Premier, but we only got average gates of about 250. When I first got the job at Wimbledon we had a Q & A at the club with about 300 in attendance. I then realised how big the job was!
“I think the club needed to be put on a more professional footing and I am proud that we did that. I was a very lucky man to be given the chance to manage Wimbledon. It was the right timing for me. If I had been offered the job earlier I would not have dropped down to the Combined Counties League and I don’t think I would have got it when the club got to a higher level.
"We had success in my first season and I had a video of the cup final that I used to show to potential new signings. I used to show them the stand at Woking packed with Wimbledon fans and say ‘would you sooner play in front of all these fans or go to another club for an extra £20?’ It was a stressful job, but I found it all really exciting to be Wimbledon manager at that time.”
Anderson, who left Harrow Borough last season after four years as manager, will continue to be a correspondent on the Non League Show, but he is unsure about a return to coaching in the future.
“I have not really had a break from football in 30 years and I really appreciate it at this time of year,” said Anderson. “Ask Neal Ardley what it is like as a manager in the summer and he will tell you how busy it is. You are constantly looking at what players are available and trying to chase them to sign contracts.
“I am enjoying myself at the moment and feel happy playing a fair bit of golf. I might not get back into it and I will only know if I fancy it if I get an offer. I will certainly get to a few Wimbledon matches when I can in the near future.”