Play-off win brings back memories of promotion years
Terry Brown is fully focused on his current challenge of guiding Margate to more success, but the former Wimbledon manager is keeping a watchful gaze on his old club’s progress and he would love to return as a supporter at Plough Lane in future years.
Following time out of football after leaving Wimbledon, 62-year-old Terry says he has been revitalised by the managerial role at Margate. Leading the Kent club to Ryman Premier League play-off success against Hendon on Sunday brought back memories of his first promotion with AFC Wimbledon just over seven years ago when he led the Dons out of the same division with a nervy 2-1 win at Staines Town.
“Time flies by and it certainly doesn’t feel like almost four years ago since we got promoted to the Football League at Manchester,” Terry told the official website today. “I had a year out of the game and thankfully Margate rescued me. It feels every bit as great at Hendon in front of a crowd of 700 as it did in front of over 3,000 fans at Staines all those years ago. You cannot beat that winning feeling – that is what motivates me. We had about seven or eight players who had not won anything before Sunday and turning them into promotion winners was a great feeling.
“There were a lot of similarities with getting Margate and Wimbledon out of the Ryman League. Just like that season with Wimbledon, we were favourites and everyone wanted to take our scalp. On both occasions I rested players during the run-in once automatic promotion was gone. Wimbledon supporters will remember us losing at home to East Thurrock and we have been through our struggles at Margate this season.
I remember that the game was a sell-out and our supporters were desperate to get out of the Ryman League. We had a pretty average season finishing third and we didn’t have the best team in the world. The game was agony. Though Jason Goodliffe and Marcus Gayle were fantastic players, they had seen better days and a younger Staines side was well on top in the first-half. “I remember during the run-in with Wimbledon fans were getting impatient as they wanted us to play our best players. Staines had been on a winning run.
“We made substitutions with Sam Hatton and Mark De Bolla coming on and that made a difference, but we got that bit of luck when we needed it. Wimbledon supporters sing “It only took nine years”, but we only went from strength to strength after Staines. My CV would not have read too well if we had lost in the play-offs in my first season at Wimbledon.”
The rest is history as they say with two more promotions sealing a place back in the Football League for Wimbledon. Terry believes that Neal Ardley has done a “wonderful job” to consolidate the club in League 2 and he believes a potential move to a new stadium at Plough Lane will be the time for AFC Wimbledon to push on.
“I have a great relationship with Neal and Simon Bassey,” added Terry, who is pictured holding the Conference Play-Off trophy with Simon (centre) and Stuart Cash a day after glory at Manchester in 2011. “The Wimbledon score is still the first one that I look for on a Saturday. Neal is a proper Wimbledon man and a brilliant young coach. We should concentrate on keeping Neal rather than worrying too much about rising up through the leagues. I think we can more than double the supporter base by moving to a new stadium in Plough Lane. Then we can gain that momentum and can scale the heights again.
“The club is still very special to me. I still keep in touch with people at the club and I have lunch with Erik every now and again. I hope in years to come that I will be visiting Plough Lane regularly as a Wimbledon supporter. I am proud to have played a part in the club’s rise, along with Dave Anderson.”
But can Terry pull off something similar with Margate and lead them through the non league pyramid?
“Margate is a totally different proposition to Wimbledon,” Terry said. “When I sat down with players at Wimbledon we never actually offered them the most money. Bromley and Chelmsford were offering more to players, but I told them that they would be playing in front of over 3,000 supporters every week. Attracting players to Margate you have to offer them more money. It is a long way for some and now I want Conference players. A lot will depend on what budget we have to work with.
“We have a decent squad to build with. Brett Johnson was a key man in defence on Sunday, but Luke Moore pulled a hamstring against Maidstone and has not played since. Jamie Stuart would play every game with one leg, but he is 37 now! Age has caught up with him, but he is part of the backroom team now.”
With Terry, Stuart Cash and Jamie offering plenty of promotion experience, only a fool would write off Margate’s chances of making further progress in the future.