Methods helped lift Wimbledon to success
Wally Downes said there was a lot more to the Crazy Gang’s success than the long ball game and intimidation of opponents.
During an in-depth interview with Rob Cornell for Dons Player to mark the launch of a new Crazy Gang book, Downes spoke about the managerial methods of Dave “Harry” Bassett, who guided Wimbledon from the old fourth division into the top-flight.
Wally is pictured left above with Dickie Guy (centre) and Dave Bassett at last Friday’s book launch at the club (photograph by Stuart Butcher, Pro Sports Images).
“Harry is a smart fella and he was quick to embrace any new ideas,” said Wally. “We even had psychologists come in and they were not like the sports psychologists we have today. It was lying down in a darkened room and relaxing your mind, that sort of thing. He employed a guy called Vince Craven, who used to be a coach at Arsenal. The boys went around to his house and he would have stacks of videos in his room, he used to cut bits about the opposition to reinforce the ideas that Harry was putting into us.
“People used to castigate the way that we played and say it was all long ball, but we would get shown videos, in particular the one I remember was watching Liverpool when they won the title with Ian Rush and Kenny Dalglish before we got into the first division. They played more long balls from back to front than any other side. The fact that they were knocking it about and passing it around when they were 3-0 up was neither here nor there.
“We would get shown videos of the AC Milan side that pressed high and played offside. When we pressed high and played offside we were suffocating the game! AC Milan did it with Franco Baresi and it was brilliant. Harry showed us videos of all the top teams to reinforce the ideas that he was putting across. Clearly, the media were not happy and did not look upon it that way, but we knew what we were doing.”
From his own experience of coaching in the Premier League, Downes added that the unique team spirit that swept Wimbledon to that incredible run of promotion success just simply could not be recreated today.
“Those days are gone,” said Downes, who had plenty of coaching experience in the Premier League with Reading and West Ham. “With the Bosman ruling, the movement of players and different nationalities at clubs, it is impossible to get that sort of camaraderie going. The only way you can get that camaraderie going with different nationalities is if you are winning.
“In my coaching experience in the Premier League I was trying to be ‘up and at ‘em’ by getting it going and keeping it lively. I wanted to get the information across and have fun doing it, but when you have three or four different languages in the squad it was difficult to do things that way. Things had to be more personable and on a quieter level.
“We did not have the money to go out and buy players at Wimbledon. Harry decided to go with young players coming through. Getting relegated would not have been the end of the world because the basis of the squad could have been kept together and the young players would rise again. In fairness, you do not get the time to do that nowadays.”
Wally Downes was speaking at the launch of his Crazy Gang book in a great evening at the club last Friday. It was an event that raised money for the We Are Wimbledon Fund.
for more information.Crazy GangSimply titled “The Crazy Gang”, the book promises “The True Inside Story of Football’s Greatest Miracle”. The book is available to pre-order now, before its official launch at the end of this month. Click on
The extensive video interview with Wally Downes is now on Dons Player.
An in-depth article on last Friday’s book launch evening at the club will be in the match day programme for the Hartlepool game.