Summary of the club's fantastic achievements in 2016
In his notes for the final programme of the year, Chief Executive Erik Samuelson looked back over the past 12 months at AFC Wimbledon – and what a year it’s been!
For those supporters who may have missed it in the Port Vale programme, the article is reproduced in full below.
With this being our last home game this calendar year, the obvious thing to do is look back over 2016 – and what a good year it has been.
In the first half of 2016, the team accumulated 45 points. We won through to the play-off final in one of the most exciting semi-finals I can recall, showing our usual resilience in coming back from 2–0 down, to draw up at Accrington and win on aggregate. And then, following careful planning and preparation, we went to Wembley and won, comfortably enough in the end, 2–0. We took over 23,000 fans to that game, and while there were no doubt a number of people who were simply happy to attend a Wembley final, I am confident that many of them will have come away thinking that they’d like to see more of the Dons.
I’ve commented before on the rewards of winning promotion via the play-offs as opposed to automatic promotion. We earned over £260,000 from the final alone, whereas Bristol Rovers, who came third, were paid £5,000 for their success. This is plainly ludicrous, but nonetheless very helpful for us, as we were able to pay good bonuses to the players and management team and also set aside funds to strengthen the team for this season.
And so to this season. After 21 games we sit in 10th position, three points off a play-off place and with a healthy, positive goal difference. Following a slow start in the first five games, in part a reflection of a shortened summer break thanks to the play-offs, we’ve won 27 points from 16 games. That is some achievement for a newly promoted team which is 19th in the League One wages table.
Off the pitch, we suffered a substantial delay in our bid to return to Merton when the then Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, decided to ignore the advice of his officers and call in our planning application. This inexplicable decision cost us over six months’ delay and an increase of over £1 million in our costs due to inflation in the construction industry. Fortunately, Mr Johnson moved on, and his successor as Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, listened to the advice of his officers and returned the application to Merton for them to decide. Bizarrely, we then found that Wandsworth Council had objected – for the flimsiest of reasons and also against the advice of their own officials – and asked the Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government to call in the application. This cost us a further three months’ delay and another cost increase.
I mention that because, whether we are three goals down with 10 minutes to play, or are suffering at the hands of whimsical or politically motivated decisions, we still battle on and never give up. That is what got us started in 2002 when we were told that doing so would not be “in the wider interests of football”, and that is the attitude of mind that will take us back to Plough Lane. So, despite those delays we are now very close to signing off the legal agreements that will cement the planning decision.
I believe that a key factor in making progress on and off the pitch is our determination to take a long-term view. This applies just as much to our commitment to build a new stadium as it does to giving Neal and his staff the stability and continuing support they need to build a successful team.
All of this is a somewhat tortuous way of arriving at a point I am very keen to make. I didn’t go to the game last Saturday, but I was as disappointed as anyone with the result. But, much as we wanted to win, it was only one game in an incredibly successful year, and we mustn’t lose sight of that. After all, who would have thought a mere 12 months ago that by now we would be in League One and pushing for a play-off place, at the same time getting closer and closer to confirmation that the planning decision we’ve been pursuing now for over two years will finally be approved.
And now for 2017, in which I’m confident that we’ll face new challenges with the same resilience that has got us to where we are now.