Former Wimbledon favourites talk to Dons Player
Former Wimbledon defender Kevin Gage is maybe more associated with being a Blade these days, but he still feels a special attachment to AFC Wimbledon.
“It’s a great story,” said Gage in an interview recorded over Easter with Dons Player. “I don’t claim any affection or closeness to AFC Wimbledon the actual club, because I personally count them as the old Wimbledon. The icing on the cake will be if they can finalise the move back to Plough Lane and I think that would be the perfect ending to the story, although of course I say it’s the ending when it would be a whole new chapter.”
“I still have very fond memories of not only Wimbledon FC, but also a connection with AFC Wimbledon going forward.”
Gage, the youngest player to have played for Wimbledon at just 17, appeared and scored in each division during the rise of the ‘Crazy Gang’ from the Fourth to the First Division during the 1980s.
The former Dons defender is now owner of The Manor House – a picturesque hotel, bar and restaurant in the town of Dronfield, between Chesterfield and Sheffield.
“I’ve made Sheffield my home, or rather Dronfield,” said Gage, born in London. “I’ve been up here 25 years now having played for Sheffield United, so I’ve made a life for myself up here. I still get down to Wimbledon to see my dad and take in a couple of games occasionally, when I can.”
“I’ve been working for Sheffield United for 12 years now as a match day host and compere. I get up and speak to a couple of hundred people and just ‘waffle’ basically about anything and everything to do with Sheffield United and football in general! I do a quiz and interview players and ex-players and basically I’ve got free rein to entertain people as best I can before a match starts. Then the match starts and it's all going a bit pear shaped for Sheffield United at the moment!"
Gage is delighted with the success of the book - “The Crazy Gang”. He attended the launch by authors Dave Bassett (former manager) and Wally Downes (ex-team-mate) with a re-union staged at AFC Wimbledon back in October of last year.
“It was a fantastic night. I’d been looking forward to it for months, since the book idea was floated. It was fantastic to see some of the lads again. It was also nice when Bassett and ex-players John Gannon and Andy Sayer, who live up here, got together and it was good to meet them. The whole thing fell into place and culminated with the fabulous event at Kingsmeadow.”
“I loved helping to put the book together. It brought back so many memories and I wish I could have made the London get-togethers with some of the other lads who reminisced and contributed their stories. I think just dipping my toe in up here and then meeting them all again was just perfect. The book is an absolute triumph and the feedback I’ve got from people up here – because, of course, Bassett was up here with Sheffield United – has been great,” said Gage.
In a six minute interview, available now to Dons Player subscribers, Kevin Gage also spoke about how he was used as a defender by Wimbledon, his days of playing alongside David Platt and Gordon Cowans in midfield when he moved on to Aston Villa. He also talks about his son Oliver's successful career as a performance analyst at MLS side Houston Dynamo.
Gage’s former team-mate Mick Smith, nicknamed “Rocknut” by Downes, remains as passionate as ever for all things Wimbledon.
The former centre-back joined Radio WDON again for commentary of Good Friday’s game up at Hartlepool United, where he was a former youth team coach after his playing days.
“You’ve got a fan up here in Sunderland!” said Smith in an interview with Dons Player, recorded at his home opposite Roker Beach before the Easter schedule.
“I had such a good time doing the book,” he added. “It was the first real reunion we’d had for something like 25 years. It was great to see everyone and catch up and it was like ‘all our yesterdays’ and I love all that. If Wimbledon get back to Plough Lane, it’ll be a great place for us to go to as former players.”
Smith takes a keen interest in AFC Wimbledon’s progress this season and appreciates the effort put in at all levels of the club.
“Neal Ardley has got a really good attitude and obviously his coaching qualifications are second to none. Now is the time for players to stand up and really go for it.”
“When I heard the result of the FA Youth Cup win at Newcastle United and that Peter Beardsley – who I know from my Hartlepool days - came into the dressing room after the game it’s just like him to go in there afterwards and say well done to the guys,” Smith added.
Mick, with his wife Sue, now works as a designer of bedrooms, offices and libraries, but he still counts himself as a Dons supporter.
“I always come back to Wimbledon. It will always be my team and when I go to work people always ask me who I support, because it’s a big Newcastle and Sunderland area, and I always say I support Wimbledon. They say 'do you know Vinnie Jones?' I just tell them that I played for Wimbledon back in the day."
In a real treat for subscribers, Mick Smith takes viewers through some of his memorable moments in photographs playing for the Dons. Both interviews with Kevin Gage and Mick Smith are now available on our premium channel.