Pictures and tributes from a fantastic evening
Ivor Heller said that Wimbledon hero Dickie Guy’s speech set the tone for a great evening as the club celebrated its success in style on Saturday night.
Our club president was joined by first-team squad and management, AFC Wimbledon Ladies and Girls, along with Academy and Foundation staff, in a unique celebration ahead of the play-off final.
Former Wimbledon player Chris Perry was also a special guest and he was presented to the crowd of around 500 people to give the final speech.
Commercial Director Ivor Heller said: “The first speech from Dickie opened proceedings and anyone present could not have failed to have been moved by its sheer guts and bravery. It was an amazing speech and it set the tone for a great evening. It never looked back after that.”
Dickie, who has suffered from illness in recent years, is picture in our gallery above with Chief Executive Erik Samuelson and Miles Jacobson from Sports Interactive.
The gallery above shows a wide selection of pictures from the night (photographs taken by Stuart Butcher, Pro Sports Images).
Kay Skelton, Executive Director at the AFC Wimbledon Foundation, gave a brilliant speech that summed up our ethos as a community club.
“Everyone has achieved so much at this club and from the Foundation’s point of view we have definitely changed lives, which is what we set out to do at the start of this season,” said Kay. “I’ve had letters from PE instructors saying that children who would never have taken part in physical activity are now participating in every after-school class because of AFC Wimbledon.
“We have provided 5,194 hours of activities during the season and engaged with 25,529 people, ranging from 4-75 years. This has been through schools sports, PE lessons, Saturday morning clubs, holiday courses, disability programmes and Walking Football.”
Of course, on the pitch it’s been a great end to the season with Neal Ardley having guided the club to a first-ever competitive match at Wembley since AFC Wimbledon was formed.
During his speech, Neal reflected on a dramatic win at Accrington – and revealed that no team-talk was necessary before extra-time.
“I was going to give a team-talk, but I did not need to because I could see this fire in their eyes,” said Neal. “They were never going to lose that game in a million years and now they are going to play on the greatest stage in football.
“We have a wonderful group of lads and they have given us this wonderful feeling at the moment. They have certainly made my dreams come true so I thank them for that, but there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes to produce the talent that we have and put them in a Wimbledon shirt.
“Without the wonderful sponsorship and donations from Sports Interactive, Mike Richardson, the We Are Wimbledon Fund, Iain McNay, the Blue and Yellow Club, Chemflow, Paul Strank Roofing and Your Golf Travel, we could not have put this team together. There are probably ones I’ve missed, but the contributions from all of these people is where it starts. When they watch us walk out at Wembley they should be proud that they helped make it happen.”
Neal handed over to Player of the Year Paul Robinson, who was given a rousing ovation by those in attendance.
It was a hugely successful season for AFC Wimbledon Ladies and Girls with the first-team winning the league to earn promotion. Chairman Dennis Lowndes, manager Chris Lyons and captain Jess Trimnell summed up a fantastic campaign for the whole club.
Dennis said: “The Ladies and Girls section has grown because we now have 168 players with 10 teams at youth level ranging from U-11 to U-18, along with two senior teams. There has been success right the way through the club, including at junior level with four teams getting to Surrey Cup Finals and three of those winning. It’s been a fantastic year and the main thing is that all the girls have enjoyed themselves and that’s what football is all about.”
Academy Head of Coaching Mark Robinson presented Alfie Egan with the Academy Player of the Year award after his fine season that included helping the Under-18s into the last-16 of the FA Youth Cup.
Mark said: “I had a dream when I started here 11 years ago and I wanted us to be the most productive academy in the country. We still have a long way to go, but by 2020 we can do that. We also want to produce boys who understand the club and are good people so that even if they don’t make it, we’ve made a big difference to their lives. This year we’ve taken huge steps forward with that. We’ve had lads progress to earn professional contracts, but the other boys who did not get kept on have left with good memories and feelings about their time here.”