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Feature: Volunteers and Academy get stadium ready for kick-off

Hard-working army of loyal fans joined by Dons Youth as new season approaches

13 July 2017

By Rob Cornell

When you enter our current home this Saturday before we take on Watford, just take a moment to appreciate the surroundings from your seat or favourite place on the terrace.

A loyal band of voluntary workers – not just Dons fans as one regularly comes from Cheltenham too, among others – have yet again helped get the stadium ready this Summer and ahead of schedule on this occasion before the big kick-off.

A big, final push last weekend, aided by AFC Wimbledon Academy under-15s/16s on the Saturday and the under-18s squad on the Sunday, meant The Cherry Red Records Stadium is in the best possible shape for another season.

A video, via our official club YouTube channel, features interviews with joint organiser of the Stadium Working Group Margaret Adam, Second Professional Development Phase Coach James Oliver-Pearce and under-18s players Reece Weekes and Ethan Nelson-Roberts and shows viewers a glimpse of what was achieved by clicking on the link below.

"To our main volunteers who attend these weekends year after year and who work so hard - a big thank you," said delighted joint organiser Margaret. "It is a pleasure to work with all of you and see the satisfaction on your faces when you look and see what you have achieved in the time you spend on the two summer work weekends.

"For the last four weeks our volunteer painters have been painting away - day in, day out - using gallons of paint to turn the stadium blue and yellow! They've been boosted by volunteers at the work weekend. One guy, who is a fan, travelled from Bath as he can't always get to home games."

AFC Wimbledon Academy under-15s and 16s made quite an impression on the first of the two days.

"The main reason for the boys taking part in the stadium clean-up day is for them to understand the club ethos and continue to build our one club mentality," said Lead Youth Phase Coach Rob Tuvey.

"It is also key that they show an understanding that it is not only what they do on the pitch that makes them achieve their goals, but it's the person away from the pitch that allows them to be great pros hopefully in the future.

"We were able to help out for a few hours after a tough morning training session, which allowed the boys to mix together and develop their social skills - not just with eachother, but with the fans who they hope one day to entertain for the first team. We will certainly be back next year to carry on such a great tradition"

The work certainly didn't go unnoticed by Margaret.

"The under 15s joined 30 or so volunteers. They were all keen to get to work. They were polite, very well-mannered and worked extremely hard," said Margaret, who was clearly impressed with their efforts. "They were thorough in their input with the gardening, sweeping, cleaning wheelie bins and with the preparation for painting. They made great headway into all the jobs. They are a good first team in the making!"

Having done such a great job the previous day, they'd actually left the under-18s (pictured) less to do the following day! Mark Robinson's squad were still keen to see things through though.

"It's great for the boys to come down and socialize with the fans," said James Oliver-Pearce. "They get an idea of our culture and how we've developed as a club and how we are all one together. The only way we're going to achieve things is pulling together and working as a group. They've all been pro-active in terms of asking Margaret what they can do next and anything that they can do to help.

"All of the lads that have come through the Academy and that are involved in the first-team squad have all been a part of these days. I think that gives the fans something more to relate to. They feel a greater connection because they realise these lads have helped out. It's a bond that will stay with them because they've seen them clearing up.

"I think it's very unique and personal to us and I don't think that happens at many other places and you sense that's why the fans want the Academy players to do well."

"The under-18s squad joined us and were on a mission to complete all the tasks allocated to them," added Margaret. "With the weeding in all areas around the stadium, washing down seats and again prepping for the painters by rubbing down barriers. They worked together with our 25 volunteers clearing cut down foliage and other rubbish that needed to be disposed of. They were polite, well-mannered and the overall attitude of the lads was so refreshing."

Margaret acknowledged her fellow members of the group who work so hard so that everyone visiting the stadium can enjoy their matchday experience in a tidy and safe environment.

"I would like to mention the organising team behind these events. The planning of work, the distribution of jobs and shopping for materials are carried out by Tom Adam, Paul Sparkes, Julian Knowles and myself and the superb catering supplied to all our hard workers by Eileen Samuelson, Karen Sparkes and Sandra Lowne."

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