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Simon puts remarkable rise in perspective ahead of Sunderland

Dons gear up to face a club that were in the Premier League 15 months ago

24 August 2018

Having been with AFC Wimbledon for every step of the club's remarkable rise since reformation in 2002, Simon Bassey is excited by the prospect of two big challenges in four days.

Taking on Sunderland and West Ham is certainly a far cry from AFC Wimbledon's first competitive fixture at Sandhurst when Dons fans watched the game on bales of hay in the Combined Counties League.

In the picture above, our first-team coach (centre) is shown celebrating in Wimbledon Village after one of AFC Wimbledon's promotions.

On Saturday, Jack Ross brings the League One promotion favourites to the Cherry Red Records Stadium for a sell-out clash. We focus on tomorrow's opponents Sunderland below, but first we feature the thoughts of Simon Bassey ahead of the game.

On AFC Wimbledon's progress:

"Sandhurst and Chipstead were the first two games, it's been a remarkable rise, everyone is fully aware of that. To get where we have reached so far has been an amazing achievement. It's sad in a way to see Sunderland at this level, but they are here and we have to approach the game with the intention of winning it.

"To get into the league in nine years was an unbelievable achievement by everyone and to be in League 2 for a short space of time and get into League One was another fantastic feat. It's just another one coming up that we notch off on our journey back. So far, we've done brilliantly, and long may that continue."

On Sunderland:

"They always bring good support. I went to Gillingham on Wednesday night and they had 2,000 there in the away end. As it's a 500-mile trip that's a fantastic achievement for them on a Wednesday night. I am sure they will be sold out on Saturday and create a good atmosphere.

"They will be strong favourites to go for promotion this year and rightly so. You could see all of their credentials. They were very professional in the job that they did at Gillingham and they saw it out comfortably in the end."

On bouncing back after defeat:

"The easiest thing to do is to be a great group when you've won three on the spin. You find out about people when you get beaten, though the manner of defeat was kind of unlucky in a way. If you get goals two and three against you in one season you are unlucky, but to get them in 15 minutes was something else.

"I was really pleased with a lot of aspects of our play on Tuesday. I said in the office after the game that the first-half especially was some of the best football we had played for five or six years. For half an hour in the first-half we were very good, though we probably should have done more in the final third to work the keeper. Some of our approach play was fantastic."

On Anthony Wordsworth's display in midweek:

"I think Anthony had three shots the other night and three or four at Portsmouth. He was brought into the squad to add a goal threat from midfield and some of his football was excellent. Some of his link-up play, with other midfielders and forwards, was first-class. He will be a massive plus for us this year. I am sure that Anthony is going to be a really big player for us."

On attempting to bring in a fourth striker:

"It is still ongoing. It's a difficult one when you're going into the loan window. Sometimes you have to wait for other people to do their business before they can free up a player. They tend to not let them go unless they have got one they want. We are sitting tight on it and we've got four or five options, but we hope to have something possibly by the middle of next week."

On our supporters:

"For every game we play the fans are brilliant. They turn up in their numbers and they are vocal. For the big games, like Liverpool, they are there early and they are noisy in the warm-up. You can feel it is a big game when they are there that early, getting their spot. I am sure they will turn up in their numbers and be a credit to the club."

A quick guide to Sunderland:

  • It's been 30 years since Sunderland last played in the third tier of English football.
  • The Black Cats were in the Premier League as recently as 2017.
  • Sunderland's home ground is the Stadium of Light and it has a capacity of 49,000.
  • Sunderland have been crowned English Champions SIX times! To put that in perspective, Man City have won it just five times, though Sunderland's last title was in 1936!
  • Sunderland received £41 million in parachute payments last season after relegation from the Premier League 15 months ago.
  • Jack Ross, the former St Mirren boss, is the current Sunderland manager and the Black Cats are unbeaten so far this season.
  • The new manager has made 12 signings this summer with a greater number having left the Stadium of Light during the summer.
  • The new signings include former Wimbledon loanee Charlie Wyke from Bradford and Jerome Sinclair, a £1.3 million capture from Watford.

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