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From taking on the Crazy Gang to a life in business

Extensive interview with former England international John Salako

22 June 2018

Rob Cornell

John Salako's career has gone in a completely different path from the days when he was doing battle with the Crazy Gang!

Now Business Development Director at SME Business Finance, the former England international attended yesterday's AFC Wimbledon Business Club Breakfast event to mark EFL fixture release day.

Afterwards, he spoke to the official website about the old days of taking on Wimbledon when he was a player with Crystal Palace.

"Neal (Ardley) would have been a young lad coming through," recalled John. "He was a cultured right-midfielder. I was more of a winger; he was more a 'David Beckham'. He was good technically and a good crosser of the ball, good on set plays and with a great engine. Just a really nice lad!

"Playing against Wimbledon in the early days though was fiery, to say the least! Vinnie (Jones) tried to 'do' me a few times. He didn't take any prisoners and you had to keep an eye on him. You didn't want to play against 'Fash' (John Fashanu).

"For me though, Terry Phelan was quick! Keith Curle, Roger Joseph at right-back, Warren Barton and John Scales were all good players and they were all quick! They were all so fast! We always loved playing against Wimbledon because it was such a battle. Wimbledon took it to another level when they were in the Premier League and winning the FA Cup. It's scary really; it was just such a fantastic time in both Palace and Wimbledon histories."

John's life has gone in a completely different direction since and as a member of the AFC Wimbledon Business Club, he's been a regular at meetings since it was set-up in October.

"It's great being a part of the Business Club," added John. "It is such a lovely, family club; it's a lovely area, warm. The businesses come to these events and they are great lads. What I enjoy about it really is meeting such nice people. There is a massive life to lead after you finish playing. I think that on the continent they embrace going into business after playing, in a way they get fast-tracked towards senior management roles in business.

"It's more of a conveyor belt and they start thinking about life after football earlier, it definitely happens more on the continent than here. Maybe footballers over here are earning so much money now that they don't think that far ahead. "There is life after football, so to speak, but it is nice to 'dovetail' it with a bit of football," added John, who also works as a pundit and commentator for Sky Sports.

Watch the full interview with John via a link to our official You Tube channel below.

John has watched AFC Wimbledon's rise with great interest and he can see a "bright" future ahead for the club.

"One of the great things about AFC Wimbledon is that the club is run on a tight budget, kept in parameters and it doesn't overspend. There must be so many clubs that are pushing the boat out and if it doesn't work out they could potentially leave themselves open to financial problems down the line. I think it's brilliant how the club is run and it's kept very much in the 'black'. Going forward the future is bright.

John admires the job Neal is doing shaping AFC Wimbledon into a League One club and gave his view on the season ahead for the Dons. He believes Wimbledon will need to show more good business acumen during the summer transfer window.

"Speaking to Neal, he's very excited about the new season. He's going to have to 'wheel and deal' and get some strikers in. I think goals were the main issue last year and also as Neal said about the culture of the team and the characters in there.

"That's the important thing as a manager; to get that balance right and get that unity. Certainly the defensive structure is there, they just need to bang goals in and I think certainly that's what Neal is working hard on in the next couple of weeks – is to get a couple of strikers in.

"If you start well and are looking down on teams then the confidence just flows through and you never know what you can achieve from there. I think when you start slowly; it's always a tough battle from there to get yourself anywhere near mid-table. Hopefully it will be a great start and Neal can be at the right end of the table this season. You never know, you could be challenging for those play-off spots."

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