By Chris Slavin
Brett Johnson's life has gone in a completely different path to his AFC Wimbledon team-mates from seven years ago, but he regards play-off glory at Manchester as his best moment in football.
Now a London cab driver, Brett helped Wimbledon, Northampton, Brentford and Margate to promotions, but he's taken an enforced break from the game due to injuries. However, at the age of 32, the former Dons defender reckons he could still have something to offer a club.
"It has been an enjoyable football career for me, but unfortunately it was cut short a little bit last year due to injuries," said Brett. "I broke my leg and I did my cruciate, so I've had two operations. Since then I've got myself semi fit and I'm going to do a bit of training in July at a particular club, just to see how I get on. Now that I have a full-time job, it's not the be all and end all. I still want to play football and it looks a distinct possibility that I may be able to overcome the injuries. I'm a cab driver in London every day, but I'm self-employed now. I have plenty of time to do other things, including playing football.
"When I was coming towards the end of my third year at Wimbledon, I wasn't playing as much and I kind of knew my time was up. I had chats with Terry Brown and I had a few other things at the back of my mind. Simon Bassey was a cab driver, so I picked up the knowledge books and I started really studying it as soon as I left Wimbledon. I went part-time at Woking and during my time there and at Margate I was studying a lot. I passed a couple of years ago, I am a black cab driver and I love it."
Helping AFC Wimbledon into the Football League was particularly special for Brett because he feared that his chance to do it had gone. His comeback after injury against York was a pivotal moment for him and he believes that the 3-1 defeat at Crawley in March of that season was a turning point for the squad.
"We went into that game on the back of a few bad results and we really needed a result to have any chance of catching Crawley for the title," recalled Brett. "Unfortunately, we got beaten and that kind of meant we would not go up as Champions. We knew we would be in the play-offs and after that we all said, 'let's get a run going and go into it with momentum'. Browny started to get us all going and we did not lose a single game after that. There were times when Browny did not have to do team talks, he just let the boys get on with it. The boys were psyching themselves up for the play-offs and we made sure we were ready to go for it.
"Jamie Stuart was great, I was at Margate with him too, and his attitude did not change. He was the same when we got promoted at Margate, he was a winner. We also had Kedwell and 'Mainy', but also the general atmosphere around the club. Wimbledon had been promoted so many times and there was a lot of positivity around the place. We stayed together all season and there were not many changes. I can only recall Kaid Mohamed joining us on loan.
"The team did not change and we all got to know each other really well. I think that made a big difference as there had been a lot of chopping and changing at other clubs I had been at. We all stuck together for that common goal and after that Crawley game we really went for it. We had also been part-time in our first season in the Conference, but in the second season we went full-time. Browny wanted to give it a real go and we had players who really relished coming in every day to play, it was their first experience of full-time football. There was a lot of optimism among the squad about what we could achieve.
"A game that was special for me was the York match at home. I had been out injured for four or five months and I thought I would be touch and go to get back that season. It was the best feeling for me to come through it. We won 1-0 and it was great for me to be back in the fold."
Though Brett has not attended an AFC Wimbledon match since his departure, he still looks out for the results and playing a part in the club's rise means a lot to him.
"What was achieved that season does not really compare to my promotions at other clubs," added Brett. "Wimbledon was fantastic and it was a different feeling to what I felt at Northampton and Brentford. Those promotions were both automatic and it made it more special that we won the play-offs at Wimbledon. The fans had also worked so hard to get the club through the leagues after it was reformed, so it was a reward for them to get back into the league.
"I've not been back to a game, but I keep an eye on the results. I had such a great time at Wimbledon. It was not just the promotion season. There was also the first season in the Conference when it all started to come together and the first year in the Football League was a big thing for everyone. It was amazing to be a part of it and I had three great years at Wimbledon.
"There are a few players I'm still in touch with, but it would be great to meet up as a whole group. Some of us are in touch on WhatsApp and it would be great to arrange that. There are often reminders from Wimbledon fans on Facebook about that season. I often see the videos pop up and it's great to see a few familiar faces still going down there. It's fantastic that the club has stayed in League One and I would love to attend a game, maybe at Plough Lane in the future."