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Terry: Wally has instilled that fighting spirit

Interview with our former manager

25 April 2019

Terry Brown last Saturday returned to the club he led to three promotions in four seasons and he believes that Wally Downes can guide AFC Wimbledon to more success.

On the job our current manager is doing, Terry said: “What a wonderful transition Wally is overseeing. I think he has instilled some of that fighting spirit that’s always been synonymous with Wimbledon. I look forward to continued success at Wimbledon under Wally’s management.”

Terry was our special guest for the Bristol Rovers home game and an interview with him featured in the match day programme. For those that missed the interview, it’s reproduced in full below.

Almost eight years since he guided the Dons back into the Football League, Terry Brown is aiming to make his mark in a completely different role – and he hasn’t had far to turn for advice in pursuit of more football success. Our former manager, who enjoyed a hugely successful five years with AFC Wimbledon in which he took the club from the (then) Ryman Premier up to League Two, was earlier this season appointed club chairman at Basingstoke Town. It’s a role that’s in stark contrast to his three decades as a manager, and he’s not been slow in picking the brains of Erik Samuelson, who recently retired as our chief executive.

When asked if he had ever thought about becoming a club chairman, Terry replied: “Not really! I’ve only just started, and I know I’ve got tons and tons to learn, but I do feel comfortable in that I’ve had a lot of experience in football. I’ve seen how best to run a football club and how not to run a club. That’s really been useful to me in my new role.

“What best sums it up is that for the past thirty years I’ve been spending football clubs’ money, but now I’ve got to raise the money. I know what’s the most difficult! Phone calls to Erik have increased considerably! He’s been very helpful. I think I’ve been very lucky in having worked with Erik, who’s the best chairman I ever had in football. I’ve worked with some pretty awful ones too, and I’ve seen how not to do it. Erik put me in contact with Supporters Direct, and they’ve given us important information.”

In similar circumstances to Wimbledon this season, Basingstoke are embroiled in their own relegation battle. The Dragons are aiming to retain their Southern Premier League status under the management of former Portsmouth defender Martin Kuhl. There could be an exciting future ahead, with the club set to move to a new home at Winklebury (a little to the north of their present ground, the Camrose), which will also be the HQ for the Hampshire FA. With long-standing owner and chairman Rafi Razzak having stepped down after writing off the club’s debt, Terry is now at the heart of moving the club in a new direction.

“It’s 24/7 really in terms of workload. We’re hoping to be rubber-stamped as a community club in early May. The previous chairman has stepped down and is going to be building houses on the Camrose. We’re forming a community club and we’ll be taking on the running of the football side of the club. We’re moving to a new home that will be leased from the council and sharing the facility with the Hampshire FA. Winklebury is a suburb of Basingstoke, and it’s important that we stay in the town where the club has played football for so many years. Similar to Wimbledon wanting to be in Merton, we want to stay in the club’s home town.

“The stadium is already built, but we have to raise the money for a clubhouse. We’re hoping to move into the stadium by August or September. It does open up opportunities with business people in that they want to work with a community club. The club has to make changes and make more effort. It’s one thing to be called a community club, it’s another thing to be one in reality.”

But first, Basingstoke must do what they can to avoid relegation – and Terry admits that it’s getting very nervy in the survival stakes. “It’s very precarious. We need points from our last three games to make sure we stay in step three of the non-league pyramid. It’s important that we stay in this league so that we can keep moving the club forward.”

Terry certainly achieved that with Wimbledon, achieving three promotions in four years. Ironically, his return came to watch us play Bristol Rovers, the club’s first League Two opponents back in 2011.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity to bring my wife and son back to where we spent five happy years, and it’s significant that the game is against the club we played in our first Football League game since we re-formed. Even though we lost that day, it still sticks in my mind as being a great day for the club. I’m looking forward to another special day. I watched us beat Milton Keynes, which was a real pleasure, and nine times out of ten when I come to games we win – I hope to keep that going! I make my pilgrimage back to Wimbledon at least once a season.”

Memories of that magical day in Manchester when the Dons beat Luton to earn a place in the Football League will certainly never be forgotten. “It seems like last weekend – it certainly doesn’t seem eight years ago. Nothing can replicate that day in terms of my time in football. I remember five absolutely fantastic years at the club. I’ll never forget having the honour of being the manager who took Wimbledon back into the Football League.”

Terry enjoyed a great working relationship with Erik Samuelson to bring about success at AFC Wimbledon, and our former manager believes it’s been a good time for Erik to call it a day. “To be in the position of retiring at a point when you can say you’ve achieved everything you wanted to in your career is fantastic. You need to have that financial stability, or it can go pear-shaped – like it has for other clubs. With Erik Samuelson as chief executive, that was never going to happen here. Erik has fully earned a restful retirement and he can now watch his Dons from the terraces like any other fan.”

However, it’s likely that Erik will have his peace disrupted by the odd phone call from Terry in his new role!

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