Dave Anderson’s decision to come out of managerial retirement has been rewarded emphatically with a Wembley final date on Sunday – and he has certainly recaptured a bit of the old magic from his Wimbledon days!
Just one player – 37-year-old ‘Mr Chertsey’ John Pomroy – remain from the squad that Dave inherited when he was appointed as manager of The Curfews back in March 2018. With Chertsey heading to Wembley for the final of the FA Vase as Combined Counties Premier League winners, it’s fair to say that Dave’s latest squad overhaul has been a resounding success.
Dave, who played a big part in AFC Wimbledon’s rise between 2004 and 2007, said: “We have ‘Binnsy’ (Dale Binns), who played for me as an 18-year-old at Hendon before I got the AFC Wimbledon job. I talked him out of retirement and he is still one of the fittest guys in the squad. We also have Michael Peacock, who was at AFC Wimbledon. They are all Isthmian League standard players and a couple have played Conference South. We also have a couple of younger players that have come into the squad and done really well, but it’s been the easiest squad I’ve ever had to manage. It’s my best squad in terms of experience and ability for the level we are at, if that makes sense. It’s good because it makes it look like you know what you are doing! Realistically, they are very good.
“John Pomroy is the only player left since I walked into the door. He was here when I walked in and he will be here when I walk out, no doubt! He epitomises what the club is about, the fans love him. He has been coming off the bench and taking a senior role. He understands it, and his attitude has been really good. There have been a couple of other senior players who haven’t played every week and when they are putting it in, even though they are not starting games, then everyone else has to be at it.”
On his decision to return to management after announcing his retirement, Dave said: “I was happy, I’d been down to see Wimbledon a few times, but I met Dave Rayner, who is a really enthusiastic man and loves Chertsey. I knew when I was going that I was in trouble because I’ve known him a long time! I agreed to take the team towards the end of the season before last when they were in a bit of trouble and there was a possibility of relegation. I said, ‘look, if we go down, I’m out of here, I’ve never been relegated and that would do for me’. We stayed up comfortably. I then managed to get a really good group of players together quickly, ones used to playing a level above this. It’s all gone on from there really.
“The big thing was that promotion was essential. Chertsey is a club with a history of being at a level higher than Combined Counties and the gates have increased considerably because of the FA Vase run. I think the paying gate in the two matches before I took over was something like 19! Now we are up to 250-300 and the semi-final was nearer 2,000, which is understandable. It’s always been a town Chertsey where the people are interested in football. I remember coming here 20 years ago when Chertsey had a good side and there would always be around 500 watching, so it has the potential to do that.
“We’ve won 10 games in the FA Vase, which I didn’t realise because I tend to move on quickly from game to game. In the early stages we stuttered a bit, which you look back on now and think, ‘we could easily have been out’. It starts to become real when you get to the quarter-finals. It then goes national and with our luck we were drawn up north three times! In many ways it was a difficult route to take to the final, but it also really bonded us because we travelled up on Fridays. I had a lot of intelligence from AFC Wimbledon and Simon Bassey about how the club travelled up for league games. I tapped into that and we went on the train, as opposed to going by coach. That was really successful.
"When you win those matches it becomes real because you are taking on proper journeys, similar to professionals, and you are going to places where you know it’s a big game due to the record those northern clubs have in the competition. I’ve always worked hard to deal with one game, put it to bed, and move onto the next one. We were still trying to win the title at that stage. From the time of the semi-final I think we had 12 games in three weeks, it was madness. Our first five games after the semi-final were away from home and we won four and drew one, which was magnificent. Our title rivals Sutton Common Rovers faltered then, which helped us a little bit, but I think we put them under a little bit of pressure. I know going to Wembley is great and if we win it, super, but as a football manager I think you are judged on titles and it was nice to win it.”
Of course, Dave has kept a close eye on his old club Wimbledon’s fortunes. He is delighted that Dons supporters will be at Wembley to cheer on his team and that they will still be following a League One club next season.
“It’s unbelievable. I know that ‘Ards’ did a similar sort of thing when he went in after ‘Browny’, but I will be honest I thought they were dead and buried (last season), I really did. Nothing really surprises me at the place. It wasn’t immediate as it seemed to take the manager a while after he came in, but the form in the last 12 games was nigh on Championship-winning form. I’m delighted as it’s the first result that I look for, it always has been.
“Erik (Samuelson) was here the other week, he came to one of the games with Eileen. We had a good laugh and I had a couple of cups of tea with him! He will be down again and he’s going to Wembley on Sunday. He is a top man. AFC Wimbledon isn’t about one man, it’s about many men, but there are people that have played massive roles and been at the club a long time. Erik falls into that category. I loved my time working with him. We used to argue about something, but then we would move onto the next thing and it would be fine. We would disagree, but we always had that real honesty between us. For the better of the football club was always what we wanted. He’s so strait-laced and dry. My accent and size can intimidate people, but I didn’t intimidate him once! He used to giggle if he thought I was trying to intimidate him! Erik deserves his retirement and deserves to be welcomed with the red carpet every time he walks in the door. He is a real hero in the club’s history.”
Chertsey face Cray Valley Paper Mills in the final of the FA Vase on Sunday (12.15 pm kick-off) and all at AFC Wimbledon wish Dave the best of luck. If you missed Rob Cornell’s extensive interview with Dave, you can watch both parts of it below.