In the second part of our interview with Tom Elliott, our former striker recalled how the class of 2016 clicked into gear to earn promotion glory and why it was such a tough decision to leave a year later.
The towering striker enjoyed a highly successful two-year stay here, rounded off by collecting three Player of the Awards, before he departed for Millwall and a crack at the Championship in 2017. Now at Salford City FC, we caught up with Tom recently for a chat about his time at Wimbledon. In case you missed it, you can read part one of the interview and part two is below.
What do you think was the key to success in 2016?
“The manager Neal Ardley assembled the squad and coaching staff, but it all just clicked in the second half of the season. It’s not many times that you get a squad to click, but everyone was humble and down to earth. There were a lot of different characters in the squad, but everyone had respect for each other. We had leaders in the squad, so if anything was ever wrong we would sort it out between ourselves. Neal Ardley let us take care of ourselves. Obviously, he took charge of the tactics, but he let us lead the changing room and be who we wanted to be. I would say that was one of the main reasons why we had a successful season. The manager was the one who assembled us together and constructed the squad, so it was all down to him.”
How important was the role of Wimbledon’s backroom team in keeping you at peak fitness during your time at the club?
“A lot of credit has to go to Dougy and the rest of the backroom staff. They all knew how to manage me as a player and they did too with Bayo, Ade, and Lyle. Me and Bayo were a little bit different to those other two and we had to be managed a little bit in the games that we played. We are different type of athletes due to our sizes and we had to be managed a bit more. I learned how to look after my own body at Wimbledon and that really helped me. I learned a lot about my body, how I could make my body do things that I didn’t know I could do. The backroom team taught me a lot, so fair play to them.”
Having played a big part in the AFC Wimbledon story, does it feel extra special that you will be remembered as a player who helped earn the club’s sixth promotion after reformation?
“It’s always nice to have those special memories, including helping the club go onto bigger things. It was my happiest time playing football and I loved my two years at Wimbledon. I always look back on my time at the club with a smile on my face because it was the best time in my career. I’ve had difficult times in my career, including being out for spells through injury, but I can always look back at my Wimbledon days with pride.”
Was you fully aware of Wimbledon’s history when you joined?
“I didn’t know too much about it before I signed, but I found out really quickly after I joined. My first game against MK was away and I think we lost that one. I could feel the passion from our supporters about how far the club had risen after reforming back in 2002. I could see what that meant to our fans, so as players it meant a lot to us as well. We wanted to win for them.”
You were presented with our Player of the Year award just before you went to Millwall and our supporters had heard you might be leaving. What was that situation like for you?
“I didn’t really want to leave because it was a great club for me – it was like one big family. At the time, I wanted to play as high as I could, and I wanted to see what I could do in my career. Football is a short career and you don’t know when it’s going to end, so I wanted to take my chance to play in the Championship. When you are in football the aim is to play as high as you can and that was my chance to do that, even though I didn’t want to leave.”
Tom is pictured celebrating with Paul Robinson after scoring at Notts County - a stunning strike that he selected as his favourite AFC Wimbledon goal. A reminder of that cracking goal is below, and you can also view a video featuring some of Tom's best moments in a Wimbledon shirt.