With seven new first-team arrivals, and Plough Lane increasingly close to completion, I thought I’d take this opportunity to update you as we prepare for our League opener on Saturday.
It’ll be so strange to make the shortish trip to Northampton without seeing yellow and blue scarves dangling out of car windows along the motorway. In a way, it’s a stark reminder that Covid is still with us, influencing everything we do and all the plans we make. Football isn’t the same without fans, of course, and everyone at the club can’t wait for the day when you can all safely return.
Especially when we move to our new Wimbledon home.
So many clubs have struggled in the wake of the pandemic; many are embarking on the new season with severe financial problems and little idea how they’re going to resolve them.
I am pleased and relieved to report that, for the foreseeable future at least, we do not fall into that category. Indeed, we have much to feel positive about.
It’s still early days but our ground-breaking debenture scheme already looks a success, giving us some precious financial security. I am so grateful to everyone behind the scenes who has worked long, exhaustive hours to get the scheme up and running.
In some respects we were fortunate; the prospect of returning to Plough Lane created an extra buzz for the season ahead. Everybody wanted to secure their seats at our new home - and that gave us the confidence to launch the debentures, along with non-refundable season tickets (NRST).
It was new territory for the club and, therefore, an unknown quantity. However, I am delighted to report that nearly 2,500 fans have backed us so far – and we haven’t even gone on general sale yet. Out of that figure, 1,113 have committed to NRSTs, 610 have registered for debentures – and 773 for both.
I cannot thank you enough for supporting us to this extent. It is no exaggeration to say your backing has been the difference between approaching the new season with a spring in our step – as opposed to dreading every game, unsure how we would cover basic costs. It never ceases to amaze me just how much you all embrace the responsibility of being club owners and not just supporters. Whenever we have faced a crisis you have responded in a way that underlines how important our club is to you all.
The stadium itself is still very much on schedule. Each day seems to be another day when it looks more and more like a proper arena and I loved the moment when our distinctive yellow and blue speckled seating was installed, and the bold blue cladding appeared on the stadium’s outer skin.
I can’t even begin to explain how much work is going on to get the stadium finished and the team playing there. It may not have been as smooth as we would like to have got here, but with the limited resources we have and the small window of time since we secured the full funding, it really will be a remarkable achievement. Delivering the dream is the goal that is driving every single one of us to keep working around the clock.
The progress has certainly lifted my spirits and reminded me how we are all playing our part. Whether it was the crowdfunding campaign, the Plough Lane Bond, the moment we secured our bridging loan or our new debenture and NRST scheme, our dream of going home is a reality because you made it happen.
Nobody deserves to take their seats at our new home more than you and we are keeping our fingers crossed that the coronavirus restrictions will be eased come October/November and at least some of you will be able to see our first historic game there.
Meanwhile, I am indebted to the directors of QPR, who have allowed us to use the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium for our home matches until Plough Lane is ready. We have already played a couple of games there, including an excellent 2-1 EFL Trophy win over Charlton.
Our manager Glyn Hodges and his assistant Nick Daws have been working diligently during the summer bringing in seven new faces to give the squad a much-more balanced look. Indeed, there may yet be more additions.
Alex Woodyard and Cheye Alexander made their debuts during our impressive performance at Oxford in the Carabao Cup, while Brighton’s Ryan Longman has joined us on loan – along with Birmingham’s highly-rated keeper, Connal Trueman.
Add to that Brentford’s Finnish midfielder Jaakko Oksanen (on loan) and attacking midfielder Ethan Chislett from Aldershot, plus the very pleasing emergence of some of our young academy players and there’s every reason to feel optimistic about the campaign ahead. In fact, many of our pre-season performances have been immensely encouraging.
Finally, I would like to place on record my gratitude to Mark Davis, who has decided to step down as chair of the Dons Trust Board at the end of the year. Mark has worked tirelessly on the DT board for seven years – three as chairman - and has been a driving force behind our move to Plough Lane. His dedication of time, his chairing of the committee and phenomenal working contribution have astounded me given he already has an incredibly demanding day job and he should be absolutely commended for it. On a personal note, he has been a true friend and colleague to me and one I will sorely miss. I wish him all the best for the future and hope he can sit in his seat at the new stadium and finally enjoy what he’s been such an integral part of creating.
All the best to Glyn, Nick and the lads on Saturday. And don’t forget, you’ll be able to watch it all on iFollow.