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Interviews

For he’s a Jolley good fellow

Taking a trip down memory lane

18 January 2023

Interviews

For he’s a Jolley good fellow

Taking a trip down memory lane

18 January 2023

Christian Jolley was a match winner who was arguably one of our unsung heroes on the route to promotion glory in 2011.

The fleet-footed forward was second to only the great Danny Kedwell in the scoring charts as we returned to the Football League and even went on to form an equally effective partnership with Jack Midson in League Two.

Almost 11 years on from one of our greatest days, we caught up with Christian to discuss consistency, cohesion and much more as we look ahead to our game against another of his former clubs, Newport County.

What was it like to make the jump from Kingstonian to Wimbledon?

I remember attending a fan event – Mainy (Jon Main) and Keds (Danny Kedwell) were there. Mainy said that Keds was ridiculous, that he was the best player in the league and that I shouldn’t judge myself against him.

And then he said that I should have a look at the rest of the squad in order to understand what level I should perform at, which was quite funny.

We all had a point to prove – in order to show that we deserved to play for the Club and that we were deserving of playing alongside the best player.

Aside from that, it all came down to hard work and endeavour because we were all young and hungry. The likes of Fraser Franks and Ed Harris were let go by Brentford and QPR, so they saw it as a chance to prove a point.

In a sense we were so young and naive that it actually helped us to challenge for promotion because we didn’t consider quite how hard it was. We were right behind Crawley for a lot of the season and surprised a lot of people.

Do you remember your debut for the Dons well?

Myself and Lee Minshull roomed together, we stayed in the Wigan owner, Dave Whelan’s hotel. It was my first ever experience of an overnight stay - it made me feel like a superstar! The facilities were superb and we received guidance on how to prepare for the game.

It was all a new experience for me. I didn’t want to let anyone down, let alone myself. I’d always wanted to be a professional footballer and it was my opportunity.

I found out I was in the squad but not in the starting eleven – so I knew I wouldn’t have long to make an impression. Long story short, Minshull got sent off, and I came off the bench to get the winner.

Scoring that goal gave me plenty of confidence. It was the perfect outcome and I had the pleasure of scoring in front of our travelling supporters. It was an incredible feeling. Browny worked on a lot of patterns of play and this one came off.

What was the key to success during the 2010/11 promotion season?

Recruitment. It’s always a gamble but Browny got it spot on. The way we played helped too. During that period there were not too many sides that played out from the back in the way we did.

Ourselves, Forest Green Rovers, and Wrexham probably played the most attractive football because it was a very direct league.

When I signed I was very slight. The first thing I was told was that I had to put on a stone and a half in weight. I soon understood why that was a necessity.

York away comes to mind as a moment when we felt we were way off it – we got pumped. I was with Kedwell the other day, discussing it. It was only a blip and in the end our consistency shone through.

How did Terry Brown get the best out of you?

His recruitment was that good, so he didn’t have to particularly man-manage players in order to get the best out of them.

I can look all the way through the team, players like Sam Hatton, he had a challenging start to his Wimbledon career, but he ended up being the best right-back at that level because of the faith Browny put in him.

Steven Gregory was also a very talented player, he was very well regarded in the league. The manager built us back up after the previous setbacks that we had experienced earlier in our careers.

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Did you as players understand how much it meant for the Club to return to the Football League?

It took me time to absorb the history of what went on all those years ago and it was only as I got older that I really put what we had achieved into perspective.

The impact and the longevity of what we achieved that year brought so much happiness to the supporters who had been through so much. We’ve got a place in history and that’s a great source of pride for me.

Seeing the new stadium puts a smile on my face – Erik Samuelson used to tell us about the plans back when I was playing for the club. It just shows what can be achieved if we stick together.

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Are you still in touch with that squad now?

Football is a small world so we almost always bump into each other in one place or another. The likes of Jack Midson and Sammy Moore are in management, Ricky Wellard and Danny Kedwell are also heavily involved in the game to this day.

Social media is a wonderful thing, I get tagged in clips and photos from the past and it brings us all together again. We’re stronger than acquaintances but not as tight as we once were because of daily life getting in the way.

You started our first season back in League Two well and some transfer speculation emerged. Was there any concrete interest from other clubs at that time?

Staying consistent proved to be the battle of my career. I ended up being second top scorer behind Keds in the promotion season, so naturally I fancied myself when he moved on to Gillingham. I felt it would be my time.

I managed to get myself to the front of the queue for the start of that first season in League Two, but I missed a one on one against Bristol Rovers on the opening day. It was live on Sky, I had to score it and before I knew it I found myself out of the team.

It took a while to adapt to the level before I eventually got back into the team. It all changed when we beat Port Vale at home. I wasn’t even originally in the squad for that game. I was told to do some extra work with Jason Moriarty – which at the time I wasn’t too keen on as I’d just been told I wasn’t in the team, so I was fuming.

As it transpired, Charles Ademeno got injured in the warm-up, which meant I went from being in the ‘bomb squad’ to being on the bench. I remember coming on and netting the winner and then sprinting over to the main stand to celebrate with all the other lads who had been left out and were in the bomb squad.

It meant a lot to do that because they were the ones that would pick you up if you were left out because they were in the same situation. It was either managerial genius from Browny or the stars just aligned well for me that day.

That was the start of it. I went on a great run of scoring and assisting goals. From that there was plenty of transfer murmurs but I was really lucky because my old manager, Alan Dowson, used to keep me grounded – he would phone up whatever club was linked with me and find out if the interest was genuine or not.

He’d then tell me if they were watching me or not and that was as far as it got. It helped to nullify it and allowed me to focus on my football.

How did it feel to leave Wimbledon?

At the time I felt like I had let Browny down. He gave me my opportunity and in the end we collectively didn’t have enough quality to keep him in the job.

Neal Ardley was great with me but I just wasn’t his player. There weren’t any opportunities so he allowed me to go on loan to Newport.

It all got a bit sticky because I was doing well at Newport when Wimbledon weren’t doing so well. I had hit the ground running quite literally there and in the end I was brought back in January. I didn’t want to come back at the time but I had no choice.

My form created a demand in the market and as a result I was made available for transfer. All I wanted to do was go back to Newport but there were bigger bids elsewhere at Luton Town, Wrexham and Forest Green but after speaking to Justin Edinburgh my mind was made up – he just knew how to get the best out of me.

As I look back at it now I realise that I contributed to the survival of Wimbledon that season – although I wasn’t able to do it directly on the pitch with my performances, the fee received for me allowed the club to invest in players that helped them to preserve the league status.  

You had a successful spell at Newport. What was it like to not only win the final at Wembley but score in it?

It was incredible. It was my moment, I was the star man there, whereas at Wimbledon Keds took a lot of the weight for the team. It was a picture perfect day – in all honesty we got battered by Wrexham but when the one chance came my way it all happened in slow motion and I was never in doubt that the ball would hit the net.

There is actually a logical reason as to why so many Wimbledon players have ended up at Newport. Simon Bassey is very close to Jimmy Dack, they live next door to each other pretty much and that’s what has provided the link.

Jimmy would reach out and ask if any players were available and then there would be always be conversations between the two – it’s how my loan there came about originally. It meant Newport always had first refusal on any players that Wimbledon were letting go.

You’re now assistant manager at Dartford. What made you want to step into coaching and how have you found it so far?

It was all a complete accident if I’m being honest. Alan Dowson was the man who got me from playing park football to Wimbledon, I’ve always been indebted to him.

I ended up back with him at Woking as a physio. It really helped me to transition onto the management side of things because I had a lot of emotive interactions with the players in that role.

It didn’t work out for Alan at Woking and I followed him to Dartford after his exit. He put the opportunity of becoming assistant to me and I trusted his judgement. I’m learning on the job under a fantastic teacher who has been with me through every step of my football career. I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

 


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