Supporters enjoyed a special breakfast at the stadium yesterday with a man who starred in Wimbledon’s Premier League days joining us.
After tucking into a selection of savoury treats at our 2023/24 Fixture Release Breakfast, sponsored by Omnia Group Services, those in attendance heard from Damien Francis, who made over 100 appearances for Wimbledon after progressing through our youth system.
As well as sharing his memories of top-flight battles, most notably his Dons debut at Arsenal with Premier League greats including Patrick Vieira in opposition, Damien talked about his life after hanging up his boots.
Now working as a player agent for Legacy Sports Management, Damien’s role involves identifying potential teenage football stars of the future, but he still finds time to follow the Dons!
Damien said: “It’s incredible to be back – this is my club. To be here for this exciting event with the fixtures being released increases the anticipation for the new season. I still look out for every Wimbledon result. Last season was a bit shaky towards the end, but I’m hoping we’ll do a lot better next time around.
“My job mainly involves working in Holland, it worked out like that through various contacts, but I also do a fair bit in the UK. My advice to young players now would be to pursue any interests they have whilst playing and do as much as they can in their spare time. It will offer them something to fall back on after finishing their careers – and it doesn’t necessarily have to be in football. They should take up a potential career that would suit them after their playing days are over.”
Before Ivor Heller’s chat with Damien, there was something completely different for fans – an inspirational poem!
Kaira Manders, who is spoken word artist for St George’s Hospital Charity, provided one of the highlights of the morning with her uplifting words.
“I knew about the amazing AFC Wimbledon story, but I didn’t know the extent of the emotions that people involved had been through," said Kaira. "Now I actually consider myself a fan! After talking to people here with a real connection to the Club and watching videos on YouTube I feel so embedded with the story. I know a few people who are big AFC Wimbledon fans and they were so excited when I read them my poem.
“I saw the advert for the play this weekend and taking sport into creativity, and people understanding the business side, even the design of the kit, so that there’s interest in the Club via other avenues, can attract new fans. They may then stay with us because of those connections. I know that Wimbledon does great community work and building upon this can open up the doors to attract new supporters.”
We recently announced Omnia Group Services as our Official Payroll Partner and co-owner Jay Pittaway expressed his excitement about the partnership moving forward.
Jay said: “In recent years we’ve been trying to get into the sports and entertainment industry. We’re based in Reading, but we have an office in London as well. We had a three-year sponsorship deal with Reading FC, but that has come to an end now.
“We like the set-up at Wimbledon as it’s a club with a great history and it has that nice feeling that we can really feel a part of it by getting to know the other partners involved. It’s all very exciting. A good pal of mine has a nephew who is a massive Dons fan, so I was asked to come here and try to get a couple of tickets for the trip to Spain!
“Sponsoring AFC Wimbledon is great exposure for us, the Wrexham game is going to be big, so we are going to get a few of us to that game, which will be fantastic. It will be exciting to get to know those involved at the Club as Wimbledon aims to push forward. We’ve signed up for four years, so we’re in it for the long-term, which is great.”
The picture above shows (left to right): Damien Francis, Kaira Manders, and Jay Pittaway.
Following the big fixture reveal yesterday, supporters can now purchase Matchday Hospitality for 2023/24.
Access our previous announcement for more information.