It Only Took Nine Years: What AFC Wimbledon need to do in the summer
12:51 14 May 2012
Terry Brown is looking to rebuild AFC Wimbledon next season
Following ‘Black Monday’, as described by Terry Brown himself, the names of Wimbledon players that will not be renewing their contract was released. A total of thirteen members of this season’s first team squad will depart, as Brown seeks to rebuild AFC Wimbledon for next season.
Who have we lost?
As expected, the list of names included this current Dons captain Jamie Stuart, who led the side in the last five games of the season. The 5ft8in centre-back has proved he is too slow for this level and has been consistently caught out at the back. His eagerness to clear the ball away in favour of keeping possession proves he is too basic a footballer for League Two.
However, his value lies in his experience and leadership in such a young side, and Brown must ensure that he signs someone who can offer similar guidance, organisation and mental strength.
Gareth Gwillim has also been released, despite captaining the side in Stuart’s absence. At 29, Gwillim was one of the more experienced players in the side, and he proved to be a consistent left-back this season, however Brown will be aiming to sign younger, better replacement for next season. Part of the promotion-winning side last season, his most memorable contribution has to be his outstanding long-distance strike against Port Vale.
Continuing the defensive clear-out, Chris Bush Fraser Franks and Brett Johnson also depart. I had predicted Bush to usurp Gwillim at left-back over the course of this season, and his inability to do so indicates that he has not improved at the rate expected. Brett Johnson is another decent player who was an integral part of the Wimbledon side last year, but has not looked good enough for League Two. Like Fraser Franks, Johnson is a player that Brown is looking to upgrade for next season.
Signed as an exciting prospect from neighbours Crystal Palace, Kieran Djilali has been unable to live up to expectations. While it has been in part due to injury, Djilali has been unable to deliver on his initial promise, and has ended the season with only 14 appearances in all competitions. When playing in a side struggling for form and confidence, he stood out as a luxury player that the Dons could ill afford. Despite question marks over his attitude, other clubs will take a punt on Djilali, and I only hope that we are not made to regret the decision to let him go.
This season was Ricky Wellard’s chance; he has shown flashes of quality but has proved too inconsistent in both passing and ball-retention to make it in the Wimbledon midfield. Brown kept him on for this season in the hope that he could mature into a competent ball-playing midfielder, yet his physical ability and range of passing are too often unable to match his vision.
Youngster Reece Jones has also been released after being unable to breakthrough into the first team. He looked out of his depth on his first team debut against Shrewsbury, and despite a promising loan spell at Hampton & Richmond, does not appear to be good enough for the Football League.
Goalkeeper Jack Turner leaves Wimbledon in search for first team football, something that a player of his age needs. Unable to compete with Seb Brown for the number one jersey, it was inevitable that Turner would leave. The list of released players are completed by the four players currently out on loan, Ryan Jackson, Lee Minshull, Max Porter and James Mulley.
Who do we need?
The list of released players includes seven of the 2011 play-off final winning squad, who join the four players that left the club last summer. Only Seb Brown, Sam Hatton, Rashid Yussuff, Luke Moore and Christian Jolley remain, as Terry Brown looks to improve the squad for next season.
The list included five defenders, which is a clear indication of the area in which Brown wishes to improve. I envisage the 2012/13 side being built around Brown, Mitchel-King, S.Moore and hopefully Jack Midson, providing we can keep hold of League Two’s top goalscorer.
Wimbledon need an entirely new back four. Callum McNaughton’s long-term injury means that we need two new centre-backs, two new left-backs, and a new right back to compete with Hatton for a starting position.
Similarly, the Dons need two more midfielders, which could possibly see loanees George Moncur and Billy Knott returning on season-long loan deals. Huw Johnson looks set to join the first team squad for next season to add some more depth to the Wimbledon attack, and the Dons may also look to acquire another goalkeeper.
Knowing Brown’s penchant for small first-team squads, I’d expect him to settle for a squad of around 20 players, aiming for quality over quantity. This season, Wimbledon used a total of 32 players. Only five teams using fewer players, yet of those five teams, Crewe, Torquay, and Cheltenham made the play-offs and Shrewsbury finished second. Given the successes of small squads, Brown will attempt to recreate something similar next season.
By 17 June, we will all have a better idea of where, when, who and how Wimbledon will line up for the 2012/13 campaign.