How will Neal Ardley's AFC Wimbledon fare next season?by Mike Holden / 20 July 2017, 09:36Tweet
Mike Holden (@Ratings_Mike) previews Neal Ardley and AFC Wimbledon ahead of the upcoming 2017/18 League One season.
There was no shame in Wimbledon finishing 15th last season but there was an alarming lack of impetus in the closing weeks as the Dons fired eight blanks in their last nine matches, a mindset arguably triggered by the lap of honour that followed the 2-0 win over MK Dons in March. Jake Reeves, Dominic Poleon and Tom Elliott have moved on to bigger things but Neal Ardley was ready to freshen things up in any case and has returned buoyant, chuffed with his own business.
Ardley is an organiser who takes great pleasure in the long-term planning of tactics and recruitment. He plans his work far in advance and executes that plan with unwavering conviction. It’s an approach that enables him to consistently get the best out of his resources, so long as those resources are constant and the goalposts are never liable to be moved. Repetition is key. His teams might be predictable at times, but that doesn’t make stopping them any easier.
"We stuttered at the end of last season, but until then it was a remarkable effort. We never looked like we would be in danger – we even got up to sixth place at one point. Two years ago, we were still trying to establish ourselves as a League Two team but we can now call ourselves a mid-table League One team. We’re in a really good place. The three additions we’ve made so far were all our first-choice targets in those positions. That’s a bit of a rarity for us."
The late slump last season might have been a blessing if it serves as an eye-opener that life in League One can be tough if you let your standards slip. And summer turnover has been big enough to believe that Ardley might have one or two new tricks up his sleeve, without compromising on the basics of what made Wimbledon competitive first time around. But you look at the squad on paper, compared to the vast majority, and it’s hard to envisage any sort of promotion push.
Prediction: bottom half