THREE minutes into an increasingly forlorn Terry Brown’s penultimate ‘Dons Player’ interview, the conversation deviates from the optimism surrounding Steven Gregory’s return to an almost post-scripted talk of a new centre-back, writes Iain Sandford.
Trying (but not succeeding) not to look utterly despondent, Terry explains that a centre-back injury crisis has left him with ‘no option’ but to bring in a non-contract replacement to make up the numbers.
How Will Antwi felt about this most downbeat of introductions to his Wimbledon career is anyone’s guess but for Terry it was the last throw of the dice and he knew it.
Everybody (including Terry himself) by then was slowly facing up to the fact that we had spectacularly messed up our pre-season re-shaping of the squad, and a run of shocking results had left TB desperately clinging onto his job. The announcement of Antwi’s arrival only served to blacken an already sombre mood around the club as we waited for the inevitable last rites to be delivered on the Brown era.
Looking at Antwi’s modest playing career, which had most recently included a spell at Staines Town and an unsuccessful trial with an unknown Finnish side, it was understandable (if still a little tedious) that the Guestbook Tendency were writing Will off before anybody had actually seen him kick a ball.
The subsequent home defeats by Rochdale and Torquay did indeed lead to Terry’s sad departure, but amongst the prevailing doom and gloom at the time some quiet whispers could be heard – “this Antwi boy’s not too bad actually”.
And so over the course of the remainder of this fraught season, Will Antwi has largely proven he is indeed “not too bad actually.”
He is what Wimbledon defenders in the days of Young and Thorn were. No nonsense. Okay, we have witnessed the odd howler of a back pass and the occasional skewed clearance but generally Antwi has been a solid and reliable stalwart in an ever changing and (until recently) calamitously under-performing back four.
One of the impressive things about Neal Ardley’s first few weeks at the club was how quickly he rumbled and sidelined the under performers and the ‘not quite good enoughs’, e.g. Louis Harris and Callum McNaughton.
Not so with Antwi. Judging him on his performances rather than his less than glittering CV, Ardley has rewarded Antwi with a contract until the end of the season and even, on occasions, the captain’s armband. In return, Will has paid our new gaffer back with a string of consistent showings – and a noticeably towering one against the wretched Franchise.
Following a couple of months out with injury, Antwi returned in the recent win against Morecambe. With Alan Bennett alongside him, the centre-back pairing epitomised the new rugged pragmatism of the Ardley management and duly delivered a clean sheet.
There was however one moment in the second half that will stick in the memory – when Will Antwi shaped to hoof a clearance only to fool the Morecambe forwards with a sharp movement that enabled the ball to safely reach the hands of John Sullivan.
Many around me did a double-take and convinced themselves it was an air kick. In reality we all knew we had just witnessed the kind of deft dummy that the highly garlanded Franco Baresi might have delivered in the pomp of his career.
Will Antwi! Ole!!