ANDY FRAMPTON’s capture has swelled the core of experience in Wimbledon’s back four to over 700 games of reassuring Football League experience as Neal Ardley fortifies the team’s Achilles heel from last season.
Ardley is getting back slaps all round for talking Frampton, Barry Fuller and before them Alan Bennett into helping to restore a shonky defence into one that can lay the foundations for a push up the table next season.
League 2 champions Gillingham were not prepared to give 33-year-old Frampton a two-year contract opening the way for Ardley to talk his former Millwall mucker into throwing his lot in with Wimbledon. The gaffer is ‘chuffed’ to have persuaded Wimbledon-born Frampton to come ‘home.’
Ardley knows how absolutely vital it is to have proven campaigners in his rearguard. Frampton’s winning pedigree is a considerable downpayment to ensuring that we do not see a repeat of the League’s worst 76 goals shipped again in the coming season.
“I played with Andy at Millwall so I know that he is a winner and a fantastic player. (Gillingham manager) Martin Allen echoed those thoughts when I spoke to him earlier this week; he said that we had a good player because of his attitude around the place and his character. Although he is 33, Andy looks after himself and I am sure he will have a good few years yet,” Ardley said.
“Andy has spent a lot of his career playing at a higher level than this and he spent last season with the League 2 champions. I think we now have a good mix of young players with athleticism and experienced players such as Andy, Barry Fuller and Alan Bennett.”
Frampton has played a total of 299 league games with Brentford, Millwall, Swindon Town and Gillingham and along with Bennett adds some much-needed starch to a back four that was a cringing embarrassment last season.
“It means a lot to me to sign for Wimbledon because I grew up nearby and I know about the history of the football club. When I played against Wimbledon for Gillingham at the end of last season the fans created a lot of noise and it ended up a good day for both clubs,” Frampton said.
“Once Neal sold the club to me and what he wanted to achieve it was a no-brainer to sign and I am excited by the challenge ahead. Last season was very tight in League 2 and I do not think it will take too much to improve and push up the table.”
Gills fan Dave Cartwright told WDSA: “Andy has decided to opt for the Dons. In my opinion that’s a wise decision as I feel he still has plenty to offer and stands a better chance of producing in L2 than L1. I always felt he gave of his best and was competitive, whilst I felt he was not our star man, I always felt comfortable with him when he was on the field.”
Another Gills fan, ‘John Knee’ added:”He is an old school, ‘get stuck in’ type player who has previously captained the side and spent most of his playing time last season as a defensive midfielder – he sucked playing there apart from a few matches against bigger sides where his height helped out. He does lack pace now so will struggle against someone with a bit of pace – although that can be fixed by giving him a partner with a bit of movement about him. He should do well for you for a season, or two…”
And Ardley has been selling the club to prospective recruits exceedingly well by all accounts. He also coerced George Francomb into passing over offers from two League One clubs to take up where he left off last season when he had an acclaimed 14-game loan spell with the Dons after he was brought in by Terry Brown.
Fans were excited by the Francomb capture and Ardley has promised the 21-year-old an attacking role further up the pitch next season. That was enough for the ex-Norwich City man to commit to a full-time deal with the Dons.
“It was disappointing that I had to leave last season and I feel that I have unfinished business here in a way,” Francomb said. “I want to hit the ground running next season, produce good performances, and hopefully we can be challenging at the other end of the table.
“As soon as Neal Ardley came in he was different class, especially because he moved me up into midfield. He knows how to get the best out of me and that was a major factor in why I wanted to come here.
“I have spoken to the manager about where he wants me to play and obviously he has already brought in Barry Fuller as right-back. I will be playing as a right midfielder or in the centre. That is where I want to be playing so that I can have a positive impact at the other end of the field.”
While all the attention at Kingsmeadow has been on the signings of Frampton, Francomb and Fuller — the fabulous effing trio — Ardley has also picked up Charlie Sheringham, the son of former England international Teddy.
Injuries have curtailed the career of Sheringham, 25, and he spent the last two seasons at Bournemouth, interspersed with a productive loan spell at non-league Dartford.
“I think he can certainly do that and he will do very well for us. He also scored when he moved to Bournemouth, but a bad foot injury put him out for a while. Bournemouth obviously saw something in him, but they got promoted to the Championship and are moving in a different direction.
“Charlie is technically very good, he is tall and similar in stature to Jack Midson. I believe that in Jack and Charlie we have two players who know where to be in the box and how to score goals. Charlie can also drop deeper and link the play. If we do want to try and get the ball down a bit more and link-up the play in forward areas then Charlie will fit into that.”
Bournemouth fans believe that Sheringham can score goals for Wimbledon next season.
“Unfortunately Charlie didn’t get too much game time with us. On his debut, he rattled the woodwork from 25 yards and scored his first goal in the next game, before breaking his ankle moments later and we didn’t see him again,” Cherries’ fan Adrian said.
“He works hard and is aware of his options, but he is a striker and wants to score goals. I think he could get 10-15 goals for you. If you create lots, he will score more.”
Another Bournemouth fan Andy Galvin adds: “Congratulations on picking up Charlie Sheringham, I expect you will see a fair bit of his dad at AFC Wimbledon as well, always came along to support him at AFCB.
“He was unlucky with us. He has got an eye for goal, reasonably quick and intelligent on the ball, we didn’t get a good look at him and with promotion to the Championship Eddie Howe felt he needed to lose a few fringe players with a bloated squad. He’s certainly not out of place in League 1 so all in all should become a good signing and one that will get you some goals in League 2.”
While Sheringham and Jack Midson are a similar style of player, Ardley has been exploring his options and WDSA has been told that the Club has put in an offer for Adebayo Akinfenwa, the muscular target man known as ‘The Beast.”
It’s understood Wimbledon are up against League One clubs Gillingham and possibly Leyton Orient for his signature following his release from Northampton Town, so the odds on landing ‘The Beast” are not enticing, but Ardley has already shown his persuasive nature of selling the club, so you can never rule it out.
Akinfenwa will score goals as he’s shown against Wimbledon – two goals in four games – and all up the 31-year-old has netted 114 goals in 257 appearances. The Beast is, shall we say, a larger-than-life character, who loves pumping iron in the gym and promoting himself. One Dons’ fan has depicted him another ‘Fash the Bash.”
WDSA understands apart from another striker, Ardley is shopping around for a left-back and has a young midfielder, described by a Club insider as a ” young ankle-biter”, lined up for a long-term loan.
The 23-year-old Worner will be mentored by the Club’s new goalkeeper coach Ashley Bayes, who will also be the designated No.2 keeper. Where that places Seb Brown is unclear, amid speculation that he might go out on loan for the second and final year of his contract. Mikhael Jaimez-Ruiz has been released.
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