BEAST SIGNING RAISES THE BAR

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Adebayo Akinfenwa … ‘let’s do something great.’

ADEBAYO AKINFENWA’S decision to hook up with Matt Tubbs in an exciting  double act has substantially raised the bar for Neal Ardley and Wimbledon this season.

Their unexpected signings have not only flabbergasted Dons’ supporters (and truth be known even Ardley), but it has startled the other League Two clubs at the unlikely destination of the two proven goalscorers.

For a team that struggled for goals last season — 49 in 46 games —  with The Beast and Tubbsy now leading the forward line there is the mouth-watering prospect for goals and then some and with that comes expectations.

Wimbledon have wallowed around the nether regions in their three seasons in the Football League, but now with Akinfenwa, Tubbs and throw in the experienced Dannie Bulman in midfield some bookmakers are offering 6-1 for promotion without a ball kicked.

Of course, it all has to be done on the pitch and there’s no magic winning formula, but having coaxed these proven performers into the squad, the firepower is there to push the Dons up the table. Indeed if Wimbledon cannot turn potential into goals and points then it may go all sour for Ardley.

But right here, right now, the gaffer is playing a blinder. To persuade Akinfenwa to join the Dons is another considerable feather in his cap. Like Matt Tubbs, Ardley’s dogged persistence nabbed his man.

Ardley went close to getting ‘The Beast’ this time last year but the lure of League One football at Gillingham was too great. Yet, it seems, Ardley’s dealings left a lasting impression on ‘Bayo‘.

“What the manager said to me last year was massive. He could not give me League 1 football back then, but it made it an easier decision this time around,” Akinfenwa said.

“It was his vision and the way that he wants to play football that influenced my decision. I want to play well for him and for the club.”

Akinfenwa turned down an offer from Gillingham to stay as did Tubbs at fellow League One club Crawley Town and by uniting the two goalscorers, suspicions have been raised about where the money is coming from at ‘prudent’ AFC Wimbledon.

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That’s the nature of The Beast

Sources tell WDSA that apart from the admirable fund-raising efforts by supporters, among them long-time fan Mike Richardson, the club is paying more in wages to the smaller squad of players and have made considerable savings on the wages of high earners of Jack Midson, Peter Sweeney, Callum Kennedy and to a lesser extent Seb Brown, who were all let go.

Some fans see parallels in Akinfenwa’s big personality and that of Wimbledon great John Fashanu back in the 1980/1990s.

Bayo is literally a larger-than-life character, unashamedly a self-promoter, but a charismatic player who no doubt will delight some people and irritate others. That’s the nature of The Beast, as they say.

Here’s what supporters from other clubs where Akinfenwa held cult status told WDSA ….

“Put simply, you’ve got a good ‘un there. In all my years watching the Cobblers, Bayo is pretty much my favourite player. I’m disappointed we didn’t try to sign him when he left Gillingham. You’ll hear plenty of chants of “you fat b*stard” from away fans (and probably some of your own) but trust me, I’ve stood next to the guy when he was wearing a tight muscle vest and the man is a mound of solid muscle,” Northampton Town fan Neil Porter.

Bayo certainly divided opinion both times he was here. Many felt it made our play one-dimensional, simply hoofing balls up to him hoping he would hold it up for others to run onto or spin and take a shot. The reality was four times out of five he would give away a foul. The problem, for me is Bayo himself. He is obsessed with body building which basically has turned him into a pretty weird-looking footballer. He’s by no means fat but the extreme muscle he is carrying round with him doesn’t help his footballing skills,” Northampton supporter Huw Allen.

“Should still have it at your level – when he was on the pitch last season he still had it so dropping down should be okay. Initial downside is you shouldn’t expect him to complete a Saturday – Tuesday – Saturday run of games. Last season a lot of the time he was subbed after 70 minutes to keep him fresh for the next match since we only had him and Cody McDonald fit for most of the season. He is capable of finishing 90 minutes, but to get the best out of him, he probably won’t last 180 minutes with only a couple of days rest between each. Although not top scorer, he had the best goals per minutes on the pitch ratio, plus was our top assist man,” Gillingham fan John Knee.

Akinfenwa sure talks up a good game and life certainly won’t be dull with ‘The Beast’ around.

“For this club to come back into the Football League is a beautiful story. My mind-set is that you should take your destiny in your own hands and defy your limitations; if you want to do something then you can do it. I just think that AFC Wimbledon and Akinfenwa fit well together. I’m looking forward to it and let’s do something great,” he said on signing day.

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“I would like to think that other strike partners look forward to playing with me.  My game is not just about scoring goals, it’s about bringing other players into play. Matt can be top scorer, I’m okay with that! I’ve played against him quite a few times and I respect him as a player. He’s a very good player and hopefully we can provide a formidable partnership next season.”

Ardley said he was “over the moon” with Akinfenwa’s signing.

“I tried very hard last season to get Adebayo in and I’m very pleased that I’ve finally got my man,” the gaffer said.

“He is a striker who gets his fair share of goals, which the statistics prove, but what the statistics don’t show is how many goals he plays a part in. If you put someone alongside him with the finishing prowess of Matt Tubbs then it is clear what we’ve been trying to do here. I am over the moon with it.

Adebayo will probably divide opinions in many ways throughout this league, but I think it’s key to point out that he can play football. He’s not just a big man who can win headers. You can play off him and he’s a target man who occupies defenders.

Adebayo can get the ball down and see passes, but when we get into the final third to deliver crosses he will also be a good target. I think he will offer a lot to the team and it won’t just be for one particular style because he can mix it up.”

WDSA’s Terry McFadden observes:” We’ve signed him past his best years but I find myself smiling at the prospect of how he and Matt Tubbs will shape up as a pair.

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Bayo ‘generates fear and respect in equal measure from opposition fans.’

“The other thing with ‘Bayo’ is that he is more than capable of playing a lone striker role and making the ball stick until the midfield turn up to support. I think Sean Rigg will be a good signing in that respect. This gives us potential for plans ‘A’ and ‘B’.

“Goodness, I think I’m sounding positive about this overall! We can only wait to see how it pans out, but all three of the attackers signed this summer have plenty to recommend them. Now they just have to deliver.”

WDSA columnist Windlesham Don  adds: “On first sight of Akinfenwa it is natural to see him as a figure of fun. Certainly when he turned up to Kingsmeadow a couple of seasons ago for an evening game decked out in their skintight lime green outfit, thoughts immediately turned to the Marvel character who you wouldn’t like if you made him angry!

“However, as well as amusement Bayo also generates fear and respect in equal measure from opposition fans. The chants of “your bum’s a roundabout” tend to subside as he casually wins every ball pumped up to him and generally holds it up before playing in a teammate.

“I suspect that if he gets off to a good start then he could be awesome for us and he would respond to the undoubted adulation that would come his way. ”

So The Beast completes a pretty impressive bit of business by Ardley, but there are more on the way and expect a League Two central defender to be announced as early as Monday, with more spots open for a back-up goalkeeper, a left-back and a third (cheaper) striker. Former Don Steven Gregory, released by Gillingham, has not been mentioned though by sources as a target this season.

 We have all the transfer speculation and opinion on the dedicated WDSA forum thread register (free)

Plenty of quality reading in WDSA’s season final Wombles Downunder #206 .. 14 writers, 27 pages, written by Dons’ fans for Dons fans … ‘it’s a really good read’..