(i) Trevor, how long have you been following the Dons? Can you remember your first game and who were your early favourite players?
Trevor: The first game I saw was Carlisle at home in the 85 season. The only reason I remember this is when Zoe (and others) did the “We Are Wimbledon.” I had to look it up. I became a proper regular attendee in the old 2nd Division. My fave players around that period and into 1st Division would’ve been the usual suspects Fash, Fairweather, Cork. Later on Robbie Earle was a player I loved, a midfielder who regularly got double-figure goals every season. How much would he be worth now? Into the AFC Wimbledon era, players like Matt Everard were a great to watch on the pitch and a great laugh off it. I firmly believe the players in the AFC Wimbledon CCL days were having at least as much fun as the fans if not more. The likes of Noel Frankum and Danny Oakins were a “handful” to deal with at times but often very funny and wildly inappropriate! I still talk to people like Andy Sullivan and it’s great when you catch up to see how much they loved their time with us. If you looking at the current squad I’d say Lyle Taylor and Jake Reeves are probably the “best” (highly subjective term I know) players we’ve ever had at the club.
(ii) What often crops up is your encyclopaedic knowledge of non-league football. You’ve been described as a ‘non-league nerd.’ Can you give some insight into how often you would go and watch NL games, was it any particular team/s and were you mixing this up at the same time you were watching Wimbledon matches?
Trevor: I think I stood up at the May 30 2002 meeting and declared myself to be a bit of a “non league geek” so I guess I labelled myself that! I used to rarely do long distance Wimbledon away games so I used to watch local non league games Tooting and Mitcham, Carshalton, Bromley, Dulwich, K’s, etc. It was more just to watch live football rather than a ground-hopper level of commitment. Understanding how the pyramid worked, knowing the size of clubs and the relative playing budgets did help later on though I have no doubt.
iii) So now comes the controversial FA Commission decision on moving the club to Milton Keynes. You as the ‘football guy’ were involved in helping to set up the Dons Trust, Erik Samuelson says the club would never have got started without you. When did you first become involved in the early planning of AFC Wimbledon?
Trevor: I think a lot of fans really got to know each other during the protests so the links where there already when the May 28 travesty happened. I remember talking to Marc Jones on MSN messenger on the evening of the 27th and it had leaked that we had lost the appeal I remember Marc saying to me to come to Ivor’s factory the next morning to talk about starting again so I did and it all started there really. I remember telling Marc we needed senior status with a regional FA in order to start at a decent level. I think I became the de facto non-league expert then! From then on it was all hands to the pump with getting things going.
iv) Apparently, when you asked about the prospective club being called FC Wimbledon you were told that wasn’t possible. Can you tell us how the AFC Wimbledon name came about, were there any other naming options and is there any special significance on the AFC part?
Trevor: From memory we were on the phone to David Foulkes at the London FA (he was a great help to us). I think we were on a conference call in Ivor’s office and we asked for the name “FC Wimbledon” which they didn’t think was possible at that time as they (Milton Keynes) were still going to be called Wimbledon, so we said can we stick an A in front of it and the name was born. I hear all these explanations of what the AFC part means and it does make me smile. It literally doesn’t mean anything … it just sounded “footbally” There were other names talked about; Real Wimbledon, Wimbledon Town/City, but AFC felt right at the time!
v) AFC Wimbledon missed out on playing their first season in the Ryman League, but how did playing in the Combined Counties League come about? Were you the one who briefed Ivor Heller and Kris Stewart about starting out in the CCL given your non-league and CCL knowledge?
Trevor: On reflection missing out on the old Ryman league wasn’t such a bad thing. It felt awful at the time but we probably ended up being better off in the CCL. I’d like to pretend that I rallied the troops and singlehandedly led us to the promised land of the CCL, but it just isn’t so! I was distraught after the Ryman decision and I knew there would be other options but it was Alan Constable, the Ashford Town Middx secretary and fixtures secretary of the CCL, who contacted me that evening and said he thought the CCL would love to have us. He was amazed the Ryman league rejected us and could only see the clubs voting to accept us. So it was despair to excitement in a matter of a few hours. We chatted it through and the application was made. We went to the CCL AGM a few days later in Woking and stood up in front of the management committee and all the clubs of the CCL. In an incredibly hot room we explained what we were about, where we would play, etc. and the first question we were asked by the secretary of one of the clubs was “when we elect you, how many will you bring?” I think from that moment I knew we were okay! We were elected at the same meeting as North Greenford United who were making the step up from the county leagues so we were both waiting outside after we’d said our bit. We both got called back in and I remember Alan Constable gave me a very subtle but unambiguous ‘thumbs up’ as we walked in and I knew we were in. I just remember Ivor driving us back from Woking and setting off every speed camera on the way as we were so desperate to get back. The CCL was brilliant for us and I’d like to think we were good for them as well. I’m proud of our time there and I know they are delighted that we started our journey there. John Bennett was president of the league at the time, he’s since passed away, and I know he was delighted to see a CCL club rise to the Football League.
vi) Marc Jones recalls that the both of you worked closely at the start in particular leading up to the first Sutton pre-season game going over 48 hours without sleep. Can you give an essence of what was involved in the planning, any major hurdles overcome?
Trevor: The lead up to the Sutton game was crazy, we literally had nothing to start with, not a scrap of kit, a ball, a cone. We were working out of a small office in Ivor’s factory and it was manic! We had volunteers helping out, we had people bringing season ticket applications in, all admin stuff for the league, there was Marc designing the programme, the kit was being done, Kris Stewart and Ivor were doing loads with SI, Tempest and loads of press, there just so much going on. We were working from 7am till 2-ish most days (I’m not moaning I loved it, working with your friends to create a football club what could be better?) The night before the game I was at Ivor’s at 3am doing stuff and I know I had to be back at 6am because we had someone coming in to set up our second computer and network them. That day was just a non-stop stream of phone calls and visitors. We had the sponsorship with SI but that had to be kept under wraps. They had supplied us with the kit that would be used for the first games but we didn’t get to see it till quite late on. I remember we opened the box and took it out and exclaiming to Marc “there’s no f****** numbers on it.” We just cracked up laughing as by this stage there was nothing we could do about it anyway!! We got to the ground and got the kit up (Dennis Lowndes would take other kit duties not long after). That must’ve been late afternoon-early evening we got there and the fans started streaming in. I had no idea how many were going to be there, I’m not sure anyone really did, to be honest. It was obvious very quickly it was going to be huge. I remember going to the referee at about 7pm and explaining that we would like to delay the kick off. I went back to him about 7:30 asking to delay it again and explaining there were loads of people outside. He asked how many. I said “lots… the end of the line is halfway down Gander Green Lane!” I remember getting very emotional walking out and seeing literally thousands of people, it was moving and wonderful. After the game we packed the kit away and I sat in the bar and had a cider, having not felt tired all day (adrenaline is a wonderful thing). As soon as I relaxed I could hardly keep my eyes open.
vii) Tell us about what went on in the club’s office on Wimbledon Broadway in those early demanding days. You were full-time secretary and you had 4 or 5 others helping out with administrative tasks. Any special memories?
Trevor: It was just a case of making it work. The volunteers were great. We sometimes lacked continuity which was hard but everyone worked hard. The volunteer culture then, as it is still now, is just magnificent for the Club and we would never have got through the early days without them. At the time we were working out of Ivor’s factory. One of the loveliest memories was when we asked for the season ticket application/pledges which we were going to use to pay for the rental of the Kingsmeadow ground. We needed something like £40k in two weeks. When the plan was announced within an hour people had printed their applications off and were bringing them into the office. The next morning stupidly early there was a line of people waiting to hand their applications in. We needed to get the money in two weeks, we got is under three days!!
viii) I understand you were given a ‘yellow card’ or had your name taken by the referee during half-time in a stormy match at Chessington and Hook in April 2004 over the red-carding of the club’s physio John Harris and your appeal to the referee “are you denying our players medical attention?” What are your memories of that one?
Trevor: I think stormy is the word! Yeah it was funny. John Harris was sent off the pitch at half time for offering one bit of advice too many for the ref’s liking and he was told he wasn’t allowed to be on the bench or enter the field of play in the 2nd half. Manager Terry Eames called me into the dressing room to explain what had happened. I went and knocked on the ref’s door to get an explanation from him as Terry was a little bit “excitable.” I asked him if he was allowed to send a physio off. He said yes, I disagreed and told him he was wrong and couldn’t do that. We had a polite but forthright exchange of views which ended with me telling him, he couldn’t deny our players medical attention and I would be telling John Harris to enter the pitch if we had any sort of nasty looking injury. At that point he asked for my full name and showed me the yellow card and reported me! I remember walking out and seeing Luke Mackenzie, who did volunteer work stewarding at away games, and explaining to him that I’d been booked. He cracked up.
ix) You resigned as club secretary in the aftermath of the Jermaine Darlington non-international clearance affair in 2007. Those you know you said you were most distraught over the consequences of the points deduction but you weren’t entirely to blame for it, yet fell on your sword and was very honourable to others. How do you feel about it all nine years on, Trevor?
Trevor: It was a horrible time personally for me, it was just awful. You put so much work into something and it goes so badly wrong. It still hurts now to think about it. With regards to who’s fault, it was it was mine, end of. There are any number of points of mitigation for it… being busy, talking to this person or that person about it before we signed JD etc., but the buck stops with me. When a registration problem happens the club secretary is responsible in the overwhelming number of cases.
x) You were invited to stay on as match-day secretary and you are a regular in the team dressing room home and away, obviously you see and hear things but have a reputation of being always supportive of the management and the players. What’s your role pre and post-match for the team and can you describe from your point of view what you feel are the attributes/characteristics of our past and current manager/s?
Trevor: When you’re involved with the club as closely as I have been and you have a personal relationship with the management and the players, the instinct is always there to defend them. You know some of the accusations you read about them, “not trying “ or “not giving a **** about the club” are just rubbish. Of course Robin (fellow kit man) and me are supportive of the management, everyone in the dressing room should be supportive of the management. Basically, Robin “Rocket” Bedford and I do the match day kit and various other bits for the players. So on a home match day Rocket and I get to the ground about 10:30 to get the kit ready. Clare McDonagh helps us get this ready as well. Just to give you an idea of how much kit each player has including boots and shin pads it probably averages about 15 bits of kit per player. So that is prepared before the players arrive about 1pm. Balls and cones need to be sorted as do player drinks and energy gels and numerous other bits. During the game Rocket will be on the bench and I will supervise our Under-18 players who do match day jobs around the dressing rooms (tidying up, getting players food, etc.) Post match it’s getting the kit ready to wash, putting stuff away and providing refreshments for the manager’s office. Away games are a bit different Rocket, Clare and I will pack all the kit the night before. We also buy player food for the coach – they have cereal, toast, fruit and spreads which is always available on the back of the coach in the kitchen area. If we are training en-route to the hotel (normally for overnight stays before northern games) we will also get rice and chicken and various sauces which we then cook at the back of the coach so they can eat after training. The game goes off as normal then after we order food for players and staff (pizza, fish and chips, KFC…we try and vary it) then it’s back to the ground to unpack!
xi) In all the time you been a fixture in the Dons dressing room has anything changed in approach, preparation, attitude, behaviour, etc.?
Trevor: Behaviour! The longer we’ve gone on the less high jinx has happened! The dressing room is very professional now. Timings are down to the minute, everybody knows their jobs, but it is still a fun place to be.
xii) The club has been promoted to League One and clearly it has been AFC Wimbledon’s best season in the Football League. In your view, what has been the major difference/s this season in comparison to others and who would be your player (or players) of the season?
Trevor: I think Neal has been excellent since he came in. If you listen to him you know what he expects and demands from his staff at all times. He is a mixture of old and new school manager taking the good bits from both. During his time we’ve got better every year both on and off the pitch. I think he’s driven the club forward like no other manager. His planning is meticulous, nothing is left to chance, it’s very impressive to see first-hand. This season hasn’t been a surprise to me. It’s the culmination of Ards’ hard work over the last couple of seasons. I don’t think we’ve done anything radically different. The signings have all fitted in and worked. For the first time in the Football League we have a back 4 (5) that you feel can and will keep a clean sheet and you don’t need 2 or 3 goals to win a game. With regards to player of the season I will pick Dannie Bulman. He does the most unglamorous job in the team superbly.
xiii) Finally, Trevor, tell us what AFC Wimbledon and its evolution mean to you and how important it will be for the club to move back to Plough Lane?
Trevor: I’m fiercely proud of our Club and my contribution to it. I’m not one for blowing my own trumpet and I rarely do interviews but when I start talking about it the memories flood back and I love it. We would never be where we are without the contributions of hundreds of people so we should all be immensely proud of what we’ve achieved. We should take a moment to look back on what Wimbledon supporters have done since 2002, started a club, got it in the league and taken it up to L1. It really is nuts. Plough Lane is vital – emotionally, financially for us to move forward, we need it. Just think what we could do with a stadium that’s fit for purpose!?
[The interview with Trevor Williams was reproduced from the May-June 2016 issue of WDSA’s Wombles Downunder newsletter. If you would like to read more of our acclaimed fanzine go to https://www.wdsa.com.au/become-a-member/