Ahead of Hartlepool’s first home fixture of the 2022/23 Sky Bet League Two season, Alex Chandy spoke to Daily Mirror freelancer and AFC Wimbledon supporter Sam Elliott to get the inside scoop on the visitors.
“It was a long time coming,” explained Sam when asked about the Dons’ relegation to the fourth tier.
“For a few years the club had been teetering on the brink of League Two, hovering in those final five or six places in League One for about three or four years. It has been a struggle.
“The run we were on last season was winless since the 7th or 6th of December, towards the end of last season the writing had been on the wall for a long while and our failure to hold onto leads last season was a bit of a nod towards the inevitable happening.
“But we are here, we are back in League Two after a five-year absence and [we have] enjoyed it so far,” he said with a smirk.
On the appointment of Johnnie Jackson as Wimbledon’s new manager, Sam used the phrase “slightly underwhelmed,” to sum up his feelings.
“I mean this in the nicest possible way. I hope I look back at that comment and say, ‘what were you thinking?’.
“I looked at it and I thought it was maybe a bit of convenience, slightly, that Johnnie did well in his time at Charlton [Athletic], but it was only for six months and that was my fear that we have got a manager that has [only] had six months at the helm and has not had a summer.
“He brought Terry Skiverton with him, who was actually at Yeovil [Town] for a number of years and joined him at Charlton towards the end of last season, I think together they seem to work really well and the signings have had a lot of thought behind them. That is what has impressed me most.
“Initially I was slightly underwhelmed, I thought there was an opportunity for the club to go and get some real experience, someone that had maybe done things, or go down to maybe the National League. That was an opportunity to go and get someone who had four or five years in a role, but no, so far so good and we are only one game in; what can you judge in one game?
“Hopefully that comment about being slightly underwhelmed will come back and bite me.”
Touching on the visiting players to look out for, Sam explained that it is not so much the new signings, but the players who were already at the club.
“Oddly, the ones who were not really involved too much last year. We have Jack Currie, the teenage left-back, he was our man of the match, scored the match sealing goal [against Gillingham]. He was making his debut, so to score from left-back and get man of the match was not the worst first start in the world.
“Ethan Chislett [scored] an absolute worldie [against Gillingham] and was probably the goal of the season in the first game of the season. He had an absolutely outstanding game just behind the front two.
“They were the two outstanding players on Saturday. A couple of new faces too; Alex Pearce, a defender who is formerly of Millwall who was excellent in there. Chris Gunter as well, a Wales international who will be hoping to be at the World Cup in the winter, so he has got everything to play for.”
Finally, Sam gave the ever-crucial opposition score prediction!
“I think it will be a draw on Saturday, I think Wimbledon will not be too disappointed with that. I do not think Hartlepool will be overly happy with that, but I can see it being a 1-1 draw this weekend.
“Maybe Hartlepool go ahead, and maybe Wimbledon have got some decent options off the bench now going forwards, which is totally unlike last season where we played the whole season with two strikers.
“I am going to go for a 1-1 draw, I do not think that will upset either camp too much.”