BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Neal Ardley has explained his emotional response at full-time following last week’s defeat to Bristol Rovers – with some AFC Wimbledon fans feeling it was a farewell.
The Dons boss is under heavy pressure after a torrid run of results.
But Wimbledon issued a statement saying that the long-serving Ardley, in the hotseat for more than six years, will be given more time to turn around the club’s fortunes.
It has quietened some of the speculation over his future, with supporters speculating he was stepping down after the loss at the Memorial Stadium.
Ardley said: “I don’t do social media – any form of it. I don’t read it or look at it.
“So I’m the last person to know in a lot of cases. I’m oblivious to it.
“People might say I need to be up to date but on the flip side of that I’m in a position to be shot at and I don’t think I really want to be reading some stuff put on there.
“I went around after Bristol Rovers away and clapped the fans and I did the same after the Luton game [at home]. I think some of them thought it was my last hurrah and a thank you before I left.
“But, really and truthfully, I am going through a difficult time – without doubt the hardest since I’ve been here and the fans have been absolutely unbelievable. Some have got their frustrations and I totally respect that. I would be frustrated at what my team has been producing.
“I totally respect people who think it’s time [for a change] and I respect the people who clapped me and were saying: ‘Keep your head up’.
“It was me thanking them all from the bottom of my heart.”
There has also been at least one picture on social media showing some of the squad out drinking – which has predictably caused a swell of anger due to the Dons’ precarious position in League One.
Ardley said: “I’ve dealt with it. The players have been brought in and grilled by myself.
“It was about six or seven weeks ago that we had Saturday to Saturday games and the boys asked if they could go out and I thought it would be a good idea to try a bonding night out.
“They are telling me the photo has come from that time. Whether it is the case or not I can’t confirm – I don’t know.
“A lot of things can be read into it. Joe Pigott is mentioned but Joe doesn’t drink – he has never been one to drink. So the perception can be wrong and sometimes that can be a problem.
“I have grilled them and dealt with it. We are under pressure and rightly so. The fans want them to represent the club in the right way and get results. They need to come together and fight for this club and me.”
See tomorrow’s South London Press for more from Ardley on his own future.
IMAGE BY PAUL EDWARDS