BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Barry Fuller is rooting for AFC Wimbledon to stay up – but admits any sentiment for the club had to be parked to one side on Saturday.
The full-back played 233 times for the South Londoners before being released by Neal Ardley in the summer, writes Richard Cawley.
Fuller, 34, returned to Gillingham and made his 37th appearance of the season in the 4-2 victory over Wimbledon at the weekend.
“It was really strange,” he said. “It’s always difficult when you come back to a club that was a massive part of your footballing career. The club is close to my heart. It seemed weird being in the away dressing room and coming out as an away player.
“We needed to win, we needed the points. If football was kinder then you’d like both teams to win – but that wasn’t the case.
“They showed a lot in the first half. They showed for a young side they have got a lot about them. Hopefully with the games to go they can get themselves out of it. I don’t want to see them go down.
“We rode our luck a lot. They dominated for the first 30, 35 minutes. They were all over us. We got our goal, which gave us a lift, then we got that second one quickly – unfortunately for their goalie.
“For most of the first half they ran all over us and done what Wimbledon do when they are on their game. We got a bit of a b********* at half-time and needed to liven up – we came out in the second half a completely different team.
“They’ll be disappointed with losing but they’ve got a lot of teams around them still to play. Points are up for grabs. They are still only three points away from getting out of it.
“I wish them all the best for the season and hope they can do it.”
Ardley took the decision to not offer Fuller new terms in the summer. The then Dons boss said it was because he would have dropped down the pecking order in the 2018-19 campaign.
Fuller said: “I was disappointed to leave a club where I felt I’d had a great five years. I played a lot of games. I wanted at the time to finish my career here, but Neal Ardley made the decision he wanted to freshen things up and change it.
“You’ve got to be a man and take that. I had to focus on myself and my family to get another club. I’m glad to go back to another club that is close to my heart and always will be. I’m enjoying my football.
“I sat down with Neal and had a long conversation. He said he didn’t want me to go out as a bit-part player. But in my head I felt I was still fighting for a position and would play every week.
“I was still fit and healthy. He’s the manager and he makes those decisions. I didn’t agree with it, but that is football.”
IMAGE BY PAUL EDWARDS