Dons boss explains reasons behind striker deal and discusses squad strengthening plans

BY RICHARD CAWLEY

richard@slpmedia.co.uk

Wally Downes has revealed that James Hanson was allowed to leave because AFC Wimbledon were spending over their budget.

The experienced striker, 31, got released by mutual consent over the weekend and has already signed a two-year contract with Grimsby Town.

But Dons manager Downes has made it clear that he did not really want to lose the Bradford-born targetman, who arrived from Sheffield United last June.

“The deal with James Hanson was more for the good of the club,” said the Wimbledon chief. “Unfortunately by the time I got here we had gone over budget and it was important to get that to a manageable budget.

“As much as I’d have liked to keep James he was one of our highest earners and we had to make that decision.

“He has got himself another club and I can’t thank him enough for what he did for us. Unfortunately, sometimes your hands are tied. There was some interest in James and we had to succumb to it.”

There is not expected to be a huge turnover of players this summer.

Downes admits the priority is to ensure that Wimbledon move into their new stadium in Plough Lane with their League One status intact.

His arrival in early December managed to revitalise a Dons side who were in freefall. They  clinched safety on the final day of last season.

“The squad number I’d like to work from is 20,” said Downes. “Any more is probably a bit too much, any less and you’re struggling. Twenty is about right.

“The more players you have, then the more who are not travelling or part of the group every day – it is more difficult to keep them motivated. That is just a fact of life, not an attitude thing.”

Steve Seddon celebrates scoring
Luton Town v AFC Wimbledon, SkyBet League 1, Kenilworth Road Stadium, 23 April 2019

Birmingham left-back Steve Seddon and Bournemouth goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale were huge loan successes in the second half of the previous campaign.

Downes did deals for the pair after Rotherham’s Ben Purrington was recalled and sent straight back out to Charlton. Millwall also opted to bring back Tom King – who struggled to hold down a starting spot – even though he did not have another club lined up to go to.

But Downes is not expecting Seddon, pictured inset, or Ramsdale back.

“All I can say on Steve is that he did terrific on loan for Stevenage [in the first half of the season] in the division below and was terrific for us in this division.

“If I was him then my aspiration would be to hold out for a Championship club. If that materialises, great for him. If he plays League One again then we might have a chance of getting him. But again, we would be competing with clubs in a financially better position to get him.

“With Aaron, Wimbledon fans will look back and think we had a great six months with him. It will be impossible to get him – Championship clubs are all over him.

AFC Wimbledon manager Wally Downes

“I hate the word, but agents talk about the pathway. They’ll ask: ‘What is the plan?’. No plan – get him in the team and get him playing. They always have an eye on who the next club will be.

“I told all the players who came to us last year that they definitely benefitted from the experience. Hopefully they won’t have to go through that type of experience again. But they have achieved a goal. It wasn’t promotion, it wasn’t winning the FA Cup or getting into Europe – but by the time I got here we had a specific target that we had to achieve.

“Everyone grouped together and we did it. The long-term target is to go into the new stadium intact as a League One club.”

Dulwich-born defender Paul Kalambayi, 19, and right-back Kyron Stabana have signed new contracts with Wimbledon.

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