Erik Samuelson plans AFC Wimbledon book: There is some of our history that can be told fully now

BY RICHARD CAWLEY
richard@slpmedia.co.uk

Erik Samuelson reckons there are some home truths to tell about AFC Wimbledon – and he is planning to be the man to reveal them.

The Dons announced last week that the long-standing chief executive had stepped down from his role and announced his retirement.

But Samuelson admits that one of the things on his to-do list is writing a book.

It should provide a fascinating insight into a hugely successful period for the Dons.

“I have the ability to make it not very interesting,” joked Samuelson.

“It certainly is not going to be an autobiography. I’m not interested in that. It will be the Wimbledon story through my eyes.

“I remember when I first read some of the drafts of This Is Our Time and I hated it. People were saying all sorts of things that were wrong.

“But this is their truth – what they saw. And that is actually the book’s strength. It is a lot of different people’s truths.

“It tells the story of when we won promotion to the Football League. It interviews each player and gets their thoughts. It also has some fans giving their perspective. I really liked that.

“What I’d like to do is write the truth as I see it. Not better than anybody else, but probably better informed than other people.

“There was a lot of stuff I felt I was not able to say [when chief executive]. I’m not going to go round slamming people. But there is some stuff which 10 years ago needed to be kept confidential that probably more can be told on now.

“I don’t do kiss-and-tell – not that there’s been much kissing!

“But it will be this is what actually happened. One example is the Jermaine Darlington situation where we were deducted 18 points and got it reduced to three [on appeal]. There is a bit more of that story to be told.

“I might not get it done. I’m not sure I’ve got the discipline to sit down every day from 8am until 1pm and write the amount I need to write.

“But even if I don’t, I get huge fun envisaging all the people I’d like to interview – to get their take on it.

“The other day I was reminiscing with one of the volunteers and it was absolutely lovely. Even if it is a self-indulgent ramble about what we have done over the years – with other people’s good and bad memories – then it will be huge fun. If it does turn into a book then at least my family will read it.”

Samuelson has talked about supporters needing to embrace change and not fear it.

The Dons are set to announce his replacement before the end of the season.

“I think there is a bit of uncertainty,” he said. “Some might have gone ‘blimey – what is going to happen now?’

“I think I did a good job. I’m satisfied I did a good job. But there are plenty of other people who can do a good job and plenty of people in the organisation still doing a good job.

“I think there is a danger of a football club becoming too much about an individual. Some people at the top of football clubs like that, and their club normally have a problem.

“I don’t want the limelight. It is wrong for anybody to have that – it is about everybody. I’ve been quite happy to do my role from the shadows.

“We have got people who help run the shop, stewarding, selling Golden Goal tickets, The Dons Trust – a whole range of people who have done phenomenal stuff, most of it unsung. So let’s not make it about me, please.”

Samuelson wants to put his family first. His wife Eileen needs a couple of operations – not life-threatening – and he wants to be around to aid her recuperation.

But he is still set to be at most of Wimbledon’s games.

“We have got a holiday home in the Lake District – we always try to spend a few days there after we play northern clubs,” said Samuelson. “So it’s more likely I’ll go to the longer distance ones. My family are all doing stuff that I want to be involved in. So if something comes up for them then I’ll be there with them.

“I’ve missed two games this season, one voluntary and one involuntary. I don’t normally miss two. Next season I can see me missing four, five or six.”

So many memories for Samuelson – and so many highs as the club have progressed up the non-league pyramid and then won promotion into the Football League.

What has been his biggest moment?

“There are two or three – all to do with drama.

“When we were in the play-off final against Staines in the Ryman Premier League. We were beginning to worry we were going to flatline. We were losing 1-0 with 10 or 15 minutes to go. I turned to Ivor [Heller, commercial manager] and said: ‘I think it is slipping away’. We won. Luis Cumbers and Mark DeBolla got two late goals.

“I felt that was transformative. The following season we got automatic promotion.

“Then I would pick out when we stayed up in our second season in the Football League by beating Fleetwood [on the final day]. In truth we got what I thought was a soft penalty, taken [and scored] by Jack Midson. I thought: ‘Can I actually watch this?’ But I did.

“On a personal note the third one would be when we won promotion at Wembley [in the League Two play-offs].

“The chairman of the Football League said to me: ‘What happens now is the sponsor hands the cup to the captain and I stand next to the sponsors. But you guys have done such a fantastic job, I’d like you to stand in my place’.

“What a lovely tribute and gesture to our club. He stood aside.

“To get that kind of respect from senior people in football, I thought it was a real decent and honest gesture from Greg Clarke.

“You’ll see me in the pictures – bang in the middle. I hadn’t pushed in there – he had pushed me there.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *