Erik Samuelson: The spotlight makes me feel uncomfortable – I don’t expect praise for my contribution to AFC Wimbledon

BY RICHARD CAWLEY
richard@slpmedia.co.uk

Erik Samuelson stepped down as AFC Wimbledon chairman this week – but admits he is uncomfortable with any fanfare which comes his way.

He had been in the role since April 2007 and presided over four promotions as well as the South London outfit securing planning permission to build a new stadium at Plough Lane.

Samuelson has announced his retirement, and confessed it has been something he has toyed with doing since early 2016.

“For years I’ve been finding reasons to allow a sense of duty to override a sense that it is time to move on,” he said. “My wife Eileen would not want me to exaggerate it but she needs three operations – nothing life-threatening – and I want to be at home for her.

“I wanted to go out on a high. Now we have started preparatory work at the new stadium, which is a massive high.

“I could’ve waited until the end of the season, when we had avoided relegation or the first brick had gone in the floor. But then you say: ‘Come on Erik, when are you going to wait for?’

“I’ve had a very funny joke which I’ve been telling my wife for the last 46 years – that things are going to get better in a couple of weeks. I’ve said things will get quieter in the next couple of weeks – they haven’t and they never will.

“I’ve said family will come first and you have to start living that eventually.”

Samuelson also feels it is good timing as decisions need to be taken soon on next season – and not just the playing budget for Wally Downes.

“We’re having a conversation about improving our training facilities,” he said. “We’re very happy where we are, but Wally is different to Neil [Ardley] – they have different expectations.

“When you start entering conversations with the owner of the training ground about what we can do, I shouldn’t be dealing with that.

“And there is next year’s budget – how it is going to be set up and what expectations there are on Wally. I can’t say it is a fiver and then tell my successor: ‘There you are – it’s your job to get promotion’. It’s absolutely wrong. My sense of mischief means I’d think it is funny, but only for half a minute.”

The Dons have had pretty much continual success under Samuelson’s watch.

“I don’t want people to think it is false modesty that I don’t want the spotlight,” said Samuelson. “It makes me uncomfortable. My wife said you have to let people thank you if they want to.

“But when you look at it there’s so many people who have done so much. That can be 10 minutes which is incredibly valuable or people who have put a serious part of their life into running the club on a volunteer basis – like Ivor Heller [commercial director]. I’m not comfortable with it being about me – it should be about us.

“I am very aware of what I have done well and more aware than most what I have not done very well.

“I’ll put that into the book [he plans to write on AFC Wimbledon], I won’t talk about that now. I said to my wife that if it means a bit of a fuss or a surprise, please God no.”

* See next week’s South London Press for more on Samuelson’s departure – and his best Dons memories.

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