Simon Bassey’s spell as interim AFC Wimbledon manager could be over very soon – but the long-serving coach doesn’t know if tomorrow’s home game against Southend United will be his final match in charge.The Dons, deep in League One relegation danger, host the Shrimpers at the Cherry Red Records Stadium before following up with a trip to fourth-placed Peterborough United on Tuesday.Wimbledon provided an update on their boss search on Monday as they revealed a timeline for Neal Ardley’s successor – with the aim being to announce an appointment next week.The Dons say they have had more than 80 applicants and the South London Press understands that one strong contender is Michael Appleton.
The Salford-born 42-year-old has managed Portsmouth, Blackpool, Blackburn Rovers and Oxford United and most recently was assistant boss to Craig Shakespeare at Leicester City.During his time in charge of the U’s he won automatic promotion to League One as well as twice finishing runners up in the Football League Trophy.
Bassey is listed as a 22-1 outsider for the Wimbledon vacancy and looks nailed on to keep his job in any new set-up. Asked if he was guaranteed to stay, he said: “So I’m led to believe. But football is football, it’s a difficult business.
“But along with the other staff, a new manager will be appointed and we’ll work with him – as we did with Neal. I’ve not really thought about it [the Southend game potentially being his last in temporary charge]. I’ll just get on with preparing for whatever comes.
“I’ll be going to Coventry on Friday night to watch Peterborough. If that’s relevant for Tuesday then great – but if not then what will be, will be. I’ll just get my head down and work hard.
“When I worked with Neal I spent a lot of time travelling and watching the opposition. I’d always watch at least three or four matches before we played them.
“I was at Crawley on Tuesday to watch Southend and I also saw the first tie because we played Friday.”Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Doncaster Rovers – the first match after Ardley left his role – means that Wimbledon are seven points adrift of safety. It is effectively eight as they have a hugely inferior goal difference to Oxford.
“That points gap is never what you want to be there,” said Bassey. “But there are three points up for grabs on Saturday and we also play Tuesday. We’re looking to close that gap as quickly as possible.
“If we win on Saturday that gap could be four points and then it could be one by Wednesday morning. There are certainly enough games left in the season.
“At times our performances have been good – we’ve fallen the wrong side of quite a few tight games. That’s something we have to change.”
Bassey knows Southend’s Chris Powell – the man in the opposite dugout – very well.
“He is a friend of mine for over 20 years. He is a really good manager and really well-respected. He has got a decent team and been a bit unfortunate in the last couple of months with injury to some key players.
“He took another suspension at the weekend [Michael Turner sent off in a 2-1 home loss to Blackpool]. He’s quite bare in terms of numbers.
“When I was an apprentice at Charlton I used to clean Alex Dyer’s boots and he is best mates with Chris. When Chris was at Derby and Leicester he used to do me a favour by letting us train there when we were playing up north. “Bassey’s first fixture at the helm saw them edged out at the Keepmoat Stadium. It was an eighth straight League One defeat.
Asked about the changes and tweaks he chose to make now he was calling the shots, Bassey replied: “We were a more experienced team on the day – certainly a bigger team.
“We tried to make ourselves hard to beat and for long periods it looked like we wouldn’t get beaten.
“It was 80-something minutes before they had a shot inside our penalty area. A lot of what we did worked well. We’re disappointed with the two goals, we switched off and that is something we have worked on and continue to work on.
“Our goal was really well-worked. We probably created three other situations where we were really dangerous but lacked that final pass to make it tell.
“We’ve got some talented players here and we seem to have tail-spun a little bit and haven’t managed to get ourselves going again.
“I’m hoping parts of Saturday’s performance we can take encouragement from and I we did some good video stuff on Monday with the players.
“The last couple of weeks have been difficult circumstances and I can’t thank them enough for their efforts. Hopefully those efforts reap some rewards on Saturday.”Picture credit (main pic): Keith Gillard