For those of amongst the roughly 2,500 people that attended AFC Wimbledon’s first-ever competitive fixture, it will be quite scary to think how that day was just 15 years ago. On the anniversary of that landmark occasion, we recall some of our memories of that day, from early pub openings to bales of hay, ice-cream vans, yellow and blue kits, and – oh yeah – winning a game of football. It certainly puts home defeats in League One into perspective, but sometimes you just have to go with the sponge.

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This summer’s arrivals of George Long and Jimmy Abdou marked a change in Neal Ardley’s philosophy regarding our use of the loan system.

Having had our fingers burned by the likes of Michael Smith and Matt Tubbs, and following the unsuccessful term of Ben Wilson, we ensured our first season in League One was built on a stable squad of permanent signings.

But needs must. At our level, it is proving increasingly difficult to find players that improve on who came before, especially within budget constraints, and we were forced to find a temporary solution in the centre of midfield and in goal this year.

This is not an undue concern: neither player will be recalled before the end of the campaign, and we can always repeat the trick next season.

However, Football League rules limit the number of such players we can bring in, so any more bad luck with injuries may still cost us. Yet it is the absence of a limit on the numbers that can be loaned from a club that is causing us, and our lower league rivals, greater headaches.

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Andy Sullivan was a mainstay of our Combined Counties adventure. The left-winger joined us in our first pre-season, and made the number 11 shirt his own for the next two years. Here, he discusses some of his memories of our inaugural campaign, including key games, big characters, Simon Bassey, and Dave Anderson. He also has to decide who to play with, sleep with, and avoid . . . !!! Either side of that, Nick and Stu are discussing the opening weekend in League One, and looking ahead to the visit of Shrewsbury.

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Risk. It’s a fantastic board game. I love the tactics, and with a little bit of luck, you can make some serious strides to achieving your goal. But the title says it all: you have to sometimes take some strange risks in order to achieve your goal. And I saw how the calculated risk Neal has taken this season – introducing a new style of play – paid-off against Burton in pre-season. In abundance.

So, looking at that Burton game, I would like to start from the back, and Joe McDonnell. He didn’t have to make many saves that made the Kingsmeadow faithful gasp and coo in awe, but all the other elements to his game were, simply put, brilliant. He commanded crosses and his distribution was excellent (he even made an assist to Cody McDonald’s goal), but what struck me the most was how assured he was with the ball at his feet. We played a very interesting possession game against the Brewers and it negated the tactics that Nigel Clough likes his teams to play. We drew their team out, created massive spaces on the tiny Kingsmeadow pitch, and played the ball around the opposition. And young Joe played more than his part in achieving that tactic.

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The new season is upon us, so it is time for our annual season preview edition of the podcast, however this year, we are mixing things up with the first-ever 9yrspodcast League One ROYAL RUMBLE~! Every minute . . . ish . . . a new team, decided by a random drawing, will walk through the curtain and allow Nick and Stu to proffer their opinions of their chances this coming campaign – and they might be surprised by how high up, or low down, the table they are tipped to finish.

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