The Crazy Gang performed well above expectations to comfortably survive in the EFL Championship at the first time of asking. And we were slowly building an exciting young squad.
The new season began with left-back Lee Brown departing at the end of his contract. Then sales of both our first-team goalkeepers as our Uruguayan mistake moved to Middlesbrough for £200k and Viteszlev Jaros moved to Lisen for £200k. We then lost centre-back Reece Burke, who wouldn’t sign a new contract, for £1m to Reading.
Our plans were boosted by bringing striker Jamie Donley back to the club for a second season on loan from affiliate club Spurs. We also turned to them to bring midfielder Alfie Devine, who helped us to promotion from League 1 and is dubbed “the new Paul Gascoigne,” back to the club and renewed the loan deal of centre-back Cédric Zesiger. All of whom cost us absolutely nothing in wages.
The first signing of the summer was exciting Croatian midfielder Toni Carapina, who arrived for £100k from Lokomotiva then joined Newport on loan. We replaced the goalkeepers with Ellery Balcombe for £85k from Brentford, but then found a better one as former Inter player Filip Stankovic arrived on a free. We also snapped up another exciting youngster from Man City as left-back Cody Thorn came in on a free. We replaced Burke with Swansea’s Joel Latibeaudiere, who became a new club record signing for £250k, and Brown by loaning Josh Tymon from Stoke for a season.
We couldn’t get Jebbison back on loan from Sheffield United, so instead took a bit of a gamble on Peterborough striker Ricky-Jade Jones for £60k. Star-wise he doesn’t look great yet, but that 17 pace and acceleration could prove very useful and he bagged 7 in 4 in pre-season! Then, at totally the other end of the scale, we took a punt on Troy Deeney, who’s now 36 but still has excellent mental attributes. He should also be a great influence in the dressing room, so I immediately made him club captain. We were also a little light at left-wing, so we loaned in Burnley’s Agustín Urzi on deadline day.
With those additions, I slightly tweaked the 4-4-fucking2 to change the right-sided striker’s role to a target forward to better fit Deeney into the side. And it looks like this:
A tricky start to Season 2 in the Championship
The media believe we’ve slightly improved over the last year, predicting us to finish 22nd and putting us at 250/1 to win the league. But we’re still miles off all the other sides in the league, with an annual salary of just £3.1m, compared to the next lowest of Oxford’s £5.8m, and dwindling in comparison to Crystal Palace’s £43.8m, Brentford’s £37m and Bournemouth’s £36m.
We started off at home to Blackpool and should have won based on having 16 shots to 9 but, obviously, conceded our first shot of the season and drew 2-2. Then we were a little unlucky to lose 2-1 at Oxford, 1-0 at home to Stoke and 3-2 at Derby, with Deeney scoring on his debut.
Deeney made it 3 in 3 as he smashed home a penalty to beat Reading 1-0 then scored and created one for Donley in a 2-2 draw at Nottingham Forest, despite youth product Julian Sesay picking up his first career red card. And our recovery continued with Donley scoring the only goal to beat Preston. However, Donley then got injured and our form dipped with a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Wigan, which led to a run of defeats against teams at the top.
In need of recovery
That poor start left us in 20th place with 9 points from 12 games, and 2 points clear of relegation. And that made a trip to 22nd place Birmingham massive. A terrible first half was quickly forgotten as Jones scored seven minutes after the break, only for Zidane Iqbal, who’s been awful this season, to get sent off. We then won a penalty that Urzi, who’s been nearly as bad, missed. So we went massively defensive and managed to hold on for a huge 1-0 win largely thanks to man of the match Sesay.
Two defeats followed against Brentford and Palace, before we put in our best performance of the season to down Ipswich 3-1. Our other exciting youth product Jakub Stepien scored a brilliant free-kick, Jack Rudoni got his first goal of the season before Stepien created one for the returning Donley. Games against teams at the bottom were, again, vital to us. Stepien scored again to beat bottom side Sheffield Wednesday 1-0, Jones bagged a brace to defeat Hull 2-0, before an impressive 3-0 win at Millwall with Deeney ending a 13-hour goal drought and Stankovic making 9 saves.
That saw the lads really pick up form heading into Christmas, including Deeney scoring twice in another great 4-2 win over Millwall. That form led to my first-ever Manager of the Month award and Devine winning Player of the Month in December 2025. And we took that into 2025 as Rudoni’s late winner downed 4th-place Blackburn 1-0 on New Year’s Day.
That lifted us into the top half of the table after 26 games, 12 points clear of relegation and 12 points off the playoffs. We also have the most bookings (70) and second-most red cards (4) as well as making the most fouls (484, which is 36 more than any team) and winning the most tackles (509, which is 56 more than any team). We’re also the only team to sell out every single home game.
Another cup run?
The FA Cup served up a cracking third-round tie as we faced a trip to arch enemies the McDons, and Deeney and centre-back Daniel Csoka eased us to a 2-0 derby win. We then went to Brentford and pulled off a great 2-0 win through Iqbal and a Deeney penalty. A favourable fifth-round draw saw us entertain Oxford and we breezed to a 3-0 win with goals from Latibeaudiere, Urzi and Deeney.
That set up an exciting quarter-final tie at home to senior affiliate Tottenham. We got undone by a disgrace of a refereeing performance as Filippo Tripi was unfairly sent off on 31 minutes then Spurs got a penalty for a challenge that was clearly outside the box 7 minutes later. But to only lose 2-0 with 10 men, a mass of injuries and a really young team was an impressive effort.
Massive record sale
2025 began with left-winger Rudoni, who hadn’t been particularly great this season, attracting a bid from West Brom. Considering he was out of contract in the summer and I wasn’t convinced about renewing it, I was happy for him to move for the right price and negotiated them up to £4.5m, which more than quadrupled the club-record sale of Luke McCormick to Stoke. We replaced him by signing 20-year-old Wolfsburg winger Aurel Wagbe for £45k and promoting youth product Alphonso Cadogan.
In our first game without him, we impressively came from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Bournemouth, who have 26 players who earn more than our highest-paid player! Then Stankovic made an impressive 14 saves to help us win the FM Battle at Watford. We also did well to beat Barnsley, who were up in 8th place, 2-1 in early February with Cadogan getting an assist on his debut. However, Donley suffered a broken ankle that ruled him out for the season.
However, the boys rallied in his absence with some great results, including a 4-3 win at Preston in which Cadogan scored his first senior goal. But he also picked up his first red card in the next game, a 2-0 loss to Palace!
Our form went up and down, including an 8-game winless streak before hammering Forest 3-0, with Cadogan scoring again, then a 4-1 victory at bottom side Swansea. The season concluded by losing at Hull then a 3-1 win over playoff-bound Bristol City thanks to Jones and a Deeney brace.
That helped us finish 1 position higher than last season in 13th. We gained 3 more points despite losing 3 more games! That means we;ve set Wimbledon’s highest-ever league finish for the fourth season in a row. We were also much better defensively, conceding 16 fewer goals, but also scored 16 fewer.
Pleasingly, we had the worst discipline in the league, setting a Championship record 121 yellow cards and 7 red cards. That was also the worst discipline anywhere in England and by some margin, with no team in the top six tiers getting more than 80 bookings. Unsurprisingly, we made the most fouls (844) and won the most tackles (827). So in other words, we’re making 1 foul every 5 minutes!
Unlike last season, none of our players were competing for individual honours, mainly due to Donley’s injury. But Stankovic made the third-most saves (108 in 46) and the 4th-most saves per 90 minutes (4.74).
Soon-to-be 37-year-old Deeney, who will retire to become our under 23s coach, was our top scorer with 14 in 43 followed by Jones with 13 in 38, while Donley scored 10 in 28 before his injury struck. Urzi scored 7 and Cadogan and Zesiger scored 5. Devine led the way with 7 assists while Tymon, Deeney, Iqbal and Urzi all got 6. But it’s clear we have plenty of work to do in the summer. Zesiger won player of the season, Donley got young player of the season and Jones was signing of the season. And Latibeaudiere set a club record for worst discipline with 17 bookings and 1 red card.
More exciting youth products
Our youth system has churned out several good prospects in the last few years, with the likes of Stepien, Sesay, Cadogan and Chris Passant already getting regular first-team football. And it delivered again this year by producing two right-wingers Terry McKenzie and Hungarian Botond Deutsch.
The board again decided to expand Plough Lane with plans to increase the capacity to 14,304 that’ll cost £4.3m and complete in October. They also pledged £750k to improve the training facilities and improved our youth recruitment yet again, now making it excellent. So things are definitely on the up at Wimbledon!
But how much work is required over the summer? Join us next Wednesday to find out!