Our run of consecutive best finishes in AFC Wimbledon history moved to 11 as we finished the 2030/31 campaign in 8th in the Premier League. But extending that to 12 would be a massive challenge for our young but talented squad.
The summer of 2031 began with some big sales as George Visscher joined Ajax for £10.5m then underperforming striker Enrique Borasi moved to Saint-Étienne for a club-record £15.75m. But that was smashed 2 weeks later as right-back Miroslav Avramovic, who was poor last season, joined Juventus for £23.5m. We managed to see off interest in the likes of goalkeeper Andrés Araújo and centre-back Stiven Monsalve, and those deals gave us a £106m transfer kitty to work with!
We began the summer by maintaining our track record of snapping up bargain South Americans. Striker Rodolfo Díaz joined for £1.4m from Defensor Sporting (and needs to work on his finishing) then we strengthened the midfield with Chilean Sebastián González for £3m from Universidad Católica.
A couple of areas we needed to bolster were wingers and full-backs. We delivered on the former by splashing a new club-record £17.5m on Real Madrid’s Felipe Santos, who has 16 dribbling, 17 flair and technique, and 20 agility, then £14.5m on Preston’s Alan Martin (mainly to meet the board’s demand for English-based players). And we replaced Avramovic by beating Man City and Bayern to the signature of Braga’s Carlos Alves, who signed for £9m possibly rising to £19m.
Of course, our 4-4-fucking2 approach continues unabated and looks like this:
Premier League season 5
The media no longer expect us to be relegated, lifting us to 17th in their pre-season prediction at 450/1 to win the title. We no longer have the lowest salary in the league, as Palace’s £825k comes in below our £950k – which is about 6 times less than Chelsea and Arsenal’s £5.75m! Araújo remains our sole player in the media dream 11 and Everton are again favourites to win the league.
We began the season at Plough Lane with the visit of Wolves on the occasion of academy product Alphonso Cadogan’s 250th league appearance for AFC Wimbledon. Last season’s top scorer Juan Guillermo López picked up where he left off, tapping home inside 12 minutes. But he then got injured, which saw an early debut for Díaz, before fellow debutant Santos also got injured – while Wolves had Cash sent off. We dominated the game and got our reward through an own goal.
Another clean sheet followed as academy product and captain Chris Passant nicked a 1-0 win at Forest before we held Everton to a 1-1 draw. And the strong start continued with a 2-0 win at West Ham then a solid performance to draw 2-2 at home to Arsenal through Santos’ first goal for the club and Valentin Schumann-Blaschke, who was impressing as a left-winger. Then wins at Ipswich and Leeds had us unbeaten and second behind Chelsea after seven games!
But a 10-game unbeaten streak ended with a 2-0 loss at home to Liverpool. But Santos and a long-overdue López strike got us back on track with a 2-0 win at Southampton. I reached my 500th match as manager of AFC Wimbledon at home to Aston Villa and we celebrated with a dominant 3-0 win through López, Passant and centre-back Gian Guerrero.
Our first red card of the season came at home to Sheffield United, but we still won 4-0 thanks to an inspired Díaz performance. The good form continued through to a really difficult December. The month began with a 4-1 thumping at home to Newcastle, then Díaz and Lopez nicked a 2-2 at leaders Chelsea and an own goal handed us a 1-1 at Man City, before a thumping at Liverpool on New Year’s Day.
That saw us sitting 6th in the Premier League heading into 2032. But we’re level on points with Newcastle, Man UFC and Everton, and just 2 points separate 3rd from 8th! What a season this looks like being.
A measure of our success was marked by VSB becoming the first-ever AFC Wimbledon player to win the FIFA Best U21 Men’s Player and European Golden Boy awards. He’s becoming a really exciting player!
Building on a strong start
2032 began by saying goodbye to Diego Lainez, whose contract was up in the summer and moved to Wolfsburg for £4.1m. Striker Mauricio Estrada’s contract was also expiring and wanted huge money so we sold him to Leeds for £10.25m. A similar story went for our star defender Monsalve, who wouldn’t even talk about a contract so we were forced to sell for a cut-price £10.75m to Napoli, and his backup Matías Rodríguez was constantly whinging so moved to Leeds for £7m.
We moved quickly to replace Monsalves with a player I’d been scouting for years, spending £9.5m on Eupen’s Rik Martin, who was livin’ la vida loca as his move to England tripled his wages. Another centre-bacl joined him in Tomás Vergara from Racing, whose aggression and work rate make him ideal for us.
I also decided the squad needed a bit of experience and I’d been disappointed with our playmakers’ efforts. So I brought in Belgian midfielder Youri Tielemans, now 34, for £500k from Inter. He still looks brilliant and scored on his debut as we thumped Doncaster 4-0 in the FA Cup third round, before our ongoing trend of tough draws saw us knocked out at Everton in round four.
The year began with a hard-fought 1-1 at home to fellow overperformers Leeds then López and Cadogan earned a 2-2 at Villa. But we looked really good in a dominant 3-0 win over Southampton with goals from VSB, Santos and Passant after Araújo saved an early penalty.
Santos was really improving well and showed it with a brace to defeat Tielemans’ former club Leicester 2-0 away. Then Tielemans got his first league goal to nick a 1-0 win over Forest – and after 6 games he has more goals (2) than our other 4 central midfielders combined! A defensive injury crisis wasn’t ideal and a run of 6 undefeated ended with a 1-0 loss at home to City. But a Díaz double led a 2-0 win at Sheffield United, which took us into the top 4 with 10 games remaining!
Chasing a European place
Champions League qualification seemed unlikely as our final 10 games featured 6 of the current top 10. Two of those came up first as we unsurprisingly lost 3-1 at Chelsea then Newcastle, which was a very poor performance that saw 7 players fined. We then faced both the bottom 2 and Díaz improvement showed as he bagged a new club-record 4 in a crazy 6-3 win at Bristol City and scored in a 3-0 win over Palace, inspired by the excellent Tielemans.
That gave the lads a bit of confidence, which showed as they held Man UFC to a solid 0-0 at Plough Lane, won 3-1 at Tottenham with goals from Cadogan, Díaz and Tielemans, then Díaz’s injury-time strike downed West Ham 2-1. And Díaz claimed the April player of the month award, with Tielemans and VSB in 2nd and 3rd. Those games meant we led 8th-place Leeds by 9 points with 3 games remaining, which virtually guaranteed some form of European football next season!
We confirmed European football as substitute A Martin scored his first goal for the club in the 88th minute at Everton to nick a 1-0 win. But as always, we had Araújo to thank for 9 saves and a player of the match performance. Not only were we guaranteed AFC Wimbledon’s first-ever European football we also climbed up to 3rd with 2 games remaining as Man City lost 3-0 at Newcastle! Surely we couldn’t reach the Champions League?
Well teams around us had games in hand, so probably not. But we held up our end of the bargain in our final home game of the season. 16th-place Ipswich scored early but that man Díaz scored a brilliant second-half brace, the first of which was a delightful chip following a superb Tielemans through-ball.
Final day showdown
Newcastle lost their first game in hand at Chelsea but won the second at Villa, while Man UFC won their game in hand at home to Arsenal. And that teed up a tasty final day showdown with 4 teams separated by 3 points! We had 10th-place Arsenal away, UFC hosted relegated Wolves, City went to 11th-place Forest and Newcastle played 12th-place Leicester at home.
Annoyingly, Tielemans had embraced the Crazy Gang way and was suspended for the final game of the season, in addition to another mini-injury crisis. Nothing happened in our first-half, other than Díaz getting injured, while City scored early on but were pegged back by our former striker Gassama just before half-time, and the same happened to Newcastle.
López hit the post after an hour but Newcastle went behind and City and UFC were still drawing. But on 87 minutes, Ramsdale launched a ball over the top and their striker raced through on goal, only for the heroic Araújo to tip it onto the post. We held on for a 0-0… but what happened elsewhere? Bruno Fernandes scored an 89th-minute winner for UFC and Alexander Isak scored a 92nd-minute winner for City. So we were cruelly pushed into the Europa League!
We finished in 5th-place in the Premier League, which represents yet another record-high finish in club history. We won 21, drew 10 and only lost 7, finishing on 73 points with 60 goals scored and 38 conceded, which was actually 3 more than last season. Araújo was the only player on the individual lists with a league-high 18 clean sheets.
Only Southampton got more than our 3 red cards but our 63 bookings was only the 8th-most. We also racked up the 4th-most fouls but won the most interceptions and won possession back more than any other team.
What a season this has been! Yet another historic year for AFC Wimbledon came so close to delivering Champions League football. But let’s be honest, we’re better off going into the Europa League for now.
The key player this season is a tough decision. But it probably has to go to Araújo, as he’s been phenomenal yet again, bailing us out countless times. But the season probably swung on the signing of Tielemans, who scored 5 and got 7 assists in 18 games – compared to 1 goal and 4 assists in 72 games from the other midfielders Lukas Habart, González and Daniel Cortizas combined! He also had the highest average rating at the club with 7.27 and has sold more shirts than any other player. What an inspired signing he’s been.
Díaz was our top scorer with 16 in 33, followed by López, who was pretty poor this season, with 10 in 36. VSB topped our assists with 13 in 36, which saw him named fans’ player and young player of the season, followed by Tielemans (7) and Díaz and López (6).
We finished the season with £280m in the bank and a transfer budget of £60m to rebuild for European football. But our focus on youth very much remains. We had another promising youth intake led by 6ft 4in striker Fatih Dogan and brilliantly named Dutch right-back Obrando Wijdenbosch, who both impressed as our youth candidates beat the under 18s 5-1.
How will AFC Wimbledon fare in their first-ever season of European football? Join us next Wednesday to find out!