The Monday Profile: Danny Kedwell
AFC Wimbledon, the club whose establishment was regarded as “not in the wider interests of football” by the FA commission that approved Wimbledon FC’s move away from South London, will be playing in the 72 next season. The blogosphere will explode with myriad AFC-themed pieces over the coming months and rightly so; as Dons supporters reminded us all upon the final whistle at Eastlands on Saturday, “Nine years, it only took nine years”. A remarkable achievement from this, a club who only went full-time this season.
Much ink will be spilled on that 12 day-long hiatus, those initial trials on Wimbledon Common and B-Road trips in the Combined Counties League, and it will probably take supporters most of the summer to take stock amidst all the nostalgia.
They have all this to look forward to although manager Terry Brown has been at pains to make clear that the club will continue to be run cautiously and are likely to have the smallest wage bill in League 2. Fans of Accrington and Barnet might well have something to say about that, but the modest number of Dons supporters who made the trip to Manchester (circa 8,000) is a reminder that this is no behemoth. Instead, what we have is a soundly-run community club that is steadily growing year-on-year without significant third party investment. Their first-team may have been promoted to the Football League, but don’t expect the club to remove the details of its U9 Boys B side from the Squad pages on the official website just yet.
A recurring characteristic of clubs on the rise is the Ian Ashbee-type figure whose ability and significance seems to grow in tandem with the team he plays for. Norwich have Grant Holt, Alan Tate has been doing it since 2002 for Swansea, and Charlie Adam and Blackpool’s fortunes have been in perfect harmony since the Dundonian arrived in Lancashire. Although the Dons were marching on together well before his signing, Danny Kedwell, Wimbledon’s captain and penalty-scoring match winner against Luton, would seem to fit a similar bill.
Having arrived in November 2008 after short spells with Welling and Grays, Kedwell has emerged as a leading figure for AFC, first forming a wildly successful partnership with Jon Main, before establishing himself at the heart of Brown’s three-pronged attack. Bulky and aggressive, the man of Kent has earned himself a reputation for hard work and undiminished levels of commitment, and his goals tally doesn’t read too badly at all. Stats vary according to which source you refer to (hell, Kedwell doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page), but the 20 goal mark has been passed in both of the past two seasons.
Some might say that it’s been a long time coming. Kedwell will be 28 years old when he laces up for his first Football League game, and unsuccessful trials with Gillingham and Kidderminster back in the day bear out the number 9’s late development. The talent is clear for all to see, so perhaps Kedwell’s slow beginnings have something to do with a lack of application in times past, but if Steve Morison’s progress can be used as a yardstick then Kedwell may be in for a rewarding couple of years. Crawley and a “big Football League club” came a-sniffing not so long ago, but Kedwell remains at the heart of AFC’s evolution and it would probably take a head-turning offer to lure this top dog away.
In the build-up to Saturday’s finale, Kedwell ran the rule over his teammates, and his own self-assessment read “I am a hard-worker and grafter and I get my rewards from it. That’s all I can say on myself really.” Refreshing comments indeed from a player who will no doubt be watched closely over the coming months by potential suitors. For now, though, let’s hope that such modesty remains constant and that Kedwell and company continue to excel. It would be overly-gushing to start welcoming the Dons back ‘home’, but we’re not half-pleased that they’re here.