“I wasn’t going to support Milton Keynes!” – Dons new boy so excited by chance to play at Plough Lane

BY RICHARD CAWLEY
richard@slpmedia.co.uk

Ollie Palmer missed out on seeing AFC Wimbledon play at Plough Lane – but he is set to pull on a first-team shirt there when they return to their spiritual home.

The 28-year-old’s grandfather Tony Wright was on the Dons’ books in the 1950s. And he has followed in those footsteps after signing on a free transfer after opting to leave Crawley Town.

Palmer was born in Epsom and lives in Banstead. He used to watch Wimbledon at Selhurst Park until the hugely shameful decision by football authorities to allow them to relocate and rebrand in Milton Keynes in 2004.

AFC Wimbledon will move to a new stadium in Plough Lane at some stage in the 2020-21 season.

“My team was Wimbledon as a kid – but I wasn’t going to support Milton Keynes Dons,” said Palmer, who scored 16 goals in all competitions for Crawley last season. “Myself and my dad just stopped going. I tried to follow a new team but it just wasn’t really the same. I stopped supporting anyone.

“I know all about the legends this club has had – Vinnie Jones, John Fashunu and Mick Harford, who I worked with at Luton. They are big shoes to fill but we have a responsibility to try and do that.

“We should be pushing for promotion next season. I don’t care where the club finished last season – that is gone and in the past.

“We’ve got to do everything we can to follow in the footsteps of Wycombe [who got promoted via the play-offs in July]. We can take confidence from that because I think they only had nine players at the start of pre-season and were one of the favourites to go down.”

Crawley wanted to keep Palmer but he was sought after as he finished as the West Sussex outfit’s top scorer. The well-travelled forward is modest when talking about weighing up his options.

Palmer said: “When you score a few goals it is going to generate interest – but I hate when people go ‘I had this many clubs’. I feel like they are trying to make themselves more valuable.

“I don’t want to look like I’m blowing smoke. I chose Wimbledon – it wasn’t a tough choice.

“Some of the teams were top League One clubs but with my family being down here and the relationship I’d built up with the gaffer [Glyn Hodges] it was a no-brainer. I didn’t like the thought of moving up north either. I had a chat with my agent around May time saying that AFC Wimbledon were interested. I had several chats with the gaffer and Nick Daws, after that we had a good relationship.”

It is a step into the unknown for Palmer. He has played 249 matches in League Two – netting 54 times. He also notched 25 goals in 42 games for Havant & Waterlooville in the 2011-12 season. But he has never played in England’s third tier.

Is he hitting his peak years?

“I think so – but it’s not always down to age,” said Palmer. “Sometimes it is down to experience and I’ve got a lot of that in the last three years.

“I know what I’m about in myself and I know my qualities. I’m looking forward to showcasing that in the new stadium. I want to help the younger lads to really push up the league table now.

“It’s about game time for me. If you look at my goals-to-minutes ratio everywhere I’ve been – whether that is Lincoln or Orient – it’s good.

“At Lincoln I was second-top goalscorer and I played the fewest amount of minutes.

“At Crawley I started pretty much every game I was fit and repaid the favour with the goals.

“Crawley is a great little club and they were very supportive to me over my two years. It is run by people who love the game and want the best for the football club. But they are working with a slightly smaller budget than the rest of the league, and doing really well considering they have to do that.

“It was a very tight-knit group there but I had to leave to better my career. Wimbledon are a huge club with huge history. It’s great to be a part of that now.”

Palmer can write his own slice of history if he plays in the Dons’ first game back at Plough Lane.

“It was a massive draw,” he said. “It’s a shame with the pandemic that we might need to groundshare until October or November, but it is probably a blessing because when we do return to Plough Lane we want to have a full stadium and for all of our fans to be a part of it.”

PICTURES: AFC WIMBLEDON


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