SAD NEWS: Wimbledon confirms departure of three key players

Conor Keenan’s AFC Wimbledon end-of-season review: Curtis’ MK winner, Al-Hamadi departure, and Dons building in the right direction.
“It’s going to look and feel a lot different than it did this year,” Johnnie Jackson promised at the end of the 2022-23 season.

Jackson had barely managed to keep his job, finishing the season in 21st place and winning only two of their final 20 games.

Wimbledon had a make-or-break summer. The reset button had to be pressed, and expectations for the 2023-24 season at Plough Lane were low.

However, the ex-Charlton manager and his staff were determined to learn from what became a painful end.

A near-perfect preseason would lay the groundwork for the most successful AFC Wimbledon season in nearly a decade. Deadwood was shipped out, and more than a dozen players arrived, including a new goalkeeper, two new center backs, and a new captain.

Midfielders Jake Reeves and Armani Little, defenders Joe Lewis and Ryan Johnson, goalkeeper Alex Bass, and striker Omar Bugiel, to name a few, would all become key members of a team that their manager aimed to shape into the ‘Wimbledon DNA’ – physical, dangerous, and difficult to beat.

Not only did he have to rebuild a team, but Jackson knew he needed to re-establish trust with the Wimbledon faithful, so the Dons flew to Benidorm for preseason. The trip allowed the newly formed team to bond with both their new teammates and the traveling Wimbledon fans. To kick off the new season, players, staff, and fans celebrated with a boozy evening of karaoke under the Spanish sun.

“The pre-season trip was massive,” Jackson told the South London Press following the season-ending 5-1 victory over Walsall.

“I took those trips as a player, and they were invaluable. You get the lads together for a full week, and we got a lot done, both getting to know each other and doing tactical work to set us up for the season.

“We also had the benefit of our supporters present. The night we spent with them was significant for me; I know I wasn’t the flavor of the month at the time, but the fans recognized how hard we worked that summer and how much it meant to us to turn things around.”

Wimbledon continued their successful pre-season by defeating local rivals Sutton United 3-0 at Gander Green Lane, completing a memorable late 2-1 EFL Cup victory over Coventry City, and almost

The Dons were playing better than their results indicated, with poor home form keeping them from a perfect start to the season. Stellar away form was not matched at Plough Lane, with home fans having to wait until September 30th for their first win in SW17.

The Dons kept plugging away, never falling too far behind the playoff places thanks to stunning form from their star player, Ali Al Hamadi. The ‘Iraqi Scouser’ was a fan favorite at Plough Lane, with a goal-scoring eye and a unique background story.

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