HE’S DON IT! CON MAN’S GOAL JOY
Veteran’s netted for both Wimbledons
VETERAN striker David Connolly has played at a World Cup and in the Champions League – yet last weekend’s winner for AFC Wimbledon in their League Two scrap against Luton was extra special.
The 37-year-old forward joined Marcus Gayle in a select club, becoming only the second player to score for both the original Wimbledon and the club in its re-born form.
The 5ft 8in former team-mate of Dons boss Neal Ardley scored 42 league goals in two seasons during his first spell at the club at the turn of the century, when plans for their infamous move away from south London began to come to fruition.
In more than a decade since, he has continued to score goals for seven different clubs but, rather than hang up his boots, he’s carried on playing, with a little bit of family support thrown in.
“My son loves coming to support me,” said Connolly. “I think he wants me to keep at it just so he can come and watch me play, and I’ll keep doing so as long as I’m happy with my performances.
“Scoring against Luton was a very proud moment, this club is definitely special to me. I look back at happy times at the original Wimbledon – it was a really good, spirited club.
“To be playing for the Dons again all these years later is quite funny because when I scored my last goal for the old Wimbledon some of my current team-mates were no older than my son is now!
“I still fancy my finishing against most people but sometimes in League Two it’s difficult for a player of my height and build – you get smashed around a lot. But as long as I feel my performances are good, then I will carry on.
“The impact role off the bench might well be the one that best suits me at 37-years-old. There is nothing worse as a striker than playing for 60 minutes and being tired when the gaps start to appear in a defence!
“If I get one or two shots in a game and I am converting them, then there is no reason not to keep playing. However, if I start to feel I’m letting both my level drop and people down, then I think it’s time to move on to coaching.
“I’m fortunate to be enrolled on this year’s pro licence course and I’ve done all my badges, preparing myself for what comes after my playing career.
OLD AND NEW: Wimbledon celebrate David Connolly’s injury-time winner against Luton last Saturday and, inset, Connolly salutes a goal for the Dons in 2003
“I’ve scored in every league in England, played at a World Cup and in the Champions League, so I feel I have plenty of experience and knowledge to pass on, and I’m willing to start at the bottom and earn my stripes.”
As the ex-Feyenoord striker is in the twilight of his professional career, which began in 1994, playing under a former team-mate is facilitating his learning curve into coaching.
The former Republic of Ireland international is keen to stress, though, that he does not see his return becoming a free pass to join the backroom staff.
However, his natural instinct to pour his heart and soul into all things Wimbledon is being well received by Ardley.
“If I see something on the pitch, set-plays and such, I’ll tell Neal,” he added. “We’ve actually used a couple that I’ve suggested and they’ve been a whisker away from coming off.
“However, I’m not at Wimbledon to muscle in on their brilliant team of coaching staff, I’m just here to help them, whether that is on or off the pitch. I’ll help, and if they can help me too, then brilliant.
“This is a club close to my heart. Whenever I had a day off or a weekend free, I would go to watch AFC Wimbledon.
“It’s a real achievement for them to be where they are, a real modern day success story. They’ve gone about everything in the right manner so it’s really great to be part of things here... again.”