HE’S DON IT! CON MAN’S GOAL JOY

Vet­eran’s net­ted for both Wim­ble­dons

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Armel Tan­guy PIC­TURE: Stu­art Butcher

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.

Watch

“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.

Twi­light

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.”

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