This week, I’m looking at one of the most remarkable football clubs featured in Reading the Game to date. I’m talking about AFC Wimbledon, the fan-owned football club formed in response to the relocation of Wimbledon FC to Milton Keynes and specifically about All Together Now by Erik Samuelson.
It took just nine years for AFC Wimbledon to rise from the Combined Counties League back up to the Football League and Erik Samuelson was there for all of that time, plus the following decade. His book recounts both the club’s journey and his own from Selhurst Park to the recently-opened New Plough Lane.
But All Together Now “isn’t a history: it’s a story”. Who says so? Samuelson himself, in the introduction. It’s a subtle, but important distinction; by telling the club’s story from his own perspective, the author gives himself the freedom to add colour and personal detail which would be deleted or sanitised in a club history.
That’s not to say that this is a warts-and-all, score-settling memoir. Far from it. There are times in this book where Samuelson deems discretion to be the better part of valour, honouring agreements made at the time and explaining this to the reader. Conversely, when detail is offered to the reader – whether while recounting an event, in one of the many explanatory footnotes or in an appendix at the end of the book – it is presented in a fashion which is both forensically detailed and accessible to non-experts.
This is the point where I should probably declare an interest; I’ve met and spoken with Erik Samuelson more than once, usually in the Boardroom at either Kingsmeadow or the Robert Parker Stadium when Wimbledon played Ashford Town (Middlesex). My beloved Tangerines are mentioned by name a couple of times in the book and on each occasion are given their full name, brackets and all. It’s a minor thing but, in an era when Ashford’s own League consistently fails to describe them properly, it sticks out. Erik Samuelson’s mixture of precision and courtesy informs his writing style and his decisions of what to include and what to leave out. To my mind, All Together Now is much better for it.
As you might expect from a tale that includes six promotions, the buying and selling of one stadium, the building of another and various battles with the football authorities, this is a big book. With appendices, it runs to more than 400 pages. Yet it doesn’t drag or overburden the reader with the ins-and-outs of AFC Wimbledon’s slightly complicated business structure.
Instead, Samuelson weaves his own recollections into a tale told in part by the people he worked alongside. Having interviewed former players, managers and various volunteers and officials from around the club, the author quotes extensively from those interviews. He makes a point of not claiming sole credit for collective achievements, is consistently self-critical and honest about the journey he undertook with AFC Wimbledon. It’s a measure of how Erik Samuelson conducted himself that even some of the managers who were sacked by the club were more than happy to talk to him for All Together Now.
Alongside the detailed explanations of key events and the thoughts of former and current managers, players and volunteers, this book mixes in some dry humour. The title, plus those assigned to each chapter, are taken from songs, which vary wildly in terms of genre and era. I’m not sure what that says about the Spotify playlists of the Samuelson family, but they might be useful if Pitch Publishing bring out an audiobook! However, even without a stellar soundtrack, All Together Now is an entertaining and well-written tale.
I’m certain that Dons fans will lap up All Together Now, but there’s a lot here for fans of other clubs too. Having grown up not-too-far from Wimbledon and been disgusted by the decision which allowed Wimbledon FC to be relocated I took a keen interest in AFC Wimbledon’s journey back to the Football League and this book helped me to understand that journey in a new way.
I very much enjoyed All Together Now, which is the latest Pitch Publishing title to hit my bookshelves. There are various links on the Pitch website if you’d like you’d like your own copy but I bought it from Stanchion Books, so here’s a link to the book on their site too.