“This is AFC Wimbledon, we don’t give up” – Johnnie Jackson and Dons board put on united front amid fan fallout

4 min

With just one win in their last 18 games and a measly 13 points to their name in 2023, pressure has been building on Johnnie Jackson throughout a disastrous calendar year for AFC Wimbledon.

The 5-1 home defeat to fellow strugglers Swindon Town saw the Dons sink to a new low, the worst defeat in a season full of embarrassing ones.

Boos rang out after a stoppage time Ronan Darcy penalty added a fifth for the visitors, leaving the players and Jackson with nowhere to hide.

It was a defeat that laid bare all Wimbledon’s wounds – the loss of key players like Ayoub Assal and Ryley Towler in January, the long list of injuries, failing on-field leadership, a lack of goals and a heavy dose of bad luck.

Jackson and his staff have failed to rectify any of the major issues with the Swindon defeat feeling like the final straw for many fans inside Plough Lane as “we want Jackson out” chants rang out at full-time. 

A sizable number of fans have voiced their displeasure towards Jackson in recent weeks but with this result it felt like those on the fence may have finally joined them.

Despite the fan anger, Jackson was defiant in his post-match interview while sharing the fans’ frustration: “I understand it – they’re supporters and they’re passionate about their team. 

“It’s obviously disappointing for me as well as I’m passionate about this team, about this football club and delivering what they want. 

“I’m a big boy – I know getting into management you’re going to have these spells and disappointments and it’ll make me more resilient. 

“Obviously I’m absolutely determined to learn the lessons from this season and work tirelessly over the closed season so we are in a position where we don’t have to witness this again.”

Although Crawley’s victory over Hartlepool confirmed the Don’s safety in League Two for another season, it still feels extraordinary that a club two points off the Play-Offs at the start of the year has fallen so far.

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“In this game you’re always under pressure to perform, but what I do know is earlier on in the season, around the turn of the year, we had a strong team. We looked like a Wimbledon team – a team I want to give the fans,” Jackson added.

“I proved in those moments that I can, given the tools, put a really strong outfit together that can compete further up the league and that on the day, can compete with anyone in it.

“This (the Swindon loss) is not representative of the work that we’ve done, but unfortunately as the manager I cop the flack and that’s understandable. 

“There’s some great work that has gone on behind the scenes and now we know where we will be playing our football next season, we can attack it now with everything we’ve got and make sure the hurt, the suffering and the pain we’ve been through this season isn’t for nothing.”

Jackson’s confident rallying call subsequently received the backing of the Wimbledon board in a statement issued on Monday, which said a managerial change would disrupt “carefully laid plans” the club has.

The board acknowledged the failures of this season, but argued the club are “wiser, more experienced, and far better equipped to face the challenges of next season.”

With the board’s backing, Jackson has challenged his players to finish the season strongly and made clear his rebuilding plans for next season; “This is Wimbledon. We don’t give up and we keep going until the end. 

READ MORE: AFC Wimbledon’s late Salford City collapse proves League One relegation still haunts them

“We’ve got two games left and we have to show a reaction because that (Swindon) was unacceptable and you won’t get any excuses out of me for that.

“We have to fight until that last whistle at Grimsby and then we’ll reset and look where we want to take it next year.

“I have to think long and hard now about who’s coming with me, about who wants to be a part of what we want to build next year because it’s going to look and feel a lot different to what it did this year, I can promise you that.”

The final home game of the season for Wimbledon comes this Saturday when they host mid-table Tranmere Rovers – despite the club and manager in harmony, another defeat could see the Plough Lane atmosphere become a bit more toxic as things could get worse before they get better.

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