Connect with us

AFC Wimbledon

AFC Wimbledon must avoid repeat of 2016 transfer disaster this summer



The Dons are allegedly sought an experienced backup goalkeeper this summer, but will want to prevent a repetition of the unsuccessful Ryan Clarke move from 2017.

Back in the summer of 2016, AFC Wimbledon had achieved promotion to League One and were looking to assemble a club that would help consolidate their third-tier status for years to come.

So they began their business with the signing of experienced goalkeeper Ryan Clarke, who they considered as a terrific addition to the club with the EFL experience he offered.

However, his move to the Dons proved to be a nightmare, and with reports indicating that they are considering a similar type of transfer with an ambitious move for former Coventry City goalkeeper Simon Moore, they will want to prevent a repetition of the Clarke scenario.

Ryan Clarke’s disastrous Dons move

In 2016, the former Oxford United goalkeeper joined Wimbledon on a free transfer and signed a one-year contract. Clarke described the move as “a fantastic opportunity”, adding: “To join a club of this stature with its history is an honour and a privilege.”

He had been sought after by the club’s management and coaching staff at the time, as in the article introducing his acquisition, then-manager Neal Ardley revealed: “We looked long and hard at what we required throughout the back end of last season and we wanted strength in the goalkeeping department.

“We needed that presence, experience and somebody in their late 20s or early 30s, who has piled up a huge amount of games. Ryan fitted the bill.”

However, in the seven league games that Clarke appeared in following his signing, the aforementioned presence and experience were nowhere to be seen, with the goalie unable to keep his defence organised and making numerous blunders between the sticks.

His blunders were most obvious in early-season defeats against Bolton Wanderers and Walsall.

In the game against Bolton, a routine shot from within the box rolled underneath Clarke into the net, while against the Saddlers, the keeper failed to command his box effectively to defend against two tap-ins, as well as failing to make any stop when faced with an Erhun Oztumer free-kick.

Fans rapidly got dissatisfied with Clarke and his litany of faults, and as their fury rose, the mistakes and anxieties became more visible.

Clarke and Wimbledon determined that a mutual cancellation of his contract, only two months after arriving for the club and having appeared in only nine games across all competitions, was best for all sides.

Ardley spoke again in the piece announcing his departure, saying: “After lengthy conversations with Ryan about his failure to settle at the club, we have reluctantly agreed to let him go.”

Ryan is a decent guy and a family man who wanted to achieve well for Wimbledon, but he decided for personal reasons that his future belonged at another club.”

Why Wimbledon and Johnnie Jackson should be cautious if targeting Simon Moore

As previously said, Clarke, who was 34 years old when he signed for the Dons, was not the right goalkeeper to entrust with first-team duties in what was a key season.

Given that 2024/25 is likely to be of comparable proportions, and the Dons are desperate to move out of League Two, there should be some skepticism about Moore’s alleged objective.

Moore, like Clarke before to his move to Wimbledon, has not played much between the posts in recent seasons. While he completed a full season at Coventry in 2021/22, making 42 appearances in all competitions, his previous full season was with Sheffield United in 2016/17.

This would imply that if Wimbledon entrusted him with first-choice responsibility, should he be signed, they would risk playing a slightly rusty player in between the sticks, as well as a guy who may have lost confidence in his skills as a result of not starting.

According to South London Press, the Dons appear to be planning an ambitious bid for the former Coventry shot-stopper, but no formal move has yet been made.

The Dons would be wise to sign the 34-year-old, but they must also bring in another goalkeeper to compete for the number one slot and avoid placing all of their eggs in one basket.

Moves for goalkeepers late in their careers may not always go as expected, as Clarke’s tenure in South West London showed.

Wimbledon’s goalkeeping department is clearly undergoing a makeover this summer. Last season’s first-choice keeper, Alex Bass, is returning to parent club Sunderland, and second-choice Nik Tzanev is leaving after eight years, and it appears, according to sources, that a future number one will be loaned from a Premier League or Championship team.

Wimbledon fans need not be alarmed, however, given the recent record of good young goalkeepers arriving on loan at the club, such as George Long, Alex Bass, and Aaron Ramsdale, the club appears to have learnt their lesson and will make the right decisions once more this summer.