Excited Neal Ardley out to write his own chapter in AFC Wimbledon’s remarkable history at Wembley

Neal Ardley hopes he can play a part in writing another piece of history for AFC Wimbledon on Monday as their fans descend on Wembley for the League Two play-off final.

There are expected to be 25,000 Dons fans filling out their half of the stadium and trying to roar them to victory over a Plymouth Argyle side they have beaten four times in 11 meetings.

At 43, Ardley is still in the early stages of his managerial career and, having never played or led a side out at Wembley, he admits it will be a proud day for him and his family.

“I’ve been there to watch games like Cardiff in the play-off finals but never in the capacity as a player or a manager,” said the AFC Wimbledon manager.

“It will be a wonderful day for me and to share that with my family so early in my career as a manager will be very special.

“Ultimately I’m here to lead a group and in the best way possible so that we enjoy the day even more with a victory.

“I’m not one that likes adulation and glory at the end of anything but if I can play a part in the legacy of this club then that will do me.”

The original Wimbledon club proved people wrong throughout the 1980s, when they reached British football’s highest division and won the FA Cup.

Now AFC Wimbledon are carrying on that history with Ardley wanted his side to ignore the doubters again.

“That’s what this club is all about,” he said. “It has been like that since I was here as a player. They always over achieved and this group are doing that.

“They’re in a great place, they’re buzzing and all we can do is make Plymouth play exceptionally well if they want to win it.”

Among his squad, Ardley has those with experience of playing at Wembley – like Paul Robinson, Barry Fuller and Adebayo Akinfenwa – but also some youngsters appearing at the iconic stadium for the first time.

But Ardley hopes his experienced players can put an arm over their shoulder to calm any nerves.

“You shouldn’t have to worry about them and how they’re going to handle it,” he said.

“Robbo scored a winner at Wembley and Baz and Bayo have played at Wembley too so for those players they should just approach it as though this is the stage they want to be on.

“There might be one or two that get taken aback by the occasion and they need the experience of the others to help them through it and I’m sure they will.”

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