This article was originally written on Tuesday morning, before MK Dons beat Cambridge City to set up an FA Cup tie with AFC Wimbledon...
"I bet you're bored of it, but can you do us a piece"...Damn square I'm bored of it. It being AFC Wimbledon, a club I helped form and follow with absolute pride, potentially playing a club formed by a businessman (debatable how proficient if you look hard enough) who'd trawled about looking for a dying bride to whisk off to Milton Keynes to fulfil a "birthright". Why so bored? Because there's only so much time anyone can spend trying to come to a viewpoint before giving up when there are so many good arguments either side of the topic.
My first reaction was the typing equivalent of a man so angry he was almost punching the keys hoping the words "f*ck them and f*ck off" came out ("It's like being asked out for dinner with the ex-con who raped and killed your wife" was one phrase I managed to get out). Time is no healer for the wrong done to my football club. If you read this and truly love your own chosen club you'll appreciate that. Last minute defeats do not wane as sand trips through the hourglass, they merely become legend. The feelings that accompany such loss become hardened like crystal and remain only too real. Open wound? You got it.
The last time "the match everyone wants to see" almost happened "that lot" got knocked out. The internal dialogue was put to rest before we played our match that would set it up. Relief for every Wimbledon fan I knew. Even the ones suggesting they'd go failed to really convince. Given a choice, we'd all, seemingly, rather they just didn't exist.
This time, a team on the back of three away matches in a row including York (cup) Exeter (league) and York (league) triumphed in our replay. What is guaranteed to be a televised clash to the rest of the expectant world nudged closer than it had ever been.
My biggest fear over the fixture was civil war but despite an amazingly disparate set of opinions the respect for everyone's view has been startling. I've not read or heard one fan chastise another for opposing opinion and I've not even witnessed anyone attempt to convert anyone. As a friend put it to me, "you don't go around telling others how to deal with grief".
So, will I go? How do I feel?
Part two is easy. I f*cking despise what they did, what the FA allowed them to do and I hope their whole Stepford Wives plastic 'football club' drops into debt and dissolution and just f*cks right off never to rear it's bent ugly head ever again.
Will I go? Yesterday no, tonight yes, tomorrow, who knows?
I don't want to legitimise them, I don't want to not follow my team (they tried stopping me ever watching football again and failed so why should they win this time?). I want to be defiant but I also want to non-comply (hell, I avoided South African fruit for f*cking years and that may have been massively futile in the grand scheme, missing a football match is surely doable and easy to expect to have some impact). Then there's the countless sets of fans who never went there and watched AFC Wimbledon instead (Millwall fans who attended one of our matches same day they were up there spring instantly to mind).
My 17 year old son who has seen 10 remarkable years as a Wimbledon supporter wants to go, in his words "I can't see why I wouldn't". I happen to fear being banged up following a yellow and blue mist descending at the first sign of provocation so I've already got my starter for ten even ignoring the whole "give them money" "legitimise them as a proper club" baggage.
Just as I think I have my feelings nailed, go, stand proud, f*ck off home for tea, Wimbledon supporter and ex-playing legend Chris Perry pops up on Twitter with "Great result for Neal Ardley and the Wombles tonight! Lets hope Cambridge City can knock out the team that shouldn't exist" and I'm all over the place again. So yes, as the boy Perry so rightly says, Come On Cambridge, do us Wimbledon fans a massive favour, even if that'll disappoint the baying crowd desperate for what they see as a grudge match of the decade. I'd rather this be a fixture no one ever has to play, let alone my team.