Dons v Swindon. 2 goals. Minor scuffles on the terraces and a couple of lively spectators given an early bath by the attendent bobbies. My first match at Plough Lane in 1979.
Dons v Swindon. 2 goals. Minor scuffles on the terraces and a couple of lively spectators given an early bath by the attendent bobbies. Saturday just gone.
Some things in life provide a comforting continuity. Be that Clarks desert boots, your mum's egg and chips or going to football. It's not hard to find articles on the beauty of the game from a fans' eye (in fact one of the best you'll ever read is on here at ST) but I'm going to open up on what's changed between 1979 and 2011 rather than what's the same (like the Specials being on tour and Chelsea being possibly a bit racist).
From very early on following my local team entailed a) being unloved by the rest of football and b) fighting ridiculous half-arsed schemes from half-ridiculous arses controlling the club. First Ron Noades - it's easy to find people with an issue with Ronald. Then Sam Hammam - the ultimate pantomime villain and finally arch-idiot Charls Koppel. For those who didn't cast an eye Wimbledon way back in 2002 Koppel is the man that our Premiership watching Norwegian owners put in charge of our club. Or, more accurately, put in charge of trying to flog the club to Milton Keynes. As you'll no doubt know, he did manage to fulfil his brief but not before we fought long and hard against something so mental even the FA have decided it couldn't happen twice.
The intruiging part is that at the beginning of the end Wimbledon were owned by two of Europe's richest sports nuts (when the money started getting their hands on English clubs as playthings we was front and centre). Their big dream was to realise Sam Hammam's vision of a club based in Dublin playing the Premiership big boys every other week. In my view an early example of the unravelling of 'football as we know and love it' (in truth that was the start of the Premiership itself and of course the very reason why club chairman dreamt it up in the first place). So what happened? Well, they bought a club they believed was Dublin-bound only to find out EUFA had ruled that one out in 1998 (no club could play outside the jurstiction of it's own FA - unless they already did - Cardiff/Swansea etc - or unless civil war was being raged). So Milton Keynes it was. A council willing to allow a grand shopping centre as long as the Hooded Claw (or Peter Winkleman as his business card probably reads) could wrestle a club away from where it belonged to become a Lidl version of the Harlem Globetrotters. Oxford, Luton & QPR all came to their senses but Wimbledon & Charles Koppel were ready to party. After a 3 man commission decreed that us Wimbledon fans didn't deserve a team despite having had one since 1889 the deal was done and the club shipped off to the arsehole of the world.
Sympathy was gained after the crime took place although both then and now a smattering of fans that had hated us almost as much as Ted Croker were seduced by the nonsense that we was a "small club, no fans" and concluded "so what?". So May 2002 a bunch of put upon, long-suffering supporters decided to reboot their club in the guise of AFC Wimbledon.
The intruiging part is that at the beginning of the end Wimbledon were owned by two of Europe's richest sports nuts.
Switch. 9 years after being hit over the head, bundled in a van and driven off 70 odd miles the resurrected Dons have made it back into league football, onto TV screens after Alan Hansen's Potty Time and into the back pages of the press.
Most fans you bump into these days have softened since we were last on their radar. After all, what's there to hate about us now? Gone are the more functional formations. Under Svengali Terry Brown the nearest this incarnation of the not-so-crazy gang get to hacking is when the press remind everyone that our first goal was scored by News International's not so favourite private dick Glenn Mulcaire.
We do however ruffle a few feathers with our righteousness and extreme sense of preservation. The way we are set up is ideal in the extreme. If this club gets fucked over it won't be by a man that looks like you'd not even buy a used Pontiac from him let alone allow him to restructure your finances. It'll be because we fell asleep or voted for something down right stupid. Big decisions require big mandates - I like to think that our important stuff (location, club colours, crest, major financial commitments) has been shoved in a lead-lined box and plopped at the bottom of the River Wandle.
It's true that self-determination also elicits the rise of the self-important fan at times. Some like to think they are "changing the face of football", others like to think they are busting the FA's nose and the rest just want to watch the team they love without fearing what will happen when the chairman gets the hump, gets drunk or gets bored.
It's currently £25 a year for a share in the club (via the ownership body The Dons Trust). For that pony you get one share and one vote and a chance to stand for election. Alternatively if you have just chopped it off with the lottery you can bung £25m in. You'll get one vote, one share...
It's hard not to be a bit smug when your long term future is entirely in your own hands. It's hard to not gaze at the collective navel from time to time and be a little more worthy than is maybe necessary, but it's certainly not as hard as staging protest after protest only to find out the Man ain't listening.
Scunthorpe away in an FA Cup replay next for the bunch of fans that wouldn't accept their club was finished. The temptation to extract a far-from-difficult pun from their moniker shall be resisted for now but at least we know that should we march on to face Bradford in the next round any windfall the cup run generates won't be nicked is almost as comforting as the pie and peas they serve in the boozer up the road from Valley Parade.
Marc is a co-founder of The Wimbledon Independent Supporters Association and was one of the four people who helped create AFC Wimbledon. Follow him on twitter here
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