2002 is the year and Wimbledon Football Club have just been given the green light to relocate their ground 56 miles away to the new town of Milton Keynes. Supporters had protested this move since its conception, but now there was nothing they could do, the deal was done. Or was there? Here began a true football fairy tale!
For the fans of Wimbledon Football Club, the move to Milton Keynes was the end of the line, regular supporters could not be expected to travel the extra 56 miles to the new stadium to watch their team play under a different name, in a new town. Wimbledon had lost their football club and so the only thing left to do was to start again, from scratch. Wimbledon Common was the home to open trial-outs for the new team, spread over a period of three days. Any player who was not attached to a club and felt he would be good enough could come along and test themselves, and just like a Hollywood script, these bunch of players would form the first AFC Wimbledon team for their first season in the Combined Counties League, the 9th tier of English Football.
AFC Wimbledon was, and remains to this day owned by the fans, buying shares of the club to keep it owned by the people of Wimbledon. After all, the old team had completely severed its ties to the area and the people who once supported it. Not only this, but picking up a sponsor in the form of Sports Interactive, the guys behind the Championship Manager series of computer games, and then moving on to the modern Football Manager series. What a perfect choice of a sponsor, everyone fancies themselves as a bit of a manager and I’m sure 99% of regular football fans have questioned managers decisions by “suggesting” a different tactic or alternative substitution. I am sure that many of these fans would no doubt be familiar with the computer game and thought about living the dream and taking a small club up into the Premier League and onwards to European Glory. Here we were, AFC Wimbledon, owned by the people, sponsored by the people that appealed to grass roots football and arm chair managers across the land.
What followed in the coming years was what can only be described as an epic journey. AFC Wimbledon enjoyed a phenomenal run of form and promotions, back to back promotions from the Combined Counties League to the Isthmian League Division 1 saw them into the Isthmian League Premier Division. AFC Wimbledon then spent three years at this level of football and for many fans, the dream had perhaps become more of a reality check. Could they really do the impossible and climb the ranks towards the football league? A vast quantity of fans still believed that their destiny was back in the top four flights of English football, and in the 2007-2008 season, they finally made it to the Conference South. The Conference South proved no challenge for the Dons, becoming champions at the first time of asking.
They were nearly there, and at the second time of asking in the 2010/2011 season, a playoff final winning penalty by none other than the club captain (Danny Kedwell) saw off Luton Town and propelled AFC Wimbledon into the Football League for the first time in their history. A fitting and dramatic way to end the season.
AFC Wimbledon had done it, and not only that, along the way they managed 32 consecutive wins across 2 seasons between the end of the 2002-2003 season and the 03-04 campaign. In addition AFC Wimbledon notched up a staggering 78 game unbeaten run which is currently an English Record. The next chapter of the fairy tale begins on the 6th of August where they will face Bristol Rovers in the nPower League 2. The people of Wimbledon should be mighty proud of their club, in fact, followers of football all across the country should embrace the re-birth of a club with such pedigree and character.
AFC Wimbledon – We salute you as a testament to what can be achieved in the world of football.