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Twas ploughish, and the slimy dons
Did wyre and wimble in the blarn:
All milty were the braggados,
And the melts raths garn.
“Beware the Jabberwomble, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Franchise phoenix, and shun
The fluidous Snatcherblatch!”

With the Conference National playoff between Fleetwood Town and AFC Wimbledon set to begin at Highbury this week, so continues the slightly obtuse journeys of two clubs seeking entry into the Football League for the first time. Now, while it might seem incredibly odd to consider a club with the name Wimbledon has never before played in league football, we are all well-versed in what became of the Old Centrals. So, while AFC Wimbledon supporters assert the current club traces its roots back to the club founded in 1899, that ten year gap between being initial members of the Premiership to joining the Combined Counties League on the club’s honours page suggests to the uninitiated that there was indeed some kind of restart along the way.

In the case of Fleetwood Town, the Lancastrian side has never stepped foot over the non-league line in any of its reincarnations, as no other club of Trawlermen have even gotten this far up the pyramid to date. Stretching back to 1908, the likes of Fleetwood FC and the original Fleetwood Town FC to today’s current club previously known under the guises of Fleetwood Wanderers and Fleetwood Freeport, generations of the Cod Army have come and gone never having seen a league football club in their town. This could still be the case during this promotion playoff, as the Dons are more of the form side entering the tie and well-placed favourites to advance; still, it is worthwhile to note this is the first instance in over one hundred years of football that the coastal town has been in this position.

Despite playing within disparate social settings–AFC Wimbledon at Kingsmeadow in a borough of one of the world’s cities while FTFC play by the shores in a town that might make Blackpool appear to be a monstrous metropolis–the clubs indeed share a common bond. That bond is a name. While Terry’s Brown squad might not include the likes of lads like Dennis Wise, Vinnie Jones, and Wally Downes, that doesn’t stop others from referring to today’s lot as “The Crazy Gang.” The same goes with Fleetwood and its club identity, for despite the last deep sea trawler having sailed away back in the 1980s after the Cod Wars decimated the town’s primary means of survival, red and white supporters will still be entering Highbury in full song about being members of the Cod Army.

In short, each club’s name links back to a community with a unique history to preserve. Weaved within the complexities of financial misfortunes, backroom dealings, stadium dereliction, player transfers, sponsorship packages, and the like, for both there is a common base upon which a club’s identity has been formed. While Fleetwood is considerably more accustomed to winding up and starting anew than Wimbledon, any reincarnation of either club announces to the footballing world from whence they came and what they’ve contributed to the game.

To mangle Shakespeare, the name’s the thing.

For in the name of Wimbledon, football fans are recalled to a simpler time in the game’s not so distant history. Back then, the Dons were an over-achieving, aggressive squad supported by a small (comparatively speaking) yet strong group of supporters who saw their Crazy Gang play an uncompromising style of play all the way to an FA Cup. Vinnie Jones was just a stereotypical tough guy on the pitch and Joe Kinnear was a manager who got the most from a club possibly out of its depth before health issues abruptly ended his role. John Fashanu was the unapologetic striker unafraid to harm the opponent or himself instead of the repentant brother of Justin Fashanu shamed for having deemed his own blood as an outcast. That name also embodies the strength of today’s Old Central faithful to recover, revive, and succeed after having their football legacy stripped from their community in a rather shameful fashion.

It is exactly that name–Wimbledon–that is shining a renewed interest upon these Conference National playoffs and eliciting a few grins from those who were aggrieved when the Wombles’ burrow was snatched from them like a Mayflower van leaving the city of Baltimore in the dead of night back in 1983. Hopefully it will be that name that can blot out some of the antics associated with those operating fellow playoff side Wrexham. After the slightly obscene way in which Crawley Town bought their automatic promotion to League Two this campaign, perhaps it will be that name joining them to brighten up a league suffering loss following the circumstances surrounding relegated Stockport County. In true Wombles fashion, it might be that name that has been recycled to provide the Football League an example of what suitable stewardship of a club can achieve.

And, has thou slain the Jabberwomble?
Nay, so come to my arms, my boy!
O fantabulous day! Wahoo! Tiehigh!’
He chortled in his joy
Twas ploughish, and the slimy dons
Did wyre and wimble in the blarn:
All milty were the braggados,
And the melts raths garn.

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