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Tranmere Rovers & Cheltenham Town Stare Into The Abyss
“It only took nine years” was the cry from South-West London last summer, when AFC Wimbledon won promotion back to the Football League after a dramatic penalty-shoot-out win – as if there is any other sort – against Luton Town at The City of Manchester Stadium in the Blue Square Premier play-off final. After a strong start to the League Two season, the team tailed off a little and even looked for a while as if they may get sucked into a battle to avoid relegation back from the Football League after just one season. Three straight wins, however, seems to have steadied the nerves of their jumpier supporters and, although they remain in fifteenth place in the table, they are considerably closer to the play-off places than they are to the relegation places at the time of writing, with nineteen games of the season left to play.
Last week, however, a new campaign was started by the Wimbledon Guardian with reference to the club that has always represented everything that AFC Wimbledon isn’t. Milton Keynes Dons continue to exist in League One, despite their ongoing status as perhaps the pariah club of English football. The Guardian’s campaign, Drop The Dons, is seeking to persuade this club to drop the suffix to its name which harks back to the Football League place formerly held by Wimbledon FC, but the question of whether this should or will happen is not, perhaps, as straightforward as it might appear upon a casual glance.
There can be little doubt that the “Dons” aspect of the Milton Keynes name – most supporters, including many of other clubs that recognise the fundamental injustice of what happened in 2002 – is a continuing affront to AFC Wimbledon. Indeed, its continuing existence remains an affront to AFC Wimbledon and, as the widespread congratulations that were offered towards them upon their promotion at the end of last season by the supporters of other clubs. “Wimbledon’s supporters”, says the Wimbledon Guardian, “were rightly outraged by a decision that betrayed fans and amounted to the creation of soulless football franchise.” They have attracted support from the likes of former manager Dave Anderson and former Wimbledon FC defender Chris Perry, and a petition has attracted over 1,000 signatures.
It is in this figure, however, that the problem with this initiative manifests itself. AFC Wimbledon attract over 4,000 supporters to each of their matches, which indicates that this particular petition isn’t getting the support of the Wimbledon fan-base that we might automatically have expected it to. There are several reasons behind this, and none of them have anything to do with having any sympathy towards Peter Winkleman’s Buckinghamshire-based project. It is a reasonable concern that, while the campaign has the support of the Wimbledon Independent Supporters Association, there has been no official comment from the club itself’s Trust Board on the subject at the time of writing.
More troubling than this, perhaps, is the idea that such a campaign is playing into the hands of Winkelman and his acolytes. By running such a high-profile campaign, it could appear to some – whether rightly or wrongly – that the are being petulant about something that doesn’t really matter that much at this point. It could also be argued that a change of name would legitimise the pariah, whereas continuing to associate themselves with the events which resulted in their existence will forever remind anyone that looks at a league table or the results on a Saturday afternoon of exactly where they came from. The opportunity to reinvent may allow the franchise club to claim greater links to its local community.
Others might well argue that if Wimbledon are to protest about anything at this particular stage in their existence, it should come in the form of greater lobbying of Merton Borough Council to return them to the place that the club and its support still regard as home. There can be little question that Kingsmeadow remains an unsatisfactory home venue for a club that still has aspirations of moving up through the Football League. There has been positive news of sorts in this direction with the news that the council is looking at “intensification of sporting activity” being one of the keys to the redevelopment of the Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium site, although other sites are also understood to be under review and such a move could be several years away, yet.
Perhaps the most important element to this issue as it relates to AFC Wimbledon is that their club has got as far as it has got on its own merits, and that there are doubtless many more adventures to come. Any decision that Peter Winkelman may make will be made off his own back, and it appears doubtful that he will take the feelings or opinions of AFC Wimbledon supporters in taking such a decision. If he gave a tu’penny damn for their feelings, he wouldn’t be involved where he is now. As we stand, the two clubs co-exist and no more. If or when they should meet as equals in the league, whether to boycott the match or not will be a decision for their supporters to take at that particular time. What is encouraging to see is that AFC Wimbledon, as a democracy, can continue to debate this sort of question in the open. This is a sign of strength, rather than weakness and it seems unlikely that the Football League’s pariah club will be forgiven or the means by which they came into being will be forgotten at any point in the foreseeable future, regardless of what they are called.
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Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.
There is only one question, where were these “drop the Dons” idiots when Merton put up every objection it could to look after the yuppies who objected to having a football team in the area, inlcuding those “residents” of the scrapyards” who obejected, which later became the home of the reatil park that included Comets etc.?
All these “drop the Dons” muppets didn’t give enough of a toss to support Wimbledon when they were at Selhusrt Park, nor did they stand up against Merton Borough Council in the club’s hour of need.
The fact is that the “Drop the Dons” campaign, and its followeres, are nothing more than planks who have suddenly realised what they have lost when they allowed the yuppies and the council to remove the football team from the area.
If people were honest, Wimbledon would be alive and thriving today, rather than being a cloone using the “AFC” tag, while playing in Kingston and having as much hope of getting back into Wimbledon as I have of walking on the moon!
Please forgive the “typos”, I get angry with hypocrites! Have seen too many pals walk away from the game after watching the “holier than thou” brigade preach their nonsense!
I find myself reluctantly agreeing with the gist of John Gallagher’s comments (assuming I am reading them correctly) but would take exception to the ‘clone’ wording in his last paragraph which somewhat blunts his observations.
It is in my honest opinion that the point of only 1000 people out of the 4000 supporters signing up for this campaign is that most people feel that the Local Guardian (and Merton Council for that matter) are more than happy to keep a story running and proclaim support for AFC Wimbledon so long as it remains just words (either printed or spouted out by local Councillors) for their own benefit rather than those of the supporters.
To show genuine support would mean getting their hands ‘dirty’ by supporting financially and politically a move back to Merton and most of the 4000 genuine supporters of the club have little if any faith in this happening.
I know that my main concern is that the club remains a supporters owned entity rather than have anything to do with the Winklemanns of this world. I think we have collectively done pretty well so far without the help of Merton Borough Council or the Local Guardian and long may that remain so. This id why I am more than happy with the ‘AFC’ tag’ and all it stands for.
Storm. Teacup. Love it if the scum dropped Dons from their name but this has nothing to do with the club (AFC), and is rather distracting from our sudden resurgence in form!!! It galls me when an MP gets involved when they probably have more important stuff to be involved in. In a way John is right, where was all this effort to get us a ground back in Merton???
Who is this John guy? Hmm, bleating the usual rubbish about not enough fans and believing al therubbish churned out by Wunkleman and Koppel.
Not going to get into the arguments about whether they should exist at all. Surely bankruptcy would have been the preferred option than a franchise, but he is missing the point (as MK fans generally do).
I actually want them to keep the Dons ((I am a Wimbledon fan).
It is like a convicts tattoo…it marks them for eternity (although here’s hoping they go bust) as the product of a theft from London.
May as well call themselves MK Club Stealers. In years to come, when their “customers” ask why the nickname “Dons”, then we can say it is because they stole Wimbledon and took what they wanted (i.e. the league place), disposed of what they didn’t like (i.e.the name…Wimbledon, the badge, the colours etc).
It will be a constant reminder of the fact that the people of MK didn’t want to support their own team MK City but chose instead to steal someone elses. A reminder that the way to achieve league status is to start at the bottom and work your way up.
As for their supprt, or lack of, as John alludes to, then why do AFC Wimbledon take over 500 fans to away games ON AVERAGE this season why MK take about 270? And this Tuesday night saw 4,000 watch Wimbledon beat Macclesfield (away support just over 100) but Stevenage v MK at the top of League 1 attracted less than 4,000??
Oh….John, remind me what you are going to do when Winkie sells up and no one buys the club as it is so much in debt??
Ah the usual MK trolls shipping out the same tired arguments.
“Where were you at Selhurst when the club needed you?” – Well I seem to recall numerous protests against the move. People walked away when it was clear we had lost and we’d just be funding the new regime and the move.
“If they cared enough about Wimbledon…blah, blah, blah” – Quite possibly the most desperate argument I’ve heard considering the thousands that supported the club when we were playing the likes of Ash Utd, Viking Greenford and Westfield in the Combined Counties League. The support played a huge role in getting the name of Wimbledon back into the football league.
I’ve not made up my mind as to the Dons suffix to be honest. I can see both arguments. In truth, I am just enjoying watching my team in the football league. MK Dons shouldn’t exist and I do hope they go out of business but the journey we’ve been on and what we’ve created will always be remembered and is something to be cherished.
Mr Gallagher is guilty of poor research. He has no experience of supporting Wimbledon and was not around when the club was shifted to Selhurst and later franchised to MK. Wimbledon was always a small club that rose dramatically from non league to the football league in a non league ground (Plough Lane). Attendances were always up and down but what nobody denies is that they were a small club punching above their weight. They later had amongst the smallest attendances in the then league one and after moving across London to Croydon , and without a home, attendances slipped a little though there was some unnaturally high crowds and some great success in the 1990’s. None of the fans then would forgive the owner for his duplicity with Merton council but the fans were neither the owner nor the council and then as now have no love or respect for either. I assume then your justification for the move to MK is that the fan base was too small or they did not care for their club. The former cannot justify a franchise move. The immorality of it is the same if there were even fewer than the average over the years at Selhurst. As for the latter I suspect you are doing what all the Franchise fans do i.e. looking at attendances in the season before and during the sale to Winkleman and proposed move to MK. Of course you were not there and have no idea of the immense campaigns run by the fans to try to stop the franchise move including of course boycotting games. The sort of Wimbledon solidarity fan activity in those days is the reason why Wimbledon is now fan owned and successful. This was (and still is) a dedicated group and those with knowledge of the club are delighted and sometimes shocked at their success in such a short time but rationally, not surprised. They have the skills and passion sadly lacking in some other fan groups. They are not holier than thou nor smug though undoubtedly proud. They are not consumers or clients and they do not have other teams to support. MK followers have no real idea how much Wimbledon fans hate Winkleman and the FA and the previous Wimbledon owners but they are indifferent to MK supporters. The case against MK’s use of the nickname ‘Dons’ is understandable though it’s hard to see why it has not come from MK fans rather than the Wimbledon Guardian (not the club by the way) as an obvious way to improve their disastrous PR which will never go away. Of course most Wimbledon fans don’t give a toss what the franchise is called. Franchising will never happen again and Milton Keyes are left forever as the only club that bought a supermarket so they could get a league position. I’m humbled by how many fans from just about every other club in all 9 tiers of our leagues know this and hate them even more than Wimbledon supporters
I think you”ll eat your words about walking on the moon. Wimbledon will be back in Merton in the next 10 years, if not SW19 itself. There’s too many people now pulling in the right direction behind the scenes.
Your right about this campaign though, the Guardian were nowhere back in the day. I’d far rather see them start a campaign to get us home after 21+ years
As another AFC Wimbledon fan, I don’t care what they call themselves.
We have more important things to think about such as getting a new stadium, preferably in Wimbledon.
The football community has more important things to worry about. The plight of Darlington and Northwich for a start.
Please don’t think this is a campaign backed by AFC Wimbledon, it belongs to the Wimbledon Guardian, some sycophantic politicians and a subset of our supporters.
Franchise fans still believeing the lies koppell, hammam spouted the facts are hammam often cancelled visits with the council to areas suggested, and ones he did go to often, he would walk out in a strop almist as soon as arrive, hammam not merton were the problems with wimbledon going home, from the moment board members of afc wimbledon met merton council they have nothing but welcoming, spare land in london is very sparce, but one day we will return, as for drop the dons, football teams should be named after their community, not the community they stole the history and league place from, they pillaged my local club. They should call themselves milton keynes pirates.
Jertzee – Spot on.
MK Dons fans fail to grasp the facts and what could have been if the move never happened. Yes, Wimbledon were in trouble, but dropping down the leagues, like Luton/Plymouth, was the correct outcome, not stealing a football club away, re-branding it to how you like (and how you feel the idiots of MK would grasp onto it) and looking like AFC Wimbledon’s inbred cousin playing in black and white, with a makeshift logo and trying to be called ‘The Dons’.
The fact is, MK Dons is not Wimbledon. Yes, a HANDFUL, of old Wimbledon fans go to MK, but they’re just as, if not more deluded than the new MK fans. Fact is, they didn’t want to watch lower league football and were ignorant towards the idea. League football appealed and, clearly, at any cost.
Wimbledon fans get accused of not supporting Wimbledon when the move was happening your g, which as many reports/footage/images and personally, first hand experiences demonstrate. Really MK fans, you’re guilty for not supporting your local club, MK City. They went bust because of lack of interest. That could have happened to AFC Wimbledon, you know, the club who’s fans couldn’t give a toss about Wimbledon? *Laughs*
Frankly Franchise supporters, you have no real reason to support MK out of convenience. You had no connection to Wimbledon whatsoever, so it’s time to drop the Dons from your name and carry on with your hugely aided (stolen league place) ‘project’ and actually get some supporters through at that dome of yours.
You’re hated, so why not try ANOTHER re-brand under a new name? Let’s be honest, nothing has worked so far. According to Winkleman, as he said around the time of the move, he will have MK in the Premier League within five years. That hasn’t happened at all.
The whole club is a lie and Pete Winkleman and you, the ‘supporters’, dig horribly large holes in trying to justify it.
DROP THE DONS!
Great article by the way, Ian.
Got to say i agree alot with what you say Jertzee. How can the scum be sustainable fina ncially? 270 away and in the play off positions in League 1. Poor real poor. Like with Crawley they are there when its the good times but what will the customers do when they are reminded being a real football supporter involves dealing with the bad as well.
It’s worth pointing out that Winkleman has the last say over their name so it won’t change until he sells up (which can’t be long). Winkleman will not change the name. It’s not because of any of the reasons he or the deluded MKfans come up with. Winkleman is firstly a businessman not a football supporter but one who has a strong sense of self image (sad really because he looks like an addict) and to him the notion of ’The Dons’ makes his club sound like a franchise which of course he actually likes. He thinks he is a trail blazer for US style sport which he would be much happier with all round. Thus when real football fans use the term ‘Franchise’ in derogatory manner he feels justly proud. He dreams at night of owning the ‘Berkshire Buffalo’s rugby team and an investment in the ‘Philadephia Pirates’ soccer team and of course the circles he will move in when it happens. (Think I made up those last 2 teams)
One has to wonder why the Franchise would even wish to retain the Dons part of their name. After all, “Dons” was the historical nickname of Wimbledon FC, and represents the last syllable of the town’s name. The word “Dons” sits there at the end of their name as a representation of the theft of someone else’s club like an amputated hand in certain Islamic States, resonating as a word in the same way that a bell would signify a plague carrier.
This is great. It’s making casual customers of the awful and unnecessary franchise supermarket property deal get frightfully upset.
If they don’t fancy losing their ridiculous nickname just imagine what it is like to lose your entire club just to get a supermarket built!
Are you sure it’s high-profile? Compared to what?
Tony Hill nails it far better than I could have put it. Well said.
Looking forward to Saturday to sing and shout for the boys who fear no one
WE ARE WIMBLEDON
Rob, The “Dons” actually comes from the fact that when the club was formed as Wimbledon Old Centrals, taking its name from the school “Old Central School” many of the players were ex-pupils, and hence the “Dons”.
Wimbledon FC were averaging 8000 in the Championship when the scandalous relocation happened, comparable to the Doncasters and Peterboroughs of today. I don’t see these clubs having to move towns to survive? Back then, WFC were still getting parachute payments from the Premier league, and had sold several players for 5-6 million. They had players such as Nigel Reo-Coker breaking into the first team. There was absolutely no need to relocate. Even if there had been, why not move somewhere nearby such as Kingsmeadow as AFC Wimbledon did, and redevelop it incorporating Ks?
Because ASDA-Walmart didn’t want to build Europe’s largest supermarket at Kingsmeadow Nick.
The move (and the US-style sports franchise it required to get planning permission from MK Council) was just a property deal and always will be.
My father supported the Dons in their infancy – even helping to carry the goalposts on to the common f rom the pub. He took me to Plough Lane when I was 6 years old. I am now 92 and have supported the Dons t roughout that t ime. I was at Wembley in 1963 an d again in 1988. I was devastated when they moved to Selhurst and heartbroken when they were stolen by some grotty millionasire. It is utterly absurd for Milton Keynes – wh erever that benighted place may be, to call themselves D on s. How dare they . What do they know of our history.? I note that s ome of their fans suggest we should have followed them to MK. D o they expect me to travel 60 miles in my wheel chair every match day.? I say drop the beloved nickname. You have no more right to it than our wonderful old club.