Here we go again, then. This afternoons draw for the FA Cup Second Round brought about, for the second time in three years, the distinct possibility of AFC Wimbledon having to play MK Dons in the worlds oldest cup competition and this draw is one that will likely provoke heated debate over the next week and a half or so. The first thing to say about this is that it isn’t guaranteed yet. Both clubs have to overcome replays first and, while the likelihood of MK Dons losing theirs at home against Southern League Premier Division side Cambridge City the week after next remains slim, this is a side that has won just one of its last seven matches and has slid down the League One table after a strong start to the season. Meanwhile, whilst Wimbledons one-all draw at Bootham Crescent against York City looks like a creditable enough result from a distance, reports from the match have seemed to indicate that they were more than a little fortunate to come away from this match with a second bite at the cherry. There remains every chance that this match will not take place after all.
Still, though, the possibility remains, and it should be added that this is a match that very few AFC Wimbledon supporters want to go ahead, regardless of whatever breathless comments the press will thrown around in the event that the match does end up having to be played. The question for Wimbledon supporters is a simple one: if the two teams both win their replays, what do they, as supporters, do about it? The sense of antagonism and injustice remains, and there are many that would not countenance setting foot inside Stadium MK under any circumstances. Others, however, might feel that turning up there in large numbers and getting behind their team is the best way to go about this in that noisy support for their team would be the best way for them to provide assistance to the players in getting them through to the Third Round of the competition and securing a result that would be the ultimate vindication of their club.
Some may look to the club itself for guidance on the matter. It could be argued that the sensible policy for the club itself to take would be to politely refuse any ticket allocation that it is allowed for the match. We might even suggest that the risk of disorder on the day might be so high that such a decision could yet be taken out of the clubs hands. Ultimately, though, the decision of supporters over whether to travel to this game should, to the extent that this might be possible, should rest with individual supporters themselves. No-one, amongst the support itself or especially from outside of the club, should seek to dictate what decision individuals do in the event of this match taking place. It is, however, also right that a debate on the matter should take place, and that disagreements should be heard openly. The very nature of a democratic institution allows – some might even say demands – a plurality of opinions on the subject, and even those against making the trip should consider that there is a small degree of consolation to be had in the fact that, unlike two years ago, this match would not be taking place in their own back yard.
Having said this, though, perhaps the most powerful argument against making any trip to Milton Keynes should be the extent to which their own attendance would be treated as a PR coup by Peter Winkelman, the man who master-minded the only franchising of a Football League clubs place in living memory. Winkelman has long sought to pursue the line that this match would end up a as a local derby of sorts, like any other. Wimbledon supporters know this to be bunkum, but this wouldn’t stop his PR machine going into overdrive should such a match come to pass. The most powerful statement against him and his club would be banks and banks of empty seats being seen on the television, and the subsequent explanation from supporters as to why they decided that this match was a stretch too far for them. The club issued a statement on the matter this afternoon – as it did two years ago – but this was non-committal on the subject of the attendance of supporters and this is only right and proper. The club itself should not be seeking to dictate whether supporters attend this match or not. Supporters of the club themselves, however, might seek to reflect upon whether it might be worth dividing their own support for the sake of one match.
It seems inconceivable that this match would not be an ugly affair, with a serious risk of disorder. As such, this is a match that few people should really want to take place and it seems likely that any tickets are made available will have to be purchased under onerous conditions. As such, AFC Wimbledon supporters find themselves in a uniquely conflicted position this evening. Some will be looking forward to the possibility of travelling to Buckinghamshire and the possibility of handing out a result that has been hoped for over ten years. Some will be considering the irony of the fact that they will never never set foot in that place meaning that they would not be a part of the this. Some might even be quietly hoping that, if Cambridge City are unable to snatch a win in their match the week after next, Wimbledon trip themselves up in their replay against York City. And just as it was ten and a half years ago, the ultimate responsibility for this dismal set of circumstances having come to pass lays squarely at the door of the Football Association, whose spineless acquiescence to the whims of those that wanted to transplant a football club from South London to a Buckinghamshire backwater set in motion the train of events that led us to where we find ourselves this evening. Perhaps, in view of this, it is appropriate that such an unwanted fixture might be taking place in their own cup competition before it happens in the league.
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