Nigel is a football (soccer) fan since his childhood days. He also plays football as a left-back and is a long time fan of Liverpool FC.
In 1889, a Football Club was founded in South-West London, by the name of, Wimbledon FC. For most of it's history, the club was a non-league team, meaning, they play in the lower divisions of the English Football System. However, after three successive Southern League Championship wins between 1975 and 1977, they were elected to join the Football League and through promotions after promotions, they found themselves in the top flight of the league (First Division) by 1986, which was a fast rise, after just joining the Football League four seasons prior.
Wimbledon FC had a nickname formed by the Fans and the Media namely, "The Crazy Gang" due to the team's boisterous and eccentric behavior of its players. The club's biggest achievement while being in the First Division, was to win the FA Cup in 1988, defeating a dominating, Liverpool FC.
What Went Wrong?
After the Hillsborough Disaster in 1989, which killed 96 football fans due to overcrowding in the central pens of the stands, English Football was looking at a change in its Stadium regulations. Prior to the year 1991, all Football Stadiums have both seated and standing options (or fully standing options), which according to the Taylor Report in 1990,the main reason was the failure of police control and overcrowding of the stadium were the reasons behind the disaster.
Plough Lane, the original home of Wimbledon FC who struggled to accommodate to the new ruling, which led the club to move their home ground to Selhurst Park, which is the home of rivals, Crystal Palace in 1991. The hearts and memories of the fans were broken, they knew they'll never see Plough Lane ever again, however, the club did continue to see good results over the years, however what strikes next, will change the club's future forever.
In the year 2000, Wimbledon FC was relegated to the Second Division, following bad form and many managerial changes. A controversial decision was made in 2001 by the club's owners, that the club will re-locate to Milton Keynes, which was 56 miles (or 90 kilometres) from the club's traditional home, which angered many Wimbledon FC fans.
Due to the dissatisfaction of their fans, AFC Wimbledon, a fan-owned club, owned by The Dons Trust, which is the club's trust fund was formed in the year 2002, meanwhile, the original Wimbledon FC, who gained approval to move their club to Milton Keynes in 2003 and renamed their club to MK Dons (Milton Keynes Dons).
Re-starting From The Bottom
First and Only Season In The Combined Counties League
AFC Wimbledon, who is a completely different entity from it's predecessors, aligned themselves with the London & Surrey Football Associations and entered the Premier Division of the Combined Counties League, which is in the Ninth division of English Football, for which, they stayed there from 2002 until 2004, where the club finished as champions of the Combined Counties League, thus, gaining promotion to the Isthmian League.
The Isthmian League Years
The Isthmian League which is where AFC Wimbledon competed for 4 years. Starting their first season in the Isthmian League First Division (Division 8 in the English Pyramid System) and immediately, the club was on-course to win the First Division, which they did in the 2004-2005 season, sealing their promotion to the Isthmian League Premier Division (Division 7 in the English Pyramid System).
A good start in the 2005-2006 season in the Isthmian League Premier Division saw the club reach the play-off places, however, the club lost the play-offs, thus, keeping them in the league for another season and missing out on a third successive promotion. The club missed out on promotion again in the 2006-2007 season, falling short in the play-offs again.
Eureka came in the 2007-2008 season, after the appointment of Terry Brown as manager, as AFC Wimbledon achieved promotion into the Conference, ironically, through yet another play-off. AFC Wimbledon will be seeing themselves play in the Conference South in the 2008-2009 season.
While we're here, check out my other article on the English Football Pyramid System, for better understanding on how the Pyramid System works.
- English Football's Pyramids, Promotion & Relegation, How Deep Does It Go?
One of the selling points in Football (Soccer), is the Promotion & Relegation rule. The source of "Final day" dramas, success stories, happiness and disappointments. Lets take a look at how deep the Football Pyramid goes in English Football.
The Conference Years (Now known as the National League)
To an immediate surprise, in the 2008-09 season, AFC Wimbledon were lingering around the top of the table for the majority of the season, eventually winning the Conference South (Division 6) title and earning promotion to The Conference Premier League, also known as the 5th Division in English Football, thus edging closer to a return to the Football League.
Their first season (2009-10 season) in the Conference Premier was not exactly a fruitful one, with the club 14 points away from the play-off places, which marks the first time the club failed to achieve top 5 in the league table.
In the following season (2010-2011 season), AFC Wimbledon finished in Second Place, thus, allowing them to qualify for the play-offs. In front of 18,195 fans, in the City Of Manchester Stadium (Now known as Etihad Stadium), through a penalty shoot-out against fellow finalist, Luton Town, AFC Wimbledon won the match 4-3 through penalties, which resulted in AFC Wimbledon joining the the Football League, being the youngest club in the Football League and the fastest club to attain league status after achieving 5 promotions in 9 years.
FUN FACT 1: AFC Wimbledon is the current record holders for the longest unbeaten run in all levels of United Kingdom senior Football, where they remained unbeaten for 78 matches between February 2003 to December 2004.
The Football League Years
League 2 (English Division 4)
After a fantastic rise to the Football League, the first season (2011-12 season) for AFC Wimbledon was one to forget, as the club finished 16th place, 10 points above relegation, which was not the best result. In the following season (2012-13 season), long time manager, Terry Brown, was sacked early into the season and replaced with a former player, Neal Ardley.
AFC Wimbledon met arch rivals, Milton Keynes Dons for the first time in December 2012, in the FA Cup Second Round, a first since Wimbledon FC's relocation to MK Dons. AFC Wimbledon against MK Dons is considered one of the hottest rivalry in the Football League, as hot as Liverpool against Manchester United.
The club stayed in the Football League for the next few seasons, mingling around the mid-table zone, avoiding relegation a few times in the process. After 5 seasons in League Two, AFC Wimbledon finished 7th place in the 2015-16 season, thus, qualifying them for the League Two play-offs, where, in the final, AFC Wimbledon won 2-0 against Plymouth Argyle in front of a crowd of over 58,000 in Wembley. This marks AFC Wimbledon's highest rise in the club's history.
League 1 (English Division 3)
AFC Wimbledon's run in League One hasn't been as interesting as their rise to the Football League, where the club has stayed in the same position, lower mid-table, for the past four seasons. However, arch rivals, Milton Keynes Dons, were relegated from The Championship (Division 2) in the same season, therefore, marking the first time, both rivals will meet in the same division in the 2016-17 season, however, in the 2017-18 season, MK Dons were relegated to League 2, which marks the first time AFC Wimbledon playing 1 division higher than their rivals.
FUN FACT 2: John Green, a world renowned Author & Youtuber, best known for his novel, "The Fault In Our Stars", is a sponsor of AFC Wimbledon since 2014 and infamously sponsored a stand bearing his name in Kingsmeadow.
Watch John Green's sponsorship initiatives in 2014 by Vice Sports
A return to Plough Lane and an aim to go further in the future
The 2017-18 campaign also marks a huge change to AFC Wimbledon's future. After watching COPA 90's documentary (Below), AFC Wimbledon's fans have their heart and memories at Plough Lane. The Club was previously playing at Kingsmeadow, a ground bought during their time in the Isthmian League. In the year itself, AFC Wimbledon received approval to build a new 9,300 seater at Plough Lane, just about 250 yards from the original location. In 2020, AFC Wimbledon officially moved to Plough Lane, with significant approval from the fans on the effort to return there.
From a Liverpool fan, my only wish is to face AFC Wimbledon in the Premier League one day, to relive old times.
Feel free to watch to understand further on how AFC Wimbledon returned to the Football League by COPA90 Stories
© 2021 Nigel Koay Talks Football