Six years ago I published this article with my views on Franchise. The clubs did not face each other that year as MK lost in the FA Cup first round. They did come up against each other in the Cup in 2012 with MK wining at home 2-1. How things have changed in the intervening period. On Saturday the Milton Keynes lot will take on AFC Wimbledon at their home place some sixty miles from Wimbledon. This time the sides are meeting in League One and the Real Dons are higher up the table than the other lot. So I will go there on Saturday to follow my team on the basis that they deserve our support especially after their recent successes. But I will contribute as little as I can in terms of spending at the MK base.


AFC Wimbledon Supporters Pic: Michael Fisher

November 10th 2010: There’s Only One Wimbledon FC

Anyone who knows me will realise I am a Wimbledon supporter. That includes Hot Press readers thanks to Eamonn McCann’s article in the latest edition. The conversation sometimes starts along the lines of “you mean MK Dons?”. It’s a phrase I and many others cannot bear mentioning because of the way a once proud football club which won the FA Cup thanks to Lawrie Sanchez in 1988 v Liverpool was allowed by the football authorities to fold and move some sixty miles away to Buckinghamshire. There were plans at the time for the club to transfer to my home town of Dublin (or possibly even Belfast where I live). But I would not have gone to watch them in either place as I could not regard them as Wimbledon FC. I have followed the Dons since their days as amateurs in the Isthmian League. For me, their first major success was in winning the FA Amateur Cup final at Wembley in 1963 when they beat local rivals Suttton United 4-2.

UPDATE: ***Sutton United have been drawn at home to AFC Wimbledon in the 3rd round of the 2017 FA Cup next month***

Fast forward to the FA Cup 2nd round draw live on ITV on Sunday (November 7th 2010), presented by Jim Rosental, with whom I used to work in BBC Radio Birmingham. In fact I persuaded him to add to the station’s coverage of six league clubs by reporting a “minor match of the day”. I was motivated by the fact that Wimbledon were in the Southern League premier division at the time (1975) and the very first match of the new season was Nuneaton (at the edge of the station’s area) versus Wimbledon. The Dons won and Jim back-announced my report by saying “Mike Fisher, bit of a Wimbledon supporter himself”! Sunday’s draw has produced the possibility of a tie between AFC Wimbledon and the franchise outfit. But first both sides have to win replays. Headlines in some media have portrayed this as a glamour tie and one which the TV companies would no doubt seek to cover. But judging by the mood on the ground as expressed in blogs and on twitter, many AFCW fans would prefer such a clash not to happen. As a founder member of the Dons Trust I agree. AFC Wimbledon are not yet ready to meet the club that stole the Wimbledon heritage and wrapped themselves up in the comforts of league status. AFCW have started from scratch, even going back to the roots at Wimbledon Common where they began trials for players. Now the club is at an exciting stage, contenders for promotion to the Football League. But I would be glad enough to meet MK when we get there, in another year or two and who knows, maybe they will even be relegated to division two. So my first thoughts are that I will be delighted to see either Stevenage or Ebbsfleet or even both of them progress in the Cup. I will return to this issue after the replays.

If it does turn out to be AFCW v MK Dons then the club I am sure will be very professional in its response, as indicated in the statement at [new window] . However the real fans will have to decide. Do they boycott the game (which would mean the club would lose badly needed revenue) or if they do attend, how do they behave towards the visitors? Various options have been discussed so far, but I think that if this fixture is held, then my best approach as a season ticket holder would be to purchase a ticket and then not go to the game or else attend but not take a place on the terrace or in the stand. Anyway the 1st round replays have to be held before the Dons fans face what could be some difficult choices. Neutrals have a lot of sympathy for them and nothing must be done by supporters at Kingsmeadow that would alienate the wider soccer fraternity.


Fourteen years ago the mandarins of the Football Association took away our football club Wimbledon FC. They said it was not in the wider interest of football to remain in London. Well fast forward to 2016 and a crowd of nearly 60,000 at Wembley, over one-third of them supporting AFC WIMBLEDON. A 2-0 win against Plymouth Argyle has ensured that the real Dons will be in League One next season. Among their opponents will be Franchise FC from Milton Keynes who were allowed to take our club away and set it up 60 miles away from SW19. Now you have the answer. Come on you Dons (Scotland excepted)! Here is a great flavour of the occasion from BBC Radio London: AFC WIMBLEDON


On the night AFC Wimbledon have qualified for the play-off final at Wembley against Plymouth on May 30th for promotion to League One of the English football league, I was delighted to watch this video by KICK which turned up on the Guardian Sport Network. It contains interesting archive pictures of Plough Lane.

Accrington Stanley 2  AFC Wimbledon 2 after extra time (aggregate 2-3).


Haydon the AFC Wimbledon mascot  Photo:   © Michael Fisher

Haydon the AFC Wimbledon mascot Photo: © Michael Fisher

As we enter a New Year it’s good to know that within the week, AFC Wimbledon of League Two will be playing one of the biggest games since their foundation as a non-league side twelve years ago. The Dons will play Premiership Giants Liverpool in the 3rd round of the FA Cup. The game at Kingsmeadow is all-ticket and kicks off at 7.55pm, which means it will be televised live by BBC1 TV. Come on you Dons! And a Happy New Year to one and all.


AFC Wimbledon mascot Haydon the Womble  Photo: © Michael Fisher

AFC Wimbledon mascot Haydon the Womble Photo: © Michael Fisher

Bring on the Reds! It’s a dream tie for AFC Wimbledon of League Two. Success against Wycombe Wanderers on Sunday has brought them a lucrative home tie against Premier League side Liverpool in the FA Cup third round. Dons supporters will of course remember the shock result of the FA Cup final in 1988 when a Lawrie Sanchez goal secured the trophy for Wimbledon FC for the first and only time. Kingsmeadow has a capacity of 4850 and no doubt it will be a full house for the match to be played between January 3rd and 6th 2015. Gate receipts and television rights will provide a welcome boost for the club’s finances. A draw would be a good result, meaning a replay at Anfield.

Anfield  Photo: Liverpool FC

Anfield Photo: Liverpool FC

As a non-league side Wimbledon always had a reputation for being giant killers in the FA Cup, with a notable victory against Burnely in the FA Cup third round on January 4th 1975, 39 years ago. The Dons went on to draw at Elland Road against Leeds, a match I was at, but they lost the replay.

Leeds United v Wimbledon FA Cup (4) January 25th 1975 Programme:

Leeds United v Wimbledon FA Cup (4) January 25th 1975 Programme:

Wimbledon v Leeds United FA Cup (4) replay February 10th 1975 Programme: ebay sale

Wimbledon v Leeds United FA Cup (4) replay February 10th 1975 Programme: ebay sale


Holiday reading: Vinnie Jones' autobiography and the story of Wimbledon's 1988 FA Cup glory

Holiday reading: Vinnie Jones’ autobiography and the story of Wimbledon’s 1988 FA Cup glory

For the first time, AFC Wimbledon, the successors of Wimbledon FC, are into the third round of the FA Cup. The draw will be held tomorrow (Monday 8th December) at 7pm at The Deep aquarium in Hull. It will be carried live on BBC2 and 5Live. The third-round ties will take place between 3rd and 6th January 2015. AFC Wimbledon will be ball number 50 out of a total of 64. Eight non-league sides are in the draw, three of which face second round replays.

AFC Wimbledon KIngsmeadow  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

AFC Wimbledon Kingsmeadow Photo: © Michael Fisher

The Dons were away to League Two rivals and current table-toppers Wycombe Wanderers. A Sean Rigg goal in the 56th minute was sufficient to give them victory on front of a crowd of 3196 at Adams Park, 1035 of whom were Dons fans. In November 2008 the Chairboys had beaten AFC Wimbledon 4-1 at Kingsmeadow in the FA Cup first round, when the Dons were still a non-league club in the Blue Square South division. I was able to see the second half of the match and to watch the winning goal in Dublin as the game was carried live on Setanta Sports (Ireland). COME ON YOU DONS!

Michael Fisher at AFC Wimbledon Kingsmeadow in August 2014  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Michael Fisher at AFC Wimbledon Kingsmeadow in August 2014 Photo: © Michael Fisher


AFC Wimbledon v Torquay  Photo: © Michael Fisher

AFC Wimbledon v Torquay Photo: © Michael Fisher


This was my first visit of the 2013/14 League 2 season to Kingsmeadow. The day was sunny but cold and the pitch seemed in good condition as the two teams came out from the dressing rooms.

AFC Wimbledon v Torquay  Photo: © Michael Fisher

AFC Wimbledon v Torquay Photo: © Michael Fisher

It looked like our mascot Haydon might get a call-up to the first team in the absence of Harry Pell who called in sick with a stomach bug. Certainly the Dons could have done with his enthusiasm in the first half, when there were times that the defence seemed asleep.

AFC Wimbledon v Torquay  Photo: © Michael Fisher

AFC Wimbledon v Torquay Photo: © Michael Fisher

Going into the game the Dons were in 14th place in the table while Torquay United were one from bottom. The visitors also had a new manager Chris Hargreaves. The West Country club was once managed by Irishman Frank O’Farrell in the 1960s.

AFC Wimbledon mascot Haydon the Womble  Photo: © Michael Fisher

AFC Wimbledon mascot Haydon the Womble   Photo: © Michael Fisher

The visitors took the lead after 29 minutes through defender Krystian Pearce and doubled their advantage before the break when on-loan striker Jayden Stockley scored two minutes before the break. That last 15 minutes of the first half was some of the worst football I have ever seen from AFC Wimbledon from my vantage point in the Paul Strank stand.

Nongshim Stand looking well  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Nongshim Stand looking well Photo: © Michael Fisher

Dons’ manager Neal Ardley was forced to ring the changes during the break and made a double substitution. He introduced wingers Chris Arthur and Kevin Sainte-Luce in place of Alan Bennett and Luke Moore. That meant a switch back to a more orthodox 4-4-2 formation from the 3-5-2 preferred by the boss in recent times.

AFC Wimbledon v Torquay  Photo: © Michael Fisher

AFC Wimbledon v Torquay Photo: © Michael Fisher

Playing towards the Nongshim Stand, Sainte-Luce provided just what the fans behind that goal were looking for when he powered down the right and was sent sprawling by Kevin Nicholson, who received a booking for the challenge. Callum Kennedy sent over a cross that Torquay keeper Michael Poke parried before a Dons’ player could get a touch. Wimbledon finally started to exert a spell of pressure just before the hour, but the visitors’ defence held firm.

AFC Wimbledon v Torquay  Photo: © Michael Fisher

AFC Wimbledon v Torquay Photo: © Michael Fisher

The attendance was good – 4,339. Of those, 402 made the trip from Torquay and they were the ones who went away happy that their side had secured three valuable points. For Neil Ardley, it’s back to the drawing board. He certainly wasn’t happy with his side’s performance.

Will Antwi looks for the ball: AFC Wimbledon v Torquay  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Will Antwi looks for the ball: AFC Wimbledon v Torquay Photo: © Michael Fisher


Today (Saturday) I am making my first visit of the 2013/14 season to Kingsmeadow in London. My club AFC Wimbledon are taking on Torquay who are languishing one from bottom of League 2, just above Northampton. I hope the Dons will build on their success of last week which followed a run of close defeats or draws. AFC Wimbledon are 14th in the table at the moment. On the way from Birmingham last night (Friday), the train stopped momentarily at Milton Keynes Central station but thankfully it was soon on its way out of Franchise town!  I lunched in the hospitality suite before the game.
AFC Wimbledon 0 Torquay United 2
A very disappointing first half (last 15 minutes of) but better signs with a different formation in 2nd half. Good support for Torquay (400). They managed to make their presence felt and went away very happy with three points secured. A small section of Dons fans booed the team as they went in at half time having conceded two sloppy goals in the 15 minutes before the break. Very bad defence let in the second goal certainly. Back to the drawing board by manager Neil Ardley and a consideration of a fresh formation as the first half line-up did not work (albeit with the late withdrawal of Harry Pell).


Howard Waldron (left) & Dave Ireland at York Racecourse June 2013  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Howard Waldron (left) & Dave Ireland at York Racecourse June 2013 Photo: © Michael Fisher

I am taking a trip back in time across the Irish Sea. My first journey for 2014 involves a flight to Birmingham this afternoon (Thursday). A good friend died after Christmas and his funeral is tomorrow (Friday) at Robin Hood Crematorium. My obituary for Howard Waldron (RIP) will hopefully appear after I have spoken at the service.

With Marie & Howard Waldron & Dave Ireland on the walls at York, where we parted for the last time in June 2013  Photo: © Evelyn Fisher

With Marie & Howard Waldron & Dave Ireland on the walls at York, where we parted for the last time in June 2013 Photo: © Evelyn Fisher

Howard and his (then girlfriend) Marie were among the friends I got to know in Birmingham when I came to work there for BBC Radio Birmingham (now WM) in 1975. Elsewhere on these pages you will find my story about the Boomtown Rats, one of the many Irish groups I got to meet. The Dubliners and Horslips are among the others I interviewed at Pebble Mill, one of the finest broadcasting centres in England, sadly now demolished.

With Howard Waldron at York Racecourse, June 2013

With Howard Waldron at York Racecourse, June 2013

My journey on Friday evening will bring me back to London, where I grew up (1954-67) and where my younger daughter is now based. On Saturday I will get the first chance this season to see my football club AFC Wimbledon in action. They take on Torquay at Kingsmeadow in League 2. At the moment the Dons are in mid-table and hopefully after a good 3-0 win last weekend they can build on that form as the last thing we need is another end-of-season relegation scenario.

Sacred Heart Church, Wimbledon  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Sacred Heart Church, Wimbledon Photo: © Michael Fisher

As it happens, this is also a very important weekend for the Sacred Heart parish in Wimbledon where I used to live and go to school. After running the parish for over 100 years since they founded it in 1887, the Jesuits are handing over the administration to the Archdiocese of Southwark at a special Mass on Friday evening. The new Parish Priest is Monsignor Nick Hudson, a former Rector of the English College in Rome, who was ordained a priest in Wimbledon. There will still be a Jesuit presence in the parish, however, both at the schools (Donhead and Wimbledon College), at Jesuit Missions in Edge Hill and at a nearby Jesuit residence.

One of the reasons the Jesuits are handing over what was regarded as their most prestigious parish in England and Wales is the lack of voacations. They do not have the manpower to continue serving the normal parish needs. It is therefore interesting that my current parish of St Brigid’s in South Belfast will shortly be welcoming a Jesuit who is at his Tertiary stage, a period of reflection and parish experience that comes after ordination and before he makes his final vows.

Fr Nick Austin is a college professor lecturing in moral theology in London. He is a native of Coventry, an area I explored soon after I moved to Birmingham in 1975, visiting the Anglican Cathedral. It was bombed during the second world war but a new structure was designed for the 20thC and was consecrated in 1962. By coincidence I met at a friend’s house in Wimbledon on another occasion a relative of the late Keith New (died February 2012), who designed some of the stained glass windows for St Michael’s Cathedral. Coventry was also a city where Howard Waldron used to work.

In Bath with Dave Allen, Marie & Howard Waldron March 2013  Photo: © Evelyn Fisher

In Bath with Dave Allen, Marie & Howard Waldron March 2013 Photo: © Evelyn Fisher

The wheel will come full circle when I travel to Dublin next week, on my return from England.


Jim White in the Daily Telegraph reports today (September 27th 2013) on the plan by AFC Wimbledon to return to the club’s spiritual home in the London Borough of Merton: 

Wimbledon FC Crest

Wimbledon FC Crest

“This week AFC Wimbledon began the process to build a new stadium. The fan-owned club, fourth in League Two, announced their intention to construct a new home on the site of Wimbledon’s greyhound stadium. What makes the plan particularly poignant for those who founded the club 10 years ago is that the new building will be just 250 yards down the road from the old Plough Lane ground where Wimbledon FC plied their trade for 79 years before they were notoriously sold into exile.

“Standing in this place, talking about building a stadium here is incredible,” says Eric Samuelson, AFC Wimbledon’s chief executive. “From where we came, now to go back and have an address at Plough Lane, there’s no other word: this is romantic. We are completing the circle. What a story this is.”

AFC Wimbledon Chief Executive Eric Samuelson Photo: © Michael Fisher

AFC Wimbledon Chief Executive Eric Samuelson Photo: © Michael Fisher

Not that romance is the first thing that springs to mind when surveying the site. Across the dishevelled car park from where Samuleson is speaking, a pop-up market is in place. Shouty traders are attempting to flog tired-looking office furniture from the back of transit vans. A row has broken out about the best position, and shouts echo across the scuffed tarmac.

The greyhound stadium itself, a fading hodgepodge of tumbledown stands, looks so unkempt, so flimsy, if the row gets any louder you fear the noise might open up cracks along its grubby side. Yet, while it might not look much, this is a place with huge emotional resonance for many thousands of Wimbledon fans who helped establish the country’s most successful football start up. Not least because it stands right in the heart of the community from which the club sprung.

“My wife always says to me when I can’t find something, go back to the place you last saw it,” says Samuelson. “That’s what we’ve done. This is where it all started.”

In many ways AFC’s story began the moment the old Wimbledon FC vacated Plough Lane in 1991. The club’s owners sold the ground for a development of flats. Unfortunately they had not secured a better place to go. So began 10 years of peripatetic ground-sharing which ultimately led to the decision to transfer the club to Milton Keynes, the theft that encouraged disgruntled fans to form AFC in 2002.

Which makes you wonder, if sourcing a site for a new stadium was what caused more than a decade of trauma, why did no one think of using the extensive spaces of the greyhound stadium next door before?  “They did,” says Samuleson. “I believe there was an attempt to groundshare with the dog track when they were still in Plough Lane. But it was never practical.”

What changed things was that the site was bought by developers Galliard Homes. They believed the best way to use what is a large, albeit shambolic area was to build a new sporting stadium in its core, fringed by a housing development. It went into partnership with AFC and has now submitted a report to the council to suggest the site be designated as ideal for this purpose.

If the independent inspectors agree and the council adopts the idea, the club will then apply for planning permission for an 11,000-seat stadium, with the potential to rise to 20,000. It will cost some £16 million.

“We’re a very prudent operation. We don’t want to put ourselves into hock. But we’re confident we can do it,” says Samuelson of the cost. The naming rights will be valuable, we’re putting in place foundations for a share ownership plan, we will make some money from the enabling development. Yes, we can do it.”

More than that, Samuelson believes they must do it. Not just because the club’s 4,100-capacity home in Kingston is too small to meet their ambitions. But because a return to Wimbledon is central to their founding ethos: after all it was the abrupt eviction from home that led them to be formed in the first place.

“About 18 months ago, we did extensive fan consultation about what should be our core aims,” he says. “The two biggest things that emerged were: one to stay in fan ownership; and secondly go back to Wimbledon.”

And though any redevelopment will inevitably lead to the end of dog racing on the site, AFC’s man insists that the new project will be of huge benefit to the local area.

“This will be a community asset, with dozens of things from street gyms to entertainment suites that people will want to use every day of the week. It will transform this part of the borough. It will make everyone proud. When we play another well-known fan-owned club in our first game in our new stadium, I’ll be fit to burst. Yes, it will be great to welcome Barcelona here.”

In the London borough of Merton, football is about to come home.”

AFC Wimbledon at Kingsmeadow, Norbiton Photo: © Michael Fisher

AFC Wimbledon at Kingsmeadow, Norbiton Photo: © Michael Fisher

However Dublin businessman Paschal Taggart has a different vision for the dilapidated greyhound stadium. He knows how significant the greyhound industry is, particularly in Ireland and has been lobbying greyhound breeders and trainers for support for his vision for a 21st Century dog track and a modern Wimbledon Stadium with many of the same community facilities such as a gym that Eric Samuelson speaks about.

Mr Taggart gave an interview last weekend to Philip Connolly of the Sunday Business Post, based in Dublin, another very influential newspaper. It has reported extensively about the state-owned (Irish) National Asset Management Agency, which effectively has the major say in the future of the Plough Lane site. So I am reprinting Mr Taggart’s comments here.

“Irish businessman Paschal Taggart’s bid to develop a €37 million greyhound racing stadium, on a site in London effectively owned by the National Asset Management Agency (Nama), has been put under pressure from a rival bid by AFC Wimbledon. AFC Wimbledon last week submitted an outline of its plans to develop a stadium at Plough Lane, as the club seeks to return to its traditional home. Nama holds the debt on Plough Lane, which is currently occupied by a greyhound racing stadium.

Taggart, a former chairman of Bord na gCon, the greyhound racing board, remains confident that his plan to redevelop the site and build a new greyhound stadium with a capacity for 6,000 spectators is the most viable.

“I don’t see us being beaten, but that could be famous last words,” Taggart told The Sunday Business Post. “It will always come down to the best bid, and we intent to submit the best one.”

Taggart, who chaired Bord na gCon from 2000 to 2006, submitted plans to Merton Council for the €37 million track at Plough Lane, but since expressed concern about his bid to retain a greyhound racing stadium in Wimbledon.

In a letter to newspapers earlier this summer, Taggart expressed his concern over the support behind the return of AFC Wimbledon to the Plough Lane area, but less obvious support behind the greyhound stadium and the plans that go with it.

AFC are working with Galliard Homes, which also wants to develop housing on the site, to win approval for an 11,000-seater football stadium. According to Taggart, a lease deal struck earlier this year between Nama and Galliard Homes has no effect on his plan and he has not given up on his bid for the stadium.

The council and local mayor’s office could decide the fate of the site early next year, which could result in Nama selling the site shortly afterward. Taggart has indicated his willingness to buy the site from Nama at market value.

The old Wimbledon Dons moved away from Plough Lane before the start of the 1991-92 season to share the Selhurst Park ground with Crystal Palace, before relocating to Milton Keynes in 2003 – a controversial move which took the team from London, where they had been based since their foundation in 1889, to Milton Keynes, about 90 kilometres from their original home. They were also renamed MK Dons, much to the anger of most of their original supporter, who formed AFC Wimbledon in 2002 as a “phoenix club” protest. AFC began in the ninth tier of English football, but are now only one division below MK Dons.”  (Sunday Business Post, Sunday 22nd September 2013)