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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Fast forward to the FA Cup 2nd round draw live on ITV on Sunday, 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] www.afcwimbledon.co.uk . 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.
UPDATE: The match that some media people would like to have seen will not happen (sighs of relief all around Kingsmeadow). Stevenage overcame MK Dons in a thrilling finish decided by penalties after extra time. The Dons needed extra time too as they overcame a very lively Ebbsfleet United 3-2 in their replay. Nice one Sammy!! So it’s a home match to look forward to now in the FA Cup second round against Stevenage on November 27th. The game will be televised live by ITV sport as they are now following the fortunes of AFC Wimbledon. The kick-off time has therefore been altered to 12.50pm.
From the website (new window) www.afcwimbledon.co.uk a brief description of how the Dons overcame Ebbsfleet:
In a pulsating game Sammy Moore scored an equaliser in the fifth minute of added on time to take the match into extra time and then the winner in the last minute of extra time. Mark Nwokeji had put Wimbledon ahead after 8 minutes heading home but a brace from Ashley Carew after 12 and 19 minutes put the home team ahead. Both teams created a number of chances with the two goalkeepers pulling off great saves.