WE’RE GOING UP!

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

WOMBLE TIL I DIE

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).

WEMBLEY DRAW

Wembley Stadium

Wembley Stadium

Wembley stadium in London is the venue for tonight’s soccer international between England and the Republic of Ireland. An interesting game for a number of reasons, mainly because it has been 18 years since these near neighbours have met. The last occasion was at the old Lansdowne Road stadium in Dublin in Fenruary 1995. With Ireland leading 1-0 the match had to be abandoned after 27 minutes as a section of the English fans in an upper stand began a riot, throwing seats, bars and other missiles down onto the Irish fans, Gardaí and stewards beneath them.

But as RTÉ sport recalled, in the years preceding those appalling scenes, the Boys in Green and the Three Lions had become familiar foes, playing out a series of intriguing competitive games between 1988 and 1991. I was in Germany for Euro 88 when in the golden era for Irish soccer for nine years under Jack Charlton, Ray Houghton’s early header decided the opening game for Ireland against the old enemy in Stuttgart. In the Euro 92 qualifiers the sides were again facing each other. Although England took the lead in both games, Tony Cascarino (Aston Villa) headed in a late equaliser in Dublin, while Niall Quinn levelled in Wembley, a match Ireland should have won.

Just like their rugby counterparts, this game means more for the Ireland players than it does for England, where most players get a regular taste of Champions League, World Cup and European Championship action. Kyle Walker, Tom Cleverly and Andy Carroll all dropped out, while Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Darren O’Dea and Aiden McGeady have all travelled considerable distances for the chance to step out at the famous stadium.

Wembley Stadium

Wembley Stadium

HALF TIME: ENGLAND 1 REPUBLIC of IRELAND 1

Ireland got off to a good start and took the home side by surprise by going ahead after twelve minutes. A beautiful header from West Bromwich Albion striker Shane Long inspired Trapattoni’s men. But their lead lasted for only ten minutes as Chelsea’s Frank Lampard scored the equaliser. Although both teams had their chances in the second half, there was no change in the score and at the end of the day a draw seemed the fairest result. The green army went away in happy mood singing “you’ll never beat the Irish!” Hopefully the game will have given Trapattoni the opportunity to consider his options for the next friendly at home to Georgia on Sunday then back once more on the World Cup 2014 qualifying trail with a home game against the Faroe Islands on Friday 7th June.

FULL TIME: ENGLAND 1 REPUBLIC of IRELAND 1England Football LogoFAIlogo

FROM BRADFORD TO WEMBLEY

Bradford City FCIt was, as the BBC reporter described it, the stuff of fairy tales. Minnows Bradford City became the first League Two (fourth tier) side in English football to reach the final of the League Cup in fifty years. The last was Rochdale in 1962. Getting to Wembley is expected to earn the club £1 million pounds. Not bad going for a side who had two pre-season friendlies in Ireland (both wins) against Wexford Youths and Bray Wanderers. Shortly afterwards at the start of the season, they hammered the team I support, AFC Wimbledon, 5-1 at the Coral Windows stadium at Valley Parade in front of a crowd of nearly 9,500. On the bench that day was a young Donegal lad Carl McHugh from Lettermacaward, who had just joined the Bantams and made his League Cup debut a few days later against Watford. In October the 19 year-old defender had his Football League debut and the following month his header helped Bradford to win their FA Cup match against Watford.

Carl McHugh, Bradford City

Carl McHugh, Bradford City

It was another header from McHugh that helped City win the first leg of their semi-final in the League Cup against Aston Villa. Although going down 2-1 last night in the return leg at Villa Park, their home win meant they went through 4-3 on aggregate. Ironically the first leg goal by McHugh was put past one of his football heroes, Irish international keeper Shay Given, who is also a Donegal man. Mc Hugh is clearly a rising star. He began on a scholarship with Reading when he was 16, then played on loan for Swindon Supermarine and then Dundalk in the Eircom League. He has represented his country at under 17 and under 19 level.

This is the biggest achievement by Bradford since they won the FA Cup in 1911. Looking at their history, I discover that like Wimbledon, they were once in the Premiership. At the end of the 1999/2000 season,  “Sunday 14th May saw Liverpool at the Bradford & Bingley Stadium (as it was then called) and Bradford knew they had to better Wimbledon’s result, who were playing at Southampton, to ensure they stayed in the Premiership and condemn fellow strugglers the Dons, who were level with City on points but had a better goal difference. A 12th minute header from David Wetherall and a 2-0 defeat for Wimbledon sent the whole of Bradford into raptures and saw Premiership football at Valley Parade for another season.”  It was the finish of a fourteen year stay in the top tier for the Dons, who were managed by Terry Burton at the time and were playing their home games at Selhurst Park. It was also the beginning of the end for the club, as moves began against the wishes of most fans to relocate to Milton Keynes, sixty miles away.    capitalonecup

I wish Bradford every success on February 24th at Wembley against Swansea City, who had a goalless draw against Chelsea tonight and won on aggregate 2-0. But I very much hope AFC Wimbledon’s form will have improved by February 16th, when their home match against Bradford is scheduled. The Dons lost to Stevenage 3-1 in the first round of the Capital One Cup in August. They are currently struggling second from bottom, in the relegation zone of nPower League Two but you can watch them in action tomorrow night against Port Vale LIVE on Sky Sports, kick-off 19:45 (weather permitting). Today a major snow-clearing operation was mounted with the help of 60 supporters and under-18 players, in order to ensure that the pitch at Kingsmeadow would be playable.