Of course we’ve had over a week to get used to the idea that our reward for reaching the FA Cup Second Round would be a trip to visit the very people responsible for stealing our club and our league place ten years ago. Well, a trip for the players and the minimum officials required by FA regulations anyway. As for the fans?
In the week to consider the question before the replays, the WMS contributors have managed to agree on precisely nothing. Whether we should go, or not. What it means if we do go. What it means if we don’t go. What we should take. What we should do. What we should say.
And when I say we haven’t managed to agree, I think most of us haven’t even managed to find self-agreement. Personally I was convinced I wasn’t going to go, I was still thinking that during the first half last night. And then I started to change my mind, to think that a Second Round match would be a must-go must-see against any other League One side and that going up there in force to show off what we forged in adversity would highlight the difference between a club that was built and one that was stolen.
And then I woke up this morning and (ill-advisedly) read what some people connected with the MK monstrosity were saying. And felt sick. And I thought if that’s how upsetting I find people lying about what happened in 2002 when the FA sanctioned the theft of our club reading it online, how on earth will I feel in their stadium surrounded by the evidence of their theft all around? One of the main reasons not for going is that nothing about the day will be enjoyable. Most of it will be horrendous.
There are other reasons not to go, of course. Over the last ten years fans of many teams have taken a day off from travelling to watch their team when the fixture list said MK Dons. Many of them came down to Kingsmeadow. There was until not that long ago an official boycott in place by the Football Supporters’ Association, eventually voted down as a quid pro quo for the return of the trophies won by Wimbledon’s football team to Wimbledon.
On the other hand, many people argue that we should go in solidarity. That to send our team out there unsupported as part of a boycott compromises our chance of victory. That the national (and wider) press interest is a chance to remind people of what happened and what we’ve achieved.
Over the next few days we’ll try to talk through some of the questions facing our fanbase now. To give a platform for people to air their views. So far the discussion has been reasonably good natured. Let’s keep it that way. It would be far too galling to let this situation divide us. Pretty much every Wimbledon fan can understand the reasons why people want to go and the reasons why they don’t. There isn’t a right and a wrong decision here. Just personal choices for how to deal with this.
Finally, personally I hope this will be the final act of the drama created by the craven FA decision in 2002. I hope whether I go or not the fact that we’ve played them and that final hurdle is out of the way provides some form of closure. I think what’s surprised me most over the last week was how annoyed I still am about that decision, how angry it still makes me. Of course 99 per cent of the time we are bound up in our exciting adventure – the club we have built, all of us. The club that got back a stolen league place in less than ten years. That’s something none of us honestly thought would happen that quickly. The club that is on the verge of going home at last, with the best prospect of a new ground in Merton since leaving Plough Lane. But actually, despite everything we’ve achieved, the theft still hurts doesn’t it? And the thought of confronting our thieves is still daunting and upsetting. There has been a real effort by MK apologists to use our own success against us, to say that as Wimbledon are now back in the league, the harm has been undone. But it hasn’t. As our chief executive Erik Samuelson put it:
”Some people have said that it’s great because there are two clubs now instead of one, but that’s like someone coming and taking everything you own, and when you finally rebuild your life, saying isn’t it wonderful that we are both doing so well.”
So whether you’re going or not, we’d like to provide a platform here for your views. Drop us an email or comment below.
To save some time in case any franchise apologists swing by, some facts in closing to combat some of the PR nonsense Winkleman and his cronies seem to be pumping out:
1) AFC Wimbledon was formed after the FA Commission decision was announced. The FA Commission decision was legally binding and there was no right of appeal. The fact it took the new entity two years to limp up the motorway and change its name is neither here nor there. To claim otherwise is disingenuous sophistry.
2) Winkelman didn’t really care which team (and whose league place) he got up there. He had previously talked to Crystal Palace, to QPR and to Barnet. Unfortunately he just timed his approach to Wimbledon well enough to find foreign owners who just needed an exit strategy and overcame the concerted fan opposition.
3) AFC Wimbledon’s current home ground isn’t in the London Borough of Merton. Well spotted. It’s about half a mile over the border in the Borough of Kingston. Talks are at an advanced stage with Merton Council about a new home for the club back in the borough. In the meantime, AFC Wimbledon have managed to play in the nearest professional standard ground to their spiritual home and comply with the ground regulations as the demands have changed from the Combined Counties League through the Ryman League, Conference and back into the Football League. Again, I would question the motives of anyone attempting to stretch any analogies between this ground location and uprooting a team to a new town 56 miles away.