AFC Wimbledon, formed just 17 years ago, from the ashes of Wimbledon’s contentious move from Croydon to Milton Keynes, have exceeded all expectations in their journey so far
No ground, players, management, ball or kit and had to hold trials on Wimbledon Common, against the backdrop of knowing they had been accepted into the combined counties league, yes that far down the football league pyramid.
They are a unique club and one that is well used to adversity.
Fast forward 17 years and numerous promotions later, the club find themselves in the English Football League 1, bottom, with gates of 4,700 as an average, and apart from the playing staff, and commercial team, every other job at the club is covered by a volunteer work force, the majority of who are AFC Wimbledon fans first and foremost, or who have AFC Wimbledon connections.
This current season is AFC Wimbledon’s 3rd in that league and following on from last seasons close call with relegation, where they put together a run of 7 unbeaten games at the business end of the season to survive, the management team decided to build a profile team, in the hope that this season would help push the club on.
Out went experienced, but by football standards aged players and others who were at the end of their contracts, replaced by promising players from their academy, such as Anthony Hartigan, Will Nightingale, Toby Sibbick and Paul Kalambayi, boosted by the experienced and proven goalscorer James Hansen ..with a point to prove.
Early season expectations looked good as the club climbed to 8th, however, a very poor run of form saw them slip, almost in free fall, to their present league position.
An absolutely hard to watch match at Haringey Borough of the Ryman League, which though AFC Wimbledon won, it was left late to do so and ultimately culminated in the ‘mutual arrangement’ of both Neal Ardley and Neil Cox leaving the club, for pastures new.
Wally Downes was appointed in December, with the club seemingly well adrift at the bottom and odds on favourites to go down very quickly… Doing so, would bring the stigma of being the first Wimbledon team, since re~formation to be relegated.
However, some swift re~organisation and education of the players. plus some shrewd acquistions in the January transfer window, of players such as Steve Seddon, Aaron Ramsdale an England Youth Goalkeeper and Dylan Connolly from Ireland, steadied the ship, together with a switch in formation from 4-4-2 to 3-5-2 made the Dons harder to beat.
An encouraging run, has seen the 9 point gap between them and 5th from bottom, halved to just 4 points, the run has seen them wallop West Ham 4~2 at Kingsmeadow and achieve some impressive results against higher placed opposition in the form of Doncaster Rovers and most recently Peterborough United.
With Southend United away up next, who themselves are not in the greatest of form, a win at Roots hall, would put AFC Wimbledon right back in to the mix on 39 points, just 11 off of the ‘supposed’ safety mark of 50 points.
So is the impossible likely?… Well given the steel the team have now, you would think that on the back of a move back to their home borough, that being a League 1 club, would be a good prospect and one not to bet against, combined with the fact that on current form Wimbledon now sit 3rd against Southend’s 23rd placing, it might just happen.