These articles are published in the Slough Town FC programme. The Rebels play in the National League South in a swanky new ground. I’ve been supporting Slough since the beginning of time despite now living in Brighton.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Womble Revolution

Printed in the Slough Town v AFC Wimbledon League Cup 22nd February 2005

A friend had told me about the rumblings on the Common. I started to read about it in the news and liked what I heard. So with fixture list in hand, and a few quick phone calls I rounded up some mates and we decided to join the Revolution. I just never thought Norbiton in South London would be the scene of such a revolt.

So there we were. One Wimbledon, Southampton, Man City, and Slough Town supporter heading out of the train station to Kingsmeadow to be part of history. Two of our foot soldiers had turned their back on the Premiership, fed up that players were earning more in a week then they could possible earn in a year, while then having to fork out half their weekly wages on getting into the grounds to watch these players! I was offering them the promised land of non league footie, and this was the carrot. Thousands thronged the streets. The kick off had to be delayed as 4,200 crammed into the ground, while a couple of thousand more were locked out. The local chip shop owner didn’t know what hit him and asked us if Manchester United were playing that night. No mate, it was a Combined Counties League match, with AFC Wimbledon playing their first ever ‘home’ game against the mighty Chipstead.

OK, so Chipstead spoilt the party a bit by winning (and sending their twenty fans wild!) but that wasn’t really the point. Here was something very different happening – a fans revolution without a drop of blood being spilt. Just plenty of sweat and toil.

Being a football fan is all about being a hopeless romantic, about unbridled joy, often followed by complete misery. With that stupid romanticism comes loyalty. The old Wimbledon had probably become the last club to do a Roy of the Rovers, going from non league to the top and winning the FA Cup on the way.

Being a football fan is also about staying loyal even when the chips are down. All us Rebels know what its like to lose your home, and losing Plough Lane was no different for the Dons; but the move to Milton Keynes to become that joke of a club MK Dons (Franchise FC) was the final straw. It was time to start again with a fans owned club.

AFC Wimbledon, you see, have revolted against the revolting, and turned their back on the corporate regime which ran the team they once gave their loyalty to.

Since that Chipstead evening, I’ve seen Wimbledon play a few more times. At Merstham the thousand strong wombles were greeted with handshakes by the Merstham chairman and a million cheese rolls. At Pagham in the FA Cup, me and a mate had to dash across town as we found ourselves at an empty Bognor Regis Town ground asking rather embarrassingly why the ground was empty. Er, cos the games at Pagham! The match was dreadful but everytime I asked any Dons fans what they thought about their new club, they all replied that they hadn’t enjoyed their football so much in years.

Some league fans have shown their solidarity and boycotted Franchise FC and instead gone to see AFC play. Others have protested outside MK Dons hockey ground. While Franchise were dropping down the leagues and playing to empty stadiums, AFC set an English record by not losing in 78 league games.

They are an example too football fans stitched up across the country. According to Chris Phillips, who once made the announcements for Wimbledon at Selhurst Park "What we have done is the perfect antidote to the poison shot into the veins of our national game. The money men must herein live in fear of being abandoned."

Or as one of their founders said after their first ever game “At its heart is the true Corinthian spirit, a sense of hope, of effort and of respect. This is something very special here. A cottage industry in the middle of a globalised trading estate. A corner shop perched between hypermarkets. A community football club in the midst of greed and desperation. As money continues to distract football club chairmen like a young girl fluttering her eyelids at a married man we stand proud as an example of good people doing the right thing the right way. That reason alone is enough to make me know we CANNOT fail. Decency in the face of extreme adversity. An example that belief is all, that dignity and courage counts after all.”

If AFC Wimbledon are the romantic fairytale, then MK Dons are the ugly frogs that no one wants to kiss. Let’s hope there’s a lot more football revolutions just around the corner.