In the modern day, football seem to be changing. No-one seems to blink an eye at the on-going corruption, outrageous transfer sums and the increasing importance of TV money to survive.
But never was football thought to be so unethical as back in 2002, when Wimbledon FC chairman Charles Koppel deemed it necessary to move the club over 50 miles to Milton Keynes, a city that had never played host a football league club.
The footballing world was outraged and AFC Wimbledon was instantly born from the ashes of the uprooted team. Formed by disgruntled fans who had their team taken away from them, the club has the ultimate rags to riches story and now the Dons are flirting with promotion from League Two.
It seemed ridiculous that only 15 years after forming, AFC are only three divisions away from the Premier League. As they battled through the lower leagues, their team of rookies was always cheered on by hundreds of adoring fans who took to the new team with ease.
Back in 2002 when those disgusted supporters walked onto Wimbledon Common to trial players for the new team, there was a sense of excitement that something new, fresh and promising could happen, but the taste of bitterness hung in the air. Over 200 players turned up to trial and they were the springboard for a team that has been promoted five times in nine seasons – only the dissolved Rushden and Diamonds have achieved that feat.
And now, 14 years on, AFC are fighting for promotion with the likes of football league giants Portsmouth and Plymouth – they’re competing with the best and absolutely loving every minute of it.
But with success comes the need to expand, and Wimbledon have run into difficulty with the new stadium plans they submitted months ago. It’s clear to see that the Dons need an expansion to carry on succeeding, and it is with hope that the councils can come to some agreement and support a football club that has every right to grow. They’ve done the hard bit by scrapping through the lower tiers in English football and it would be devastating to see their progress halted because of off-field disputes.
A vital 1-0 win over Crawley Town over the weekend clinched Wimbledon another three points, and Neal Ardley’s men now sit in seventh place in the league, with a game in hand over most of their rivals. It’s going to be a rush to the finish but Dons fans will hope they can keep pace until the end of the season and sneak into the play-offs and then, who knows?
There’s even been talk of a movie – real Hollywood producers coming together to produce a film about how a group of devastated men started a rival team and took them to the Football League in nine years. It’s fairy-tale stuff.
Everything is going right for the Dons – arguably Britain’s most successful phoenix club. Here’s to hoping they can continue to achieve their goals and with the backing of their local council and continue to grow. Who knows, we may see them back in the Premier League in the very near future.