Non League Football: The Real Dons Retribution
Something remarkable is becoming an increasing possibility in English football this season. A possible five promotions in less then ten competitive seasons could mark an incredible transition into the football league proper for a club born in the aftermath of a catastrophic set of events.
When Wimbledon football club became the Milton Keynes Dons in 2004 uproar ensued. How a team with such a credible former premiership record could be first of all relocated fifty miles up the motorway and then even more devastatingly take on a new name and a whole new identity was beyond belief.
The name Wimbledon F.C was seemingly forever lost in football history. Their fans had deserted the name and the team even before the move was finalised.
As someone who is actually from Milton Keynes I have refrained from supporting the ‘MK’ Dons as it will never be a true reflection of the city itself. For many years I was surprised at the lack of a league team in such a promising and developing city, yet to gain one in such a disappointing fashion was somewhat underwhelming.
It was the Wimbledon fans who screamed the loudest and as a result introduced a heavily optimistic idea of creating a replacement Wimbledon team. Founded by Kris Stewart alongside other Wimbledon supporters a replacement team of players began their existence in June 2002.
The new team were donned AFC Wimbledon and were punched into the lower league system debuting in the Combined Counties league.
Most considered their inception into football ludicrous; like the idea of a mad scientist with crazy and unpredictable experiments. Many expected utter embarrassment as the initial team was selected through three days of trials on the infamous Wimbledon Common. A 4-0 defeat in their debut friendly did little to deter the critics.
But the unexpected soon came into fruition. AFC Wimbledon almost immediately punched seemingly above their weight setting record after record. Their average attendance in their inaugural year was surprisingly higher than that of the renamed MK Dons, and they statistically became the most successful modern era team in English football by playing an incredible 78 games over three seasons without a defeat against any senior team.
And the revolution of AFC Wimbledon is still picking up speed after promotion to the top tier of non league football last year. Four promotions edged them confidently into the Conference National league and only one promotion away from League Two football. The former Wimbledon FC fans may have their return for their hard earned cash that was pummelled into this new club put back into their wallets at a more alarming pace than they could ever have imagined.
The team themselves have started a solid 2009-2010 campaign with a handful of immediate triumphs in their league campaign. They have as a result instated themselves as genuine promotion contenders alongside the likes of the recently unfortunate Luton Town. Automatic promotion is not a realistic target, but a play off position most certainly could be.
Although their story will be relatively ignored throughout the current season their story is nearing the end of its beginning and moving onto what could become an illustrious history for a team built in the aftermath of a local travesty.
The idea of AFC Wimbledon coming just one tier away from their predecessors in Milton Keynes is something they will indeed relish, and something that given past seasons performances is definitely achievable.
They are after all the underdogs with a vengeance, and who knows maybe they could rise above their former selves in the upcoming years and show karma in retaliation to the adversity their supporters witnessed as the dissolving of their beloved team.
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