AFC Wimbledon: are the Dons going home?

We all know the magnificent story of AFC Wimbledon and how the club came about after suffering at the hands of greedy, clueless owners who didn’t have any interest in the heartbeat of Wimbledon FC – the fans.┬áLuckily those same fans pulled together, formed AFC Wimbledon, and ignored a supposed football ‘frenzy’ in Milton Keynes, a place Wimbledon and the people of Wimbledon have absolutely no connection with.

When AFC Wimbledon was formed in August 2002, two main aims were outlined: to return to the Football League and to get the club back playing in Wimbledon, preferably back at Plough Lane, their spiritual home. Their desire to return to the Football League was fulfilled and they’re making great progress in delivering their second aim – moving AFC Wimbledon back to Wimbledon.

As a fan of Burton Albion I’ve seen AFC Wimbledon play many times and have developed a soft spot for the club. It’s a magnificent story and after speaking to some of their fans over the years, I’m fully aware of how desperate they are to return to Wimbledon and fit the final piece in their very messy but extremely rewarding and enjoyable jigsaw.

The club currently ground share with Kingstonian in Kingston, a few miles outside of Wimbledon, but with the old greyhound stadium a hundred yards from the clubs original home of Plough Lane up for redevelopment, Wimbledon fans are, of course, salivating at the thought of a return to the Borough of Merton.

The ground share with Kingstonian was never intended to be a long-term solution but helped out both clubs at the time. Kingstonian were struggling financially and needed the cash injection from AFC Wimbledon and the Wombles needed a home. Wimbledon fans will be quick to tell you though that it simply isn’t home, more like a rented apartment you enjoy living in but crave something bigger and in an area you identify with.

The club, run by its supporters, are facing competition for the site though. Paschal Taggart, an Irish businessman, wants to keep the greyhound stadium as it is but, in short, give it a facelift. Both proposals from AFC Wimbledon and Taggart involve housing, sporting facilities, shops and a stadium. I’ve been to the greyhound stadium once so I’m in no position to scrutinise it really, but it was hardly a memorable experience, put it that way. It was empty, there was no atmosphere, apart from a bloke with a rather annoying voice shouting over the tannoy every 5 minutes, and the surrounding area was an absolute dump. Adding to this, I’ve read stories recently strongly claiming the mistreating of dogs in greyhound racing after a few recorded deaths. I’ve gone off the sport and judging by attendance figures, plenty of others have too.

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As an outsider it seems like a no brainer. AFC Wimbledon’s proposal of an 11,000-capacity stadium – with the potential to be expanded to 20,000, along with 600 houses to be built in conjunction with Galliard Homes, one of the owners of greyhound promoters GRA, adding to the shops and sporting facilities too, means they must be in an extremely strong position. Adding to this, the club can offer far more to the local community than any greyhound proposal can. In 2012, AFC Wimbledon was given a Big Society Award by the prime minister in recognition of the good community work they do, once again highlighting what a valuable community asset the club can be.

I’d like to think I speak for the vast majority of football fans in saying this, but here’s hoping AFC Wimbledon return to Wimbledon and their fans get what they deserve.

Show your support for AFC Wimbledon’s campaign by filling out the survey and clicking the ‘Bring the Dons Home’ tab here – http://bringthedonshome.org/

By Monty Fielding – Burton Albion fan