Hello everyone, merry Christmas and happy new year to all the followers of the blog!
Welcome back for the December/January edition of Getting To The Game, it's been a busy month, but still managed to get a trip squeezed in.
Hope everyone enjoys it, and as ever, get in touch on Facebook, Twitter etc.
So as you’ll probably know by the title, this months blog focuses on AFC Wimbledon, and more specifically Wimbledon fans Max, and Mark.
You’ll find out much more about them later on, (make sure you watch the interview videos) but for now I’ll give you a bit of an insight to AFC Wimbledon and what they’re about.
I know this is a well trodden path, so any Wimbledon fans can zip through this bit!
Originally Wimbledon F.C were Formed in 1889 and based at ‘Plough Lane’ their home for 79 years.
After plying much of their trade in Non-League football they were elected to the fourth tier in 1977 after three consecutive Southern League titles. (In the days before automatic promotion)
Throughout the 70's and 80's the ‘Crazy Gang’ quickly rose to the old First Division (equivalent to the Premier League now) and enjoyed its greatest success in 1988 as they beat league champions Liverpool 1-0 at Wembley to win the F.A Cup.
"The Crazy Gang have beaten The Culture Club"
In 1991 following the requirement of all clubs in the top division to have all-seater stadiums, Wimbledon were forced to move to Selhurst Park (Home of Crystal Palace) where they stayed until 2001.
In the May of that year it was confirmed that Wimbledon F.C. would up sticks and move to Milton Keynes, and within two years it was renamed the Club Milton Keynes Dons F.C.
Something at home in the world of American sports franchises but unheard of in British football.
On the 10th February 2002 In response to the move,The Dons Trust was created.
This brought a new beginning, a brand new, fan-run club ‘AFC Wimbledon’.
In 2002-03 AFC Wimbledon started their journey back up the football ladder from the 9th tier of English football.
Followed by huge support, the new Club was promoted five times in ten seasons to finally reach the football league in 2011.
Since then they’ve been promoted again to League One and are awaiting the completion of a new stadium back at Plough Lane where it all began.
Fast forward to the day of the game, it's December 22nd and Wimbledon are bottom of League One and have just replaced former manager Neal Ardley with another Don's legend Wally Downes.
Although AFC had not won an away game since early September, but I set off for the day confident about the game.
I had three people to meet this time round, firstly my best mate Boona, whom I coxed into coming a week earlier when drink had been taken.
He's a Spurs fan but does live in Wimbledon and follows their results, so who better to accompany me on my travels.
I had planned to meet Boona at Clapham Junction at twelve o'clock and Max in High Wycombe for One.(fanciful thinking)
Readers of last months trip to Malta will know that having a nightmare on public transport is becoming a regular theme for me.
Initially, due to a rail strike, my train wasn't running,
Boona also missed his and after simultaneously missing each other at three different stations we both arrived at London Waterloo. Late.
In the meantime Max got in touch, he'd got bored of walking around the shops (and chair making museums) of Wycombe and wanted to find a pub.
I'd been reliably informed by a few Portsmouth supporting friends that the official away supporters bar was 'The White Horse' so I told Max to head for there.
A few trains and tubes later we arrive in Wycombe at around two o' clock, hail a cab and rush straight to The White Horse.
The taxi dropped us off, I looked up at this building (more 'the slightly off-white horse') and wondered if the driver had taken us to the wrong place, but after a quick discussion with Boona and the sense of obligation not to leave an american behind we decided to enter.
Opening the (mandatory,american horror film styled creaking) door we saw Max sat at the almost empty bar with no one for company but two old men, and a gaggle of off duty strippers!
Yes, we had unknowingly sent our american friend to one of England's oldest strip bars (or so the sign seemed to proudly boast).
Being so early in the day It wasn't in full stripper mode yet but I did have to conduct the interview below surrounded by fully clothed Eastern European exotic dancers.
Max was a great guy, with a huge knowledge of AFC Wimbledon and football in general, he's currently over from the states on a U.K tour and is watching five Wimbledon games while he's here.
Please watch the two interviews with him, they're funny and interesting.
Unfortunately the final part of the interview didn't record but Max kindly sent me through some of his answers form the day, I'll pop them at the bottom.
To be fair to the White Horse, It wasn't that bad, the beer was good and the landlord gave us a lift to the ground in his Jaguar, which was a lovely touch.
We arrived, chauffeur driven, to the ground about ten minutes before kick off with the AFC Wimbledon fans in full voice.
Adams Park is a lovely ground for League one, the magnitude of it wouldn't be out of place in the championship, but the surroundings of trees and rolling hills give it a real non-league feel.
The staff and facilities at the ground are both really top notch for this level and I particularly enjoyed that the toilet in the away end had been left to house hundreds of stickers from away clubs in the past.
I would have got a photo but that's not really the done thing in the male toilets.
As for the game, It started with a goal for Wimbledon in the opening few minutes but that was chalked off for an offside.
The first actual goal came on the half hour mark as Kwesi Appiah fired home from close range.
Wimbledon rode their luck a bit for the remainder of the half as Wycombe dominated the ball but didn't really test Tom King in the Dons goal.
At halftime I met up with Mark Sturges who is the co-founder of SWSG which is the Southern Wombles Supporters Group, for fans based in the south of England.
He was a really interesting guy that told me more about the history of the club and about what it meant to him to support AFC Wimbledon.
Again, Mark is a great bloke, and if you're interested in joining the supporters club, I will post the details at the bottom.
The second half carried on much the same as the first, Wycombe dominated possession and looked threatening from both wings.
The Wanderers wide men,Williams and Onyedinma both looked as if they'd progress to play at a higher level based on their performances.
A great save from Tom King kept Wimbledon in front before the game would explode in the dying minutes.
A goal for Wimbledon right at the end of normal time was cancelled out by Wycombe's Onyedinma a few seconds later, all before the travelling Wombles fans could finish a rendition of "is there a fire drill" aimed at the exiting chairboy's.
The final whistle rang out around Adams Park and AFC gained their first win under new coach Wally Downes.
When the celebrations had ended we headed off into the cold winter evening to find a pub and check our lost bets.
The only downfall to Adams Park is that it's miles away from anything and only has one road in and out of the stadium, making leaving a real pain.
My thanks go out to Max and Mark for their interviews and Boona for accompanying me.
Until next month.
Details for SWSG
Facebook search : Southern Wombles Supporters Group
Max on his expectations for this season:
"My expectations are that we will most likely be relegated this year, but I’m really hoping that Wally can build some momentum and that we can bring in some quality attacking players in the transfer window. What I wouldn’t give for Lyle Taylor, Tom Elliot, or Adebayo Akinfenwa right now... but hopefully the next big club legend is coming soon, as we really need it right now."
On the new manager:
I wasn’t thrilled with the hire, but at the point I’m trying to give him the benefit of the doubt and just get behind him. The optimist in me thinks that he may just be able to light a fire under the asses of a few of our players. That, and with the connections from him, Glyn, and Bass, hoping we can get a couple transfers or loans in that can make a big difference.
And finally on the Dons Trust and him coming to watch Wimbledon in the future:
I fully intend to stay in the Dons Trust for life. It’s my 5th year right now and it brings great pride to be able to say that our supporters own our club. As for trips, my current plan is to try and make it every 2-3 years. My rough plan is to make my next trip the August/September after the new stadium is opened. But there’s some flexibility there and I’m certainly open to coming back sooner if I can pull it off.