Sunday, 7 November 2010

Of course it's going to happen (I just wish it wasn't now)

The FA Cup (sponsored by Eon) Second Round draw has thrown up the tie that I least wanted to see - AFC Wimbledon's potential clash with MK Dons.

Back in 2002, I was one of those fans who refused to accept the franchising of my team - Wimbledon - to Milton Keynes. Instead, we set up AFC Wimbledon, a fan owned club starting from scratch. We held open trials on Wimbledon Common and took our place in the Combined Counties League - five levels below the football league proper.

Meanwhile, the franchise played a season at Selhurst Park before their relocation to Buckinghamshire. In that first season we averaged a higher home attendance (3002) than they did despite playing in a league where crowds of 40 were the norm.

Fast forward eight years and things have changed a lot. The franchise have been relegated twice and promoted once to play in League One. We have been promoted successively into the Ryman First, Ryman Premier, Conference South and now Conference proper where we sit in second place. Along the way we went 78 games unbeaten - a British record - and we have won over almost all those who ever doubted that we were the 'proper' Wimbledon. Even Vinnie Jones has loaned his FA Cup winner's medal to the club and the honours of the 'old' Wimbledon sit in our trophy cabinet.

So it was inevitable that, at some stage, we would have to meet the franchise. But I wish it was on equal terms rather than in an FA Cup (sponsored by Eon) draw. Why? Because a cup tie is a one off occasion with all the attendant pressures that brings. If we were in the same league (as I believe we will be within 5 years) then the two games would be seen in the context of an entire season. Sure, they would be big events. But they wouldn't be seen as metaphors for who was right and who was wrong.

Both AFC and MK have to overcome replays first and there lies my hope. I never thought I would say it, but come on Stevenage.

Image: Sam Hatton playing in a pre-season friendly against FC United of Manchester three seasons ago.

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