Mihir Bose interviewed MK Dons owner Pete Winkelman for the Evening Standard this week, in preparation for the historic FA Cup tie of the two clubs to be created following the demise of south London Club Wimbledon FC. To be honest, the interview hasn’t changed my mind about whether I think moving to MK was the right thing to do or not, but it has enlightened me to some of the facts and both sides of the story.
Wimbledon FC had many legendary players in their time that went onto become Premiership & International managers, Directors of Football and even a Hollywood actor.
They were the fairy tale, the quintessential under dog and they played the part to a tee. Tough, spirited and seemed to have a togetherness envied across the board. In 1988 they somehow made it to the FA Cup Final, albeit against the English Champions Liverpool, they had made it there. Then, we all know the story, they nicked a goal, had a Liverpool goal disallowed [clear case of the ref not playing advantage and disallowed the goal to give Liverpool a freekick] and saved a penalty…and won the cup. It was like something out of Roy of the Rovers, only this was less likely and real.
Thereafter they established themselves as a top half Premier League side for almost a decade.
Despite of the pitch matters leading them to have to ground share with Crystal Palace, they were the Crazy Gang and in my opinion, great for English football, especially with today’s ‘against modern football’ banners popping up everywhere.
However, possibly due to the demands of the Premier League and the money involved, Wimbledon started to fall behind in the league from the 97/98 season, eventually being relegated in 2000. Sam Hammam sold Wimbledon to two Norwegians the same year, with details of the sale subsequently suggesting they could move the club to Dublin.
The Norweigans came in, employed Charles Koppel as Chairman and took the club up the M1 to Milton Keynes. A minimum amount of research will show that Koppel is greatly blamed for the move, seemingly only ever intent on relocating the club, even as far as providing local residents to Plough Lane with his PR company free of charge, to fight Wimbledon FC fans regaining their old ground (source truthaboutfranchisefc.blogspot.co.uk).
This is where the difference of opinion from Mr Winkleman comes into play. Pete believes the club had to chose either Dublin or Milton Keynes. But ex-Wimbledon Director Peter Miller said that idea died years before by the FA of Ireland. Fans believe he instigated the MK move [after initially courting QPR] and has since benefited most from it, not least due to his property developments at the complex. Whereas he sees it as he saved the club by enabling the move as they were going to cease to exist, partly due to the Wimbledon fans themselves not buying the club. The fans fight back with that they weren’t offered the chance nor had the funds to go this route.
During the Evening Standard interview Pete is asked why he didn’t start a new club in the area instead of taking an established top side there. It is here that it becomes clear that the development of a top stadium relied on an established club taking it over, so Pete needed Wimbledon and couldn’t have built his franchise dream with a new team or even with the likes of Northampton Town, their closest team about 20 miles away. They had to be at least a Championship side.
Pete’s interview, from my outsider point of view, seems to show his passion for the new MK Dons, yet underlined by his love of owning the £50 millions plus complex. He seems to have delusions around being Wimbledon’s knight in shining armour and thinks that AFC Wimbledon should actually be thanking him as he gave them the chance to be founded. This is bound to stir up more emotions for this Sundays cup tie, I just wish I could have been there, I’ll certainly be watching with intent.
All of the above is my own opinion except the words in quotations, which were taking from the Evening Standard unless stated.
Enjoy the game.