AFC Wimbledon cannot face MK Dons
5 November ~ When my club AFC Wimbledon won their game against Basingstoke in the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup and went into the draw for the first round proper, I was again faced by comment by my friends about the prospect of a match against Milton Keynes Dons. Frankly I can’t think of anything worse. I never want to see it happen. "But it would be so good to beat them," my mates say, imagining that I, a Dons Trust founder member and former season-ticket holder, would treat the game as the ultimate derby.
No. A derby game is between neighbours, rivals, possibly even enemies. It's like a golf match or ten-pin bowling evening against the annoying bloke next door, or those idiots in finance, or your smug brother-in-law. You'd love it if you win; conversely you'd have to grit your teeth in the face of taunting if you lose. But essentially, you acknowledge the right of your rivals to exist. And life is more interesting with them around. You hate them, but would miss them if you went. Well, that’s not the case with Milton Keynes.
This is not "rivalry". Wimbledon fans feel very strongly about the murder of our club and the removal of our rightful League place, and we are in no mood to forgive and enjoy a game of football with those who committed such acts. Erik Samuelson, the chief executive of AFC Wimbledon, said: "Some people have said that it's great because there are two clubs now instead of one, but that's like someone coming and taking everything you own, and when you finally rebuild your life, saying isn't it wonderful that we are both doing so well."
And it's not the prospect of losing that bothers me. Yes of course I'd hate to lose, but it's more fundamental than that. Milton Keynes stole my club and its League position, losing in the cup or league doesn't matter compared to that. I don't believe the club has a right to exist. I want it to go out of business as soon as possible, I don't want Wimbledon giving Milton Keynes any sort of spurious legitimacy by playing them.
And there are more practical considerations, too. One is the likelihood of violence. It’s always a bad thing and never to be condoned. But I can imagine the sight of MK supporters just standing there in club colours would be too much for some Wimbledon fans. I don't defend that, but I think it's true. Also can you imagine the programme notes if Wimbledon were at home? "We'd like to welcome MK Dons to the Fans' Stadium for this afternoon's match." And the potted history of the club that such publications carry: "MK Dons were formed in 2003 after stealing the registration and league position and forcing football fans in south-west London to start their own club again at the lowest level of senior football... We wish them well and hope they enjoy their day at the Fans' Stadium." It just doesn't make sense.
Another long-term fan, Richard Douglas, also doesn't want to see the clubs meet: "Out of the despair of May 2002, we could have gone two ways, to hatred and bitterness or to something better and hopeful And Wimbledon is a club of love and hope following that despair, and I don't want to be reminded of that bitterness. And I don't think I'd like what a match with them would do to me."
Prior to the FA Cup first round draw, many fans on website forums were expressing the hope that the two clubs would come out of the bag together; that didn't happen, but if they both win their ties the prospect will be repeated. And if Wimbledon continue to gain promotions (currently we are top of the Blue Square Premier) the likelihood of meeting in the league comes closer. Douglas again: "I'd prefer to cross with us going up, of course. Actually I'd want them to fail and sink without trace, but if we met in the League at least that means we were back on the same level."
Those who play and work in football are necessarily less sentimental than fans – they have to be – but even the management of Wimbledon would struggle with a fixture with Milton Keynes. Samuelson said: "I know the media love the idea, but I hate it, I don't want it to happen at all. I'm sure the club would fulfil their obligation if we had to, because the penalties if it didn't would be draconian. But personally I don't want it to happen, and if the match was away I don't think I'd go, although I understand that some fans would want to. If the match was here then my job would mean I would have to be here and formal, but I wouldn't welcome them, because they would not be welcome."
He added: "I understand it's a good story for the media, but it's a good story that was very painful for us." So, for those fans and journalists who try to persuade me and my fellow Wimbledon fans that such a game would be one of the matches of the season, I can only say: Please don't. Aled Thomas
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