Kevin Borras recounts the moment that AFC Wimbledon were drawn against MK Dons in the FA Cup second round
I'm a season-ticket holder and a shareholder at AFC Wimbledon. Day zero for us was May 28, 2002, when the FA, in their infinite wisdom, declared that to deny Wimbledon FC the opportunity to move to Milton Keynes and "keep the club alive" would not have been in the wider interests of football. So, the potential of playing the club that we all refer to as Franchise FC in the second round of the FA Cup was the very embodiment of mixed emotions.
That match-up had been possible for the last two seasons, in both of which we reached the first round of the FA Cup, but we drew Wycombe Wanderers first and then Millwall. After our 0-0 draw with Ebbsfleet Utd in this year's first round we were at least in the draw – and when Kate Garraway pulled our numbered ball from the bowl I had a horrible premonition that Dan Lobb would produce "Stevenage or MK Dons". Which, of course, is exactly what happened. Jim Rosenthal moved on quickly and I stood open-mouthed in front of the TV.
So here we were – two games away from seeing AFC Wimbledon play MK Dons. I read one comment that compared the game to "Nothing worse than a local derby – Celtic v Rangers, Portsmouth v Southampton are far fiercer rivals" and one that said: "This is more akin to Israel being drawn against Palestine." AFC Wimbledon issued a statement that said that it was a game that they didn't want to happen and that our collective feelings of hurt were very much still in evidence – but if we both won our replays the game would be played and the club would act professionally.
I was now unsure if I wanted to go to our replay at Stonebridge Road and if Franchise beat Stevenage in their replay I would be in the completely alien position of actively not being bothered if we lost. When ITV announced that they had selected the tie for their Saturday lunchtime coverage it was clear where they stood. ITV had taken a large gamble on the prospect of AFCW and Franchise winning their replays; Ebbsfleet Utd v Stevenage was not, one would imagine, what they were hoping for. For pure footballing reasons I hoped that Stevenage got through – I'd fancy our chances of beating a side just in the top half of League Two more than I would have done against a team in a similar position one division higher.
Feelings were running high by now. Websites were awash with vented spleen with very little talk about the fact that both clubs faced tricky-looking replays. Some people wouldn't go. Some would but would protest. Some would go and hope that they didn't rise to the undoubted provocation from the visiting supporters. Some said that that's why they wouldn't go. Some thought the club should pull out of the FA Cup. Some thought that beating them would be the sweetest victory of them all. Some said that beating them would do nothing to erase the hurt. Others believed that too much attention would be given to the game, a game that may not even take place, and that our promotion campaign would be hindered.
Marc Jones, one of the co-founders of AFC Wimbledon, was eloquently vitriolic. "I don't think this game would have given us any kind of closure. The fact that they're still calling themselves 'Dons' hurts. Perhaps if they dropped that from their name then some of the wounds would start to heal. Will I feel any differently in 15 years if we've played them dozens of times? I don't think so. That's how strong the feelings are. A victory against them on the pitch would be a very minor success in the greater scheme of things. As a club, I wish them nothing but ill, and as a right-minded person that's not something I enjoy feeling."
As the replays drew nearer (and, thanks to ESPN deciding to show our game, they were now two days apart with the Franchise v Stevenage tie first) I still couldn't decide if I'd go if we got through. Fortunately, on the day of the replay in Milton Keynes I had a theatre ticket so wasn't able to annoy my wife by watching Sky Sports News all evening, willing Stevenage to win. I did check the half-time score on my phone though – and spotted someone in the row in front doing the same. "You an AFC Wimbledon fan as well?" I asked him. "No, Palace," he replied, "but I'm hoping MK Dons win so you can play them and beat them. That would be brilliant for you, wouldn't it?" Well, seeing as you asked, no.
Of course, it was not to be. Stevenage's win, coupled with our last-kick victory at Ebbsfleet, meant that the battle of the Dons would be put on hold until who knows when. It would be so much more satisfying to play them on an even footing – so we may have to wait a few more years before we meet them in a League game and then the media frenzy can start all over again. Yes, I still feel betrayed and hurt by Wimbledon's move to Milton Keynes. Yes, I still feel a sense of satisfaction when they lose. But more pertinently, I now realise that I wouldn't swap the feeling of being an AFC Wimbledon
supporter for, well, anything.
From WSC 287 January 2011