The fairytale return to Plough Lane for AFC Wimbledon could be just one season away, as enabling works begin on the new 11,000 seater stadium. The club, which is close to HEKKTA‘s heart, has been waiting for this moment for almost 30 years.
If you are unfamiliar with AFC Wimbledon’s story, let’s quickly get you up to speed. Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, Wimbledon FC was a Premier League club (First Division as it was then). This was after their amazing rise during the 1970s and 80s from the Southern League right to the top. The incredible rise of the Dons was capped off in 1988 when the Crazy Gang beat Liverpool to win the FA Cup at Wembley.
The team, famous for being a little rough around the edges, gained admiration amongst all Wimbledon fans and also gained widespread dislike across the First Division. Teams were basically in fear of the side due to their gamesmanship-like performances. Unfortunately, the success enjoyed by the team meant a wave of players were snatched by bigger clubs. Vinnie Jones went to Leeds, Dennis Wise moved to Chelsea and John Fashanu moved to Aston Villa a little later. This prompted worrying times for the club.
However what came next shocked the football world and destroyed the amazing club that was Wimbledon FC. In 2002, a three man FA commission allowed Wimbledon FC to relocate to Milton Keynes and be rebranded Milton Keynes Dons. This was after people on the board at the club felt Wimbledon would go out of business.
Wimbledon FC was no more, but this wouldn’t stop the fans from supporting their beloved team. Fans decided to start the club again from stratch, hosting trials on the common for anyone who could kick a football. Slowly the team rose again, going from the Combined Counties League to professional League football in just 7 years.
To top off the fairytale rise from the Ashes, in 2016 (14 years after the club was formed by fans) they won the League Two play-off final at Wembley in dramatic style securing promotion to the same League that the MK Dons resided in. HEKKTA were very fortunate to be at that game, and it was the most incredible atmosphere.
Click here to watch a short clip of the AFC Wimbledon story.
All the promotions and trophies have provided the Dons with a history richer than most, and a brilliant story of a club that would never take no for an answer. But ever since AFC Wimbledon’s formation in 2002, the club has wanted one thing more than anything – to return to it’s spiritual home Plough Lane.
Permission was granted last year, but finally enabling works have begun on the Plough Lane scheme which will see a new 11,000 seater stadium built for AFC Wimbledon. There will also be big redevelopment around the stadium aswell, rejuvenating a slightly forgotten area.
Catalyst and Galliard Homes have agreed a joint venture deal to develop 600 homes and 18,000 square feet of commercial space as part of the development. The ground works have begun and full construction is expected to start in the autumn. The contractor who will deliver the £16 million stadium is Port Talbot-based Andrew Scott, who have built several other famous stadiums such as Parc y Scarlets, home of Scarlets Rugby, Hampshire CCC’s The Rose Bowl, and Stoke City’s stadium.
Stephen Conway, Executive Chairman Galliard Homes, said, “There are so many components to this scheme that will benefit the local area and we are thrilled to have Catalyst on board who really have what it takes to make things happen in order to deliver a ground-breaking number of affordable units in a new residential scheme.
“I look forward to attending AFC Wimbledon’s opening match and celebrating the Dons’ return to the borough once the stadium is complete.”
Erik Samuelson, chief executive of AFC Wimbledon and a key figure in the rise of the club stated, “As a community-owned club we are delighted to be returning to our spiritual home in Plough Lane. In addition to bringing League football back to Wimbledon the new stadium will form a base from which to expand our award-winning community work.
“We are looking forward to working with Galliard Homes and Catalyst to develop a site that is a key part of Merton’s regeneration strategy for the borough. But most of all we are looking forward to bringing the Dons home.”
The club hope that the stadium will be ready for Dons to play their first home game in the season of 2019-20.
AFC Wimbledon’s amazing journey back home is just a few bricks away from being achieved. It only took 30 years…