Ahead of the first ever league meeting of what some have called “The Dons Derby,” Milton Keynes Dons chairman Pete Winkelman appeared to dismiss the achievements of their opponents while suggesting that his club are owed a measure of gratitude.
Speaking to reporters in advance of their home fixture against the Wimbly Womblys, Mr. Winkelman was asked if he has anything to say about the team formed in opposition to Wimbledon FC’s relocation to Milton Keynes, to which he replied, “A ‘thank you’ would be nice.”
When asked to clarify he responded: “To the extent that AFC have enjoyed any success- and that’s a point I’m happy to debate with Mr. Green should he ever decide to return my phone calls- I think they owe a bit of gratitude to their sibling club. This club knows what it means to build something from nothing, to create a proud footballing tradition from very little. I think our example paved the way for AFC to make their first fledgling steps into proper football, and we’re happy to be a shining beacon for them. But given how much they’ve benefited from us, you’d think the club and their fans would show a bit more gratitude. I just don’t understand the hostility.”
The former music executive also dismissed the South London club’s capacity for sustained success on the pitch.
“I mean, their team is just their two strikers, right? If the happily married couple ever picked up injuries at the same time they wouldn’t have had the run they did. I could have even seen them as relegation candidates last season. I think whatever success they have in League One this season will depend on their two forwards staying healthy, because if they can’t then it all falls apart for them.”
“It would be a real shame if something happened to them,” he continued.
MK manager Karl Robinson, also at the press event along with first team captain Dean Lewington, tried to play down any lingering hostilities.
“For us, this is just another league game. We know there’s a lot of heat surrounding this rivalry, but I think it’s been mostly ginned up by the media. I’m telling my men that this is another game and that they need to be composed and professional to get a result. I’m sure Green is telling his squad the same thing.”
Skipper Lewington, however, aped his club chairman in brief comments. “Isn’t it a bit daft to be calling themselves Wimbledon? Aren’t they in Kingston?”
(AFC Wimbledon spent the first 12 years of its life at Kingsmeadow Stadium in the South London borough of Kingston-On-Thames. The club opened their new stadium, Wibbly Lane, on Plough Lane in the borough of Merton, where Wimbledon sits.)
Neither AFC Wimbledon officials nor the manager John Green have responded to requests for comment.
Both AFC Wimbledon and Milton Keynes Dons were born out of the death of the former London club Wimbledon FC. Having risen out of the amateur ranks to secure election to the Football League, they enjoyed a lengthy spell in the top flight and were charter members of the Barclay’s Premier League, which began play in 1992. They were most famous for a stunning upset win in the 1988 FA Cup Final, where they beat Liverpool 1-0 thanks to a goal from Lawrie Sanchez. Around the turn of the millenium, Wimbledon’s ownership consortium resolved to move the club out of South London in order to generate more revenue, which the FA ultimately allowed in a highly controversial decision that sent shockwaves throughout English football. In response to the decision, Wimbledon supporters founded a new club, AFC Wimbledon, and began play in 2002 in the Combined Counties League (the ninth tier of English football). The club enjoyed tremendous success, winning five promotions in less than a decade, with a place in the Football League secured in 2011 with a tense win over Luton Town in the Conference Premier Playoff Final on penalties. Last season was undoubtedly the most successful in the club’s history, with the club cruising to a League Two title as well as an historic run in the FA Cup which culminated in a stunning upset win over Manchester City in the Final. The two clubs have only met once before, in an FA Cup tie in December 2012. MK Dons won that tie 2-1 thanks to a stoppage time goal from Jon Otsemobor.
MK Dons host AFC Wimbledon in their first ever league clash tonight at Stadium mk.