In 2002, Wimbledon lost their football team when it was moved to Milton Keynes in one of the most disgraceful decisions in the history of English soccer.
Supporters of the club that had been Wimbledon F.C. responded by starting a new team, AFC Wimbledon. The team was (and remains) owned and operated by its fans.
They began in the ninth tier of English football. Just nine years later, they found themselves only a penalty shootout away from returning to the football league as a full-time professional team*.
The supporters you see, the radio announcers you hear–these people started the team from scratch and funded it themselves, and now they had one penalty shootout to be back in the football league.
Even if you don’t enjoy sports at all, you will enjoy these eight minutes. I promise.
* One of the big differences between American sports and European football is promotion and relegation. If the Chicago Cubs finish last in the major leagues, they still get to play in the major leagues next year. But in English soccer, the bottom teams in a league go down to the league below, and the top teams from the lower league go up to the next league. This means that theoretically any time from anywhere in England can form and slowly work its way into the professional football league, although in practice it almost never happens.
Scunthorpe United Substitutes: Nolan, Mirfin, Hawkridge, Collins, Winnall, Severn, Spencer
The season of fundamental changes at AFC Wimbledon continued as the Wombles (or the Wimbly Womblys, as a new Ultras group started calling them) played their first home league match in the newly-christened Wibbly Lane. It’s big! It’s clean! It’s wonderful! It’s… empty. Typical Kingsmeadow attendance figures in a stadium four times as large. Surely the attendance figures will tick up as the club’s fortunes climb. Right?
First things first- Scunthorpe. Establish a good home form is crucial to any successful season, and you never want to have to play catch-up in this league. For being at such an early point in the season, this sure felt like a Must Win.
The home side pressed early in the first half, with the Johns Green drifting out wide to overload the flanks. With Scunthorpe’s fullbacks in a panic the Blue and Yellow set up a cozy little breakfast nook in the box- consistently threatening, keeping the back line confused and off balance, pulling Slocombe out of position on several plays. A powerful shot from distance courtesy of Sammy Moore was parried away by sheer luck more than anything else, as was the resulting header from a corner kick that was just cleared off the line. Somehow, by luck or providence, Scunthorpe went into half time with an empty scoreline. They must have felt confident coming out for the second half. Maybe, just maybe, we can hold the Womblys off and get out of there with a point.
They were wrong, of course. Five minutes into the second half, Other John Green collected a through ball in open space from his husband and,after fending off some bruising body checks from Howe that really should have earned a penalty, fired a low shot into the bottom left corner. He almost tallied a second less than ten minutes later but for more late heroics from Slocombe. Wimbledon continued to control possession and press forward through the half while Scunthorpe never really composed themselves. The scoreline held, but it could have been much, much more.
Some Wimbledon fans were looking for more of a statement win for their first home game, like they had away at Oxford last week. This wasn’t it. But last season, Wimbledon would have drawn or lost this game. League competition is a marathon, not a sprint, and glory and honours go to the teams that can grind out wins like this one. Nothing we saw tonight will make any year-end highlight reels, but this was a solid win in a game where Wimbledon took control early on and never let go. And that, in itself, is a statement.