Elected to Division Four 1977. Became Milton Keynes Dons 2004.
Wimbledon Old Centrals
1923-1931 n r
1957-1960 f n
1961-1962 k n
1964-1966 p q
1967-1970 p q t
1970-1973 h q
1977-1978 b h k l
1978-1980 k l
1981-1982 c k
1984-1985 b g
1987-1988 d b i
1991-1993 d i
1993-1994 d i
1994-1995 b d
1997-1999 d i
2000-2001 b i
The extraordinary rise and fall of Wimbledon has few parallels in the history of football. Formed in 1889 as Wimbledon Old Centrals, they adopted the name of Wimbledon FC in 1905. The club played on Wimbledon Common until 1912 when they moved into Plough Lane, their home for the next 75 years. Seven years later they joined the Athenian League, moving up to the Isthmian League in 1921.
The club adopted blue and white in 1923 (the colours worn in the years after the Great War have not been confirmed and are based on their previous choice of green and white). The crest adopted at the time was based on the coat of arms of the Borough of Wimbledon, featuring a double headed eagle. This is a reference to a legend that Julius Caesar once made camp on Wimbledon Common. This crest was dropped sometime in the late-1950s but reappeared between 1970 and 1974.
Wimbledon became one of the leading amateur clubs in the country, winning the Isthmian League eight times. After winning the prestigious FA Amateur Cup in 1963, the club turned semi-professional and joined the Southern League.
An all-yellow strip trimmed in blue was introduced in 1975. Although blue became the dominant colour of their strips once again in 1981, yellow continued to be used as a secondary colour.
In 1977, with three successive Southern League titles under their belt and following an epic FA Cup run that included beating Burnley (then in the First Division) at Turf Moor and taking mighty Leeds to a replay, the Dons were elected to the Football League. For their inaugural season the team wore all-white.
After a modest first season, the club were promoted and relegated four times in succession. In 1983 they began a remarkable run that took them all the way to the First Division in 1986. The upstart club, dubbed the "Crazy Gang," defied critics by finishing in sixth position in 1987 and then, against all the odds, beat Liverpool to win the FA Cup in 1988. Their tactics of playing long balls to their fast strikers combined with the uncompromisingly physical defence of Vinnie Jones and John "Fash the Bash" Fashanu won few friends but confounded many more purist sides.
Within days of their FA Cup triumph, the club announced plans to leave their cramped Plough Lane ground to move into a new stadium in their native borough of Merton. These plans came to nothing: with Plough Lane unsuitable for redevelopment, the club sold it off and moved into Selhurst Park with Crystal Palace in 1991. Remarkably, despite limited resources and modest attendances, the Dons continued to thrive, finishing in the top nine between 1994 and 1997, when they also reached the semi-finals of both the League and FA Cups. A move to Dublin was floated but was dropped when the FA and UEFA pointed out that the club could not continue to play in the Premier League if they were based in the Republic of Ireland. This marked the beginning of the breakdown of the relationship between the club and its local fan base.
In 1999, the club's colourful owner Sam Hammam sold Wimbledon to a Norwegian consortium who installed Egil Olsen as manager. The new owners were looking for a return on their investment and were not prepared to pump money in merely for prestige. On the last day of the 1999-2000 season, Wimbledon finally succumbed to relegation. Despite fears that the club would go into free-fall, they narrowly missed out on a play-off place in the next two seasons.
Meanwhile, however, the search for a permanent home resulted in a decision to move the club to Milton Keynes. The majority of Dons fans, alienated by the attitude of the club's owners, formed their own club, AFC Wimbledon in 2002. While the reviled "Franchise FC" club played out its final games at Selhurst Park in front of fewer than 3,000 spectators, the fans' club was regularly attracting larger gates despite playing at the base of the pyramid.
In August 2002 the Royal College of Arms wrote to the club to raise objections to their use of the double-headed eagle crest. In the view of the college, the device had been granted to the London Borough of Merton and its use by the football club was unlawful. A new club crest was commissioned and in April 2003 this received the endorsement of the remaining season ticket holders. The club's website announced the new design "as part of a new identity (that) takes the Club's identity forward as it embarks on a new and exciting future in Milton Keynes." The following season, however, the 2002-03 strips were retained complete with the old crest, which also re-appeared on the official website.
In September 2003, Wimbledon moved into the National Hockey Stadium in Milton Keynes, despite having gone into administration, owing over £20m. Six months later a local consortium led by Peter Winkleman bought the club and saved it from liquidation. Stranded at the bottom of Nationwide Division One, the decision did not save the Dons from relegation. The following year, Winkleman announced that the club was to be renamed Milton Keynes Dons and adopt a new badge and colours. All ties with the old club were effectively severed.
While Milton Keynes Dons struggled, AFC Wimbledon continued to thrive in south-west London and in 2005 fans mounted a legal claim to become the true inheritors of Wimbledon FC's history. This action was settled in August 2006, when it was agreed that the "physical patrimony" (lawyer-speak for ephemera such as photographs, programmes etc) would be passed to the London Borough of Merton while MK Dons gave up all claims to the honours won by Wimbledon FC.
- (a) Club Colours (Bob Bickerton)
- (b) empics
- (c) Classic Kits
- (d) Sporting Heroes
- (e) MK Dons Official Website
- (f) Football Focus
- (g) Bjørn-Terje Nilssen
- (h) Pete's Picture Palace
- (i) David King
- (j) Barry Weekley
- (k) Ralph Pomeroy
- (l) Alick Milne
- (m) Ed Thomson
- (n) History of Wimbledon FC - brilliant historical site: additional input from Bert@AFCWimbledon and Ray Armfield
- (o) Riccardo Attanasio jumpers4goalposts
- (p) Tony Sealey
- (q) Steven Leadon
- (r) Keith Ellis (HFK Research Associate)
- (s) Margate FC History submitted by Richard Ralph
- (t) Steve Leadon
- (u) Simon Knifton
2003 crest background researched by Joshua Malpass.