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One Year On

It’s amazing how certain statistics can take your breath away isn’t it? Like on the very day that this article was published, and assuming you live to the age of the average UK male life expectancy, you would have spent at least 1/76th of your life muttering the words “3 Man Commission” with an un-naturally large amount of venom. That gives you an idea of how short life is.

You can always play a game or two in moments of boredom with your mind. During the past year, you may have wondered what would have happened if the Three Unwise Men had done the right thing. We would never have heard of the name Joe Sheerin. We would never have gone to watch games against teams like Cove, or had the experience of being able to stroke a nice furry bit on the front of the home shirt (or indeed even bought a home shirt), and I seriously doubt that we’d ever sing “there’s only one Kevin Cooper” again.

You may then wonder how the club we supported was going to be rebuilt? There was concern – no, legit fear – of what Koppout was going to do. He would have undoubtedly sold all the best players to fund his pipedream, and openly blamed us for it. Would he have quit? More likely he would have stayed, took out all the money he could and entrenched himself. More than likely, he would have taken the Football League to court, which would doubtless still be going on today. Would we have bought season tickets for the last 12 months? Everyone was split on this issue, which could have destroyed the club. The war may have been won but the battles would still be going on, any war graves from our side would have had Koppout spraying swastikas on them. That was the reality facing us this time last year. The old fears and hatred may have come back when reading that (they sure did when I was writing this), and for a second, it was a reminder of how things used to be.

The mind continues wandering. What if, on that fateful WISA AGM a mere two days later, everyone decided that forming another club wasn’t a good idea? You wouldn’t have been reading SW19 for starters. Very possibly you wouldn’t have been standing or sitting with the people you normally stand with. You may have still met them elsewhere, like down the pub. Or you may have lost physical contact with them (not in that way, which will probably come as relief to some..) and just have phone/email contact. Or all the people you ever knew would have just gone, vanished almost. Just think of that scenario, and try not to lose your breath

I’m certain I wasn’t the only one who has severe misgivings about AFCW after that fateful WISA AGM night, who just wanted a clean break from everything involving a club called Wimbledon for good. Indeed, just get on with our lives. I have no idea what a divorce feels like, but this is how I imagine a bitter and acrimonious one pans out. And it doesn’t feel pleasant. Even now, it’s still amazing how much unbridled anger still exists by that decision, how even now Franchise sees fit to slur us and use Brunswick PR to spin against us (and it still fails). If time is supposed to be a healer, it’s only gone and made things worse.

Some people HAVE moved on, but plenty haven’t. There is so much unfinished business still to be, er, finished that the militancy will continue for a while. Is this a good thing or not? Well, as said above, the battle is still going on, and all the while that Franchise provokes everyone with its shrilling and utter pathetic outbursts (read the What The Papers Say on the Franchise OS to show how the siege mentality lives on), the wounds will never be fully healed. Memories are long….

Enough of Franchise, it’s making me sick. What of AFC Wimbledon? Well, when it’s being used as a point of reference for acts such as AFC Barnsley forming, plus Luton Town’s crisis, you know we’ve arrived. It’s not the big things that are the real grabbers of how it has grown – not that they aren’t important – but it’s the little things. Like the amount of car stickers around what we call the SW19/SW20/SM4 basin. Seriously, when I go out driving, I can usually expect to see at least one AFCW sticker in somebody’s car per journey. It’s very minute things like calling the club I support “AFCW” instead of “WFC” that sticks in the mind. Technically, and doubtless Rent Boy would argue, I’ve swapped clubs. But then, football has never been a game of technical thinking, and in proper, real, footballing terms, the club is the same, just the name, staff and division has changed. Supporting AFCW is merely a continuation, and it’s supporting a team called WFC that is now totally alien.

The year has gone quickly. Very quickly. In fact, a bit too quickly. Football seasons aren’t supposed to be like the last season we just had. The only disappointments should come from losing matches, or a star player, or relegation. Highs should include a good cup run, winning stuff, that kind of thing. Yet since this time last year the highs and lows experienced are so extreme that any shrink would be working overtime. 28/5/02 was I think tempered by the sheer shock and anger that surrounded this day, if anything the worst event of the year happened at that pub on Wimbledon Common when the Ryman told us to go away.

28/5/02 just felt unreal – I didn’t go to the Dog and Fox wake on that fateful day, but I’m told the cameraderie in the face of football’s biggest war crime was exceptional. I didn’t feel part of that bonding – still don’t 100% to this day, and probably never will – but that bond between the fans and club is closer than any other club I’ve ever brushed with. Serious. Although there will always be a slight “them and us” at whatever club, at AFCW such a gap is really small. I suppose it’s because the people now handling the day-to-day affairs of AFCW are the same people who I’ve seen (drunk) at away games, who I’ve sat next to on occasions etc. I often hear stories that the chairman of a big club used to stand on the terraces of said club as a little lad, and I do take them with a pinch of salt – here, I can believe that Kris stood at games because I’ve actually seen him do it (Newk away a few years ago). And here is the key to AFCW’s success : those in charge have been on the other side of the sharp end…….

So what of the future? The ground issue has been covered in great detail on this site and elsewhere. And I still stand by everything I said about it. AFCW will make mistakes, a club in full running order in less than a year will suffer from some ill-judged decisions. But as long as said mistakes are not done intentionally, are learnt from and indeed not repeated, I cannot see protests against the club board just yet. It will in the foreness of time have to stop being so trusting, the hand of friendship can be abused by some unscrupilous bastards, and it will down the road have to temper some of its ideals. That’s part of the growing up of the club, and if you think I’m being harsh, I wonder how many of you wouldn’t do/think the way you do now as you did when you were a kid?

Next season is vital, but not for the obvious reason. It is probably just as important to consolidate as a club, find its footing and move forward as it is to rush straight ahead like a Harrier jet with its arse on fire. Another season in the CCL won’t actually hurt, and a period of settling down won’t hurt either. Towards the end of last season, I felt there was a little bit of wearyness, of frayed edges between people. A lot has happened and it isn’t humane not to feel a degree of tiredness when you’ve done the equivalent of going to hell and back.

Ultimately, the last 12 months have been the 12 months you will never forget ever. With luck, by 28th May 2004, we will have forgotten about the name of Milton Keynes, or Charles Koppout, of the protests, of all the bullshit that put us here in the first place. And doubtless, by 28th May 2004, at least one person will have complained that the chips at the ground are too cold…