You can blame J Sainsbury for this article. They were selling off DVD recorders for Â£150 (though cheaper now), and being somewhat of a collectionist, I decided that I would join the 21st century and purchase said device. Got it home, connected it all up, and archived all the videos (some stretching back as far as 1982) for prosperity. That and saving my tapes being chewed up.
“Oh christ” you’re thinking. “He’s really flipped now. I preferred it when he was talking about his worldwide jaunts”. Well, I’m in SW19 Towers at the moment, so tough shit. What I found out when I was taping these, apart from just how crap videos were in the olden days, was some pointers for AFCW.
Obviously, technology changes. For example, I can now go to Dons Online and download the match highlights. I would love to be able to do the same with the club’s videos of Liverpool in 1987 when we won 2-1. Or Chelsea (before they became Chelski) when we won 4-0 or 5-2. Or Man Utd in our first ever game at OT. And if anyone has those on tape, could I borrow them please? There’s a drink and a free copy of it on DVD for you…
Some things jump out at you : Whatever happened to Paul Fishenden? Was Kevin Gage’s hair real? What did Wey Plastics do? Did we really play Bolton Wanderers in the fourth? And just how crap were some of our goals?
Other things take a while to permeate through the old grey matter. For example, it took me 18 years to realise that Everton fans were doing very loud monkey chants to John Fashanu. While racial abuse still exists, back then it wasn’t the front page headlines it is now. Perhaps that’s a sign of how relatively little abuse there is today, and worth remembering when yet another “Kick racism out of football” initiative comes to town.
Then, there was the standard of play. You can’t compare today obviously, but even during our supposed long ball period, I don’t think we were that bad. Some of the stuff in the lower divisions wouldn’t look out of place in some Premiership games, which may be more down to the fact that the Premiership is a load of over-hyped skill-free horse semen. And besides, John Motson once said after Walsall in 1984, “there’s a good standard of football down here”…
The big thing is of course the old shots of Plough Lane. I think this is why, despite AFCW’s purchase of the KM leasehold, and the talk of taking over the athletics complex, there’s a feeling of uncompleted business in regards to Merton. We were never allowed to say goodbye to the old place, Hammam didn’t consider us important enough to do that.
Speaking of the Lebanese Hamas arms trader, he sounds chilling. Before he re-invented himself as loveable, cuddly Uncle Sam, he came across as a rather nasty, shifty, dodgy little shit. Plus ca change. While the likes of Koppout and Wankelmann justifiably get all the abuse we muster, the main reason why AFCW started was because of the self-professed Father Of WFC (now Father Of Cardiff City).
What did amaze me what how the club (WFC) deteriorated. Watch Everton in 1987 and the FA Cup runs, and it really was a club that could go somewhere. Watch the stuff from 1993, and 1994, and we looked a good team. We were at Selhurst, granted, but it really could have been Euro bound. But then something seemed to happen – plonk on Palace 0 WFC 3 (the one where Leaburn scored twice) and it was a club that hadn’t won in 8 games, struggling, and in the middle of the Dublin fiasco. To this day, it still fucks me off greatly that Sky seemed quite keen on the idea.
And this is something for AFCW to keep tabs on. When WFC started to get ideas above its station, when it tried to be anything but what Wimbledon was, it died. When the goodwill was damaged, it showed. Once the punters start feeling ripped off, kiss goodbye. As going through these old tapes reminds you, anyone going through what AFCW does with a degree of caution now isn’t trying to shit stir – they’re just watching out for a repeat of history.
If the games themselves were one thing, the other stuff was something else. I put on another tape – it was the London Programme from 1987, about Fulham going under because of Craven Cottage being sold off. Interesting to note that the cost of the leasehold of KM in 2005 would have bought you Loftus Road in 1987. And even the occasional Thames News item gave a feeling of excitement that we were on telly. Our little club getting mentioned by Steve Ryder and Graham Miller. Back then, the BBC coverage was a bit snotty, looking a tad dated, and full of annoying condescending presenters. Not like today, of course….
All this may not have much relevance, but I put in one final tape, labelled “WFC 70 goals from 1982/83/84”. Left it to do its stuff, and there, in glorious home video colour, was a crowd of people on the Plough Lane pitch. It was when we went up from div 3 to div 2 (Gillingham game). In fact, the very first picture on this article is Harry saluting the Womble hordes. And there, it struck me. It could have been Walton Casuals last season. The joys, the optimism. The apprehensive excitement of going up into a higher division.