Friday Football Feature: MK Dons and AFC Wimbledon clash another chapter in unique rivalry


With ten years’ build-up, history and bitterness, Sunday’s cup tie has much to live up to.


By Alex Christian

It is a fixture ten years in the making, the most anticipated Second Round FA Cup tie in recent memory and, for some, one that should not be happening at all.

But for all the controversy MK Dons and AFC Wimbledon are meeting for the first time this Sunday, with the match screened nationwide to a terrestrial audience.

ITV’s advert does not underplay the significance of this match, playing footage of  Wimbledon FC’s shock 1988 FA Cup Final win over Liverpool and declaring: ‘united they won and divided they fell’.

Yet both sets of fans seem to be dreading rather than relishing this FA Cup tie – Chairman of the Independent Wimbledon Supporters Association, Simon Wheeler, said he would rather go to the garden centre with his wife than watch his team play at Stadium MK.

Sunday’s match will prove to be another chapter in football’s most unique rivalry, one that forgoes the traditional route of two local teams determined for the bragging rights in furiously competed derbies, played regularly over decades.

Instead, it is the two clubs’ origins which explain the raw animosity between them – built up over a 56-mile distance and a mere ten years.

The approval by an independent commission to relocate Wimbledon FC to Milton Keynes led to one of the most controversial episodes in British football history and the formation of AFC Wimbledon in 2002 by disaffected fans.

In 2003 Wimbledon FC played their first game at the National Hockey Stadium, Milton Keynes, before the club was dissolved and MK Dons was born.

Then to add to the controversy MK Dons claimed the 114-year history of Wimbledon FC as their own, despite being a newfound club.

It was only in 2007 that the trophies won by the original Wimbledon club were returned to Merton after pressure from the Football Supporters Federation.

Even now there is the ongoing ‘Drop the Dons’ campaign backed by ex-Wimbledon players, aimed at the owners of the Milton Keynes club to change their name – Merton and Milton Keynes Councils even met in April to discuss the topic.

Despite earlier stating they would boycott the game, the Independent Wimbledon Supporters Association say they will now attend Sunday’s game.

However, their team will be heavy underdogs as they find themselves near the basement of the Football League.

MK Dons, on the other hand, sit in the League One Play-off places.

And to add further spice to the game, AFC Wimbledon manager Neal Ardley may be able to play Crazy Gang legend Neil Sullivan between the sticks after the 42-year-old signed on-loan from Doncaster Rovers.

But with ten years’ build-up, history and bitterness, Sunday’s cup tie between AFC Wimbledon and MK Dons has much to live up to – anyone for a replay?

Follow us on @SW_Londoner

Related Articles