Monday’s League Two play-off final at Wembley will be vindication for all AFC Wimbledon have been through, according to the man that has been there from the beginning.
The club’s commercial director, Ivor Heller, has witnessed their glory days – as Wimbledon in the 1980s and 1990s – and their most depressing days – when the FA ruled their club could move to Milton Keynes.
And he has also been ever present in the formation and running of the phoenix club that formed in 2002, AFC Wimbledon, as they have risen from the ashes to work their way back up the football ladder.
After picking up five promotions in just nine years to reach League Two in 2011, they are now just one win away from making it into the third tier of English football for the first time.
And Heller believes its symbolic have how the club have always kept on moving forward.
“There’s a clue in a documentary called Football Hurts, and if football doesn’t hurt you’re not a proper football fan,” said Heller.
“Wimbledon have always been able to roll with the punches and always found a way to fight our way back into whatever we’re trying to get into.
“That’s what has shone through with this club. It’s a real pioneering and fighting spirit to try and do things differently to anybody else.
“The dark days, going back to 2002, yes it was dark but it was also exhilarating.
“There was never a minute, particularly of that year, where we weren’t doing something that would resonate with everyone at this football club.”
Many feel Monday’s play-off final could be the biggest day of AFC Wimbledon’s short history but Heller doesn’t agree, instead going back to their Blue Square Premier play-off final in 2011.
“The biggest day for us was when we beat Luton at Manchester,” he said.
“That was bigger than when Wimbledon won the FA Cup in 1988 for me personally because of the step it meant we made.
“We’ve had a lot of big days and for AFC Wimbledon this is a real vindication moment, and it proves we are the business so it’s fantastic what we’ve done.”
With the historic accolades Wimbledon have picked up in their history it would be easy for any AFC Wimbledon fan to dream once again that their club could be on the verge of another famous day.
Heller has witnessed all those infamous days including this season, where the club have progressed greatly to reach the play-off final.
And with a trip to Wembley awaiting, he admits won’t be surprised if his side add another trophy to their cabinet.
He added: “In 1974-75 Allen Batsford came in at Wimbledon and within a few weeks most people realised something special was on the brew, but did I dare dream then that ten years later we’d be not only in the Football League but we’d be knocking on the door of the second division?
“And within ten years of getting into the Football League we’d be in the first division and winning the FA Cup.
“How can anyone dare turn around and ask anyone from Wimbledon did you ever dream this? Because it’s limitless for us as far as I’m concerned.
“Nothing that this club does ever really surprises me because I know we’re capable.”
Feature image courtesy of AFC Wimbledon, via Youtube, with thanks