Milton Keynes Dons Football Club
Football League Two team, Milton Keynes Dons, are the result of the controversial move and re-naming of Wimbledon F.C. After moving to Milton Keynes in 2003, Wimbledon underwent a revamp, before being launched as Milton Keynes Dons in 2004.
The club received much criticism over the move, many Wimbledon fans rejecting the side and putting their energy into founding A.F.C Wimbledon, which they believed was the true continuation of the club. Milton Keynes Dons has struggled to achieve success since relocation, but, now settled into their new home, things look set to improve.
The Wimbledon F.C. Days
The roots of Milton Keynes Dons can be traced back to Wimbledon Old Central F.C. in 1889, which become Wimbledon F.C in 1905. The club quickly became recognised as one of the best non league clubs in the country, winning the Isthmian League eight times. They turned professional after winning the FA Amateur Cup in 1963.
In the late 1970’s the club consistently played to a high standard, highlighted in their outstanding performance in the 1975 FA Cup. Beating Burnley F.C. in the third round, they became the first non league team to beat a First Division side. This impressive achievement was followed with a draw against First Division champions, Leeds United. The recognition that followed their FA Cup performance, and their three wins in successive years in the Southern League Championship, saw them achieve long awaited election into the Football League.
In 1988 they became the first team to win both the amateur and professional FA Cups, a goal from Lawrie Sanchez securing their win in the FA Cup Final against Liverpool. The match also saw Dave Beasant become the first goalkeeper in an FA Cup Final to save a penalty.
The next few years saw the club looking to relocate, plans for a new all seater stadium failing to materialise. With their current home unable to match FA requirements they moved to Selhurst Park in 1991, sharing the ground with Crystal Palace for the next twelve years.
In the 1991-2 season, Wimbledon became founding members of the new Premier League, where they saw several successful seasons. Players including Robbie Earle, Vinnie Jones and Ben Thatcher raised the level of play, the club often finishing above bigger and more established sides. FA Cup and League Cup success came within their grasp in the 1996-7 season, but despite beating the holders of both in previous matches, they exited in the semi finals.
The club struggled over the following years, finishing just above relegation and seeing Joe Kinnear resign as manager after seven years. The club were subsequently taken over by a Norwegian consortium that placed Egil Olsen as manager. Hopes to rescue the side failed, and at the end of the 1999-2000 season, the club were relegated after losing to Southampton. Olsen was dismissed shortly after and Terry Buxton took over briefly, but, after failing for the second year to qualify for play offs, he too was sacked and Stuart Murdoch took over.
The controversial move of Wimbledon F.C to Milton Keynes started with the search of Pete Winkleman, a music promoter, to find a professional team to move to Milton Keynes and take up residence in a new FIFA standard stadium he had the chance to develop. Despite the presence of four non league teams in the Milton Keynes area, all of whom may have greatly benefitted from Winkleman’s investment, he decided that a professional club would help guarantee funding.
Wimbledon F.C fitted the bill, having moved homes over their history, and at the time ground sharing with Crystal Palace. Despite huge opposition from fans, Winkleman convinced the clubs’ directors that a move to Milton Keynes would be financially beneficial for the club and, in 2002, the Football Association approved the move.
This controversial decision sparked criticism amongst the club’s fans and football supporters in general, crowd figures falling sharply and many football fans boycotting matches featuring Milton Keynes Dons. Many rejected the side altogether, forming A.F.C Wimbledon, a new football club based back in the Merton borough.
In 2003 the effects were clearly being felt by the club, going into administration after mounting up huge debts. Despite the presence of players such as Kenny Cunningham and Damien Francis in the team, the club struggled to achieve further success and, in their last season at Selhurst Park, they finished 10th in Division One.
The sale of many players followed, and in the 2003-4 season the club was relegated to League One, finishing bottom after 33 defeats that season. This was the joint second worst record in English football history for league defeats.
The year also saw the club complete their move to Milton Keynes, taking up residence in the National Hickey Stadium. Winkleman, having failed to meet his promise that the move would be financially good for the club, bought the side in 2004.
A new brand
Winkleman continued to attract criticism, following a decision to change the name of the club from Wimbledon F.C. to Milton Keynes Dons F.C. This decision was made, despite a vote by the official supporters’ club committee, where they agreed collectively that Wimbledon should remain in the name.
It was evident that this was no longer a mission to save Wimbledon, as Winkleman forged ahead to create a brand new side, under a new name and ownership. New kit colours swiftly followed, and the letters MKIV were displayed on a new badge, an indication that 2004 was a new beginning for the club. These changes were met with fierce criticism by fans who had not been consulted at any stage in the process.
Letting go of History
The new club continued to produce tension within the football world, raising many questions over whether there should be rules to prevent the ‘franchising’ of clubs. The Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) refused the Milton Keynes Dons Supporters’ Association membership of the federation, until they agreed to give up all the history and honours of Wimbledon F.C.
In 2006 agreements were reached over returning the honours to the London Borough of Merton. This was to include Wimbledon’s FA Cup replica, all patrimony the side had collected, trademark ownership and website domain names. As a result of this, the Milton Keynes Dons Supporters’ Association was allowed to join the FSF.
2007 saw the team move to its permanent home at Stadium:mk. The first match at the stadium was in July 2007 against Chelsea.
On the Pitch
The controversial re-location of the club left a side suffering from lack of fan support and the loss of many of its original players. Under manager, Stuart Murdoch, the club struggled to make a positive start in the 2004-5 season, and Murdoch was soon sacked to be replaced by Danny Wilson.
Things looked optimistic under the new managerial skills of Wilson and the club looked set to survive relegation. They only narrowly scraped through, remaining in the League only because Wrexham had suffered a ten point deduction, due to their fall into administration.
The following year they were unable to hold their place, failing to win a league game until their 11th match. Relegation into League Two resulted and Wilson was sacked shortly after.
Martin Allen was next in the short succession of managers to try to rescue the failing side. He appeared to be what the club needed, taking them to the top half of the table and showing the potential the club had to achieve promotion. Unluckily a fourth position finish saw them have to fight for promotion in the play offs, where their dream was stolen from them by Shrewsbury Town in the semi-final. Allen terminated his contract and yet again a new manager stepped in.
Paul Ince, former England manager, stepped up to the challenge and took the side to the top of League Two in the 2007-8 season. With the club settled into their new home, and established under their new name, they now have the potential to climb back to the top.
While the main side has struggled, the reserve team has seen more success in the Football Combination East Division. With a team consisting of the majority of the squad, they also achieved success in the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup, finishing as runners up in 2006 and taking the title in 2007.
Milton Keynes Dons Football Club
Stadium Way West
- Telephone: 01908 622922
- Fax: 01908 622933
- Email: email@example.com
- Box Office: 01908 622900
- Box office fax: 01908 622933
Further ticket information can be found on the Milton Keynes Dons official website.