AFC Wimbledon was born out of the ashes of Wimbledon FC, as a result of the latter club’s 2002 decision – with permission of the FA – to relocate over 50 miles away to the Buckinghamshire town of Milton Keynes. Wimbledon fans were horrified by this act of betrayal and abandonment, so they set about creating a new Wimbledon football team. Within six weeks of the announced relocation plans, the new club was up and running.
In June 2002 AFC Wimbledon was founded by supporters of Wimbledon FC, led by Kris Stewart, with the aim of continuing the tradition of the genuine Wimbledon side. In order to quickly gather a team for the upcoming season, trials were held over three days at Wimbledon Common, open to all.
With a team assembled, the next important step was the acquisition of a home ground. Although the name and origins of the Wimbledon club lay in the London Borough of Merton, AFC Wimbledon had to make Kingsmeadow their home ground. Situated in the neighbouring borough of Kingston, the ground is shared with Kingstonian FC.
In July 2002, the club’s first match was held – a friendly against Sutton United – which attracted a crowd of 4,657 fans. The opening league game later that year, versus Sandhurst Town (away), saw 2,449 fans in attendance.
The next seven years saw the team go on a thoroughly remarkable run, gaining promotion no less than four times in seven seasons. Beginning life in the Combined Counties League, the Dons narrowly missed out on promotion during their first season, finishing third. Emboldened, the following season saw the club not only win the league, but also the CCL Premier Challenge Cup. Having secured the double in style, AFC Wimbledon was promoted to the Ryman League First Division.
Not content with hanging around, the Dons were promptly promoted Champions at the end of the 2004-5 season. During the next two seasons in the Premier Division, the team fought for promotion to the Conference South. Unfortunately, they lost out in the play-off semi-finals twice, losing to Fisher Athletic in the 2005-6 season, and to Bromley in the 2006-7 season – a temporary setback in their dazzling race through the non-leagues.
Finally, in the 2007-8 season, under the new manager Terry Brown, the Dons were promoted to the Conference South, beating Staines Town in the play-off final. The Conference South was rapidly conquered in the usual fashion: AFC Wimbledon won the 2008-9 season, and gained promotion to the Conference National.
Echoing the meteoric rise of the original Wimbledon FC during the 1970s and 1980s, AFC Wimbledon has rapidly made its way up the non-league pyramid. In doing so, the Dons have set an impressive all-time English record for the longest unbeaten league run: 78 consecutive games without defeat – spanning three seasons – held between February 2003 and November 2004.
Currently playing in the League One, hopefully they one day successfully make it back to the Premiership.