Anyone who has been following this blog over the past year or so may have noticed that I have been referring to the League One team from Milton Keynes as Milton Keynes ‘Dons’. With our opponents on Saturday edging towards promotion this season, I felt that now would be a good opportunity to explain just why I do that and how I feel about Milton Keynes ‘Dons’ as a club.
Just in case you need it, a brief history lesson. Wimbledon FC were a small club that miraculously made it from non-league to the top flight in the late 70s/early 80s and even more miraculously, managed to stay there for 14 years. Perhaps too small for top-flight football and forced to ground-share with Crystal Palace. By the time the Dons were relegated from the Premier League there were in a perilous financial state and facing up to the prospect of administration and potentially liquidation.
Meanwhile the city of Milton Keynes was looking to bring a football club into the city to boost its profile and provide its citizens with an additional entertainment outlet. The man charged with bringing this project into being was Peter Winkelman and he had previously approached Luton, Barnet, Crystal Palace and QPR before finding traction with Wimbledon’s then Norwegian owners about bringing the Dons to Milton Keynes.
It made sense from a financial perspective, Wimbledon were seemingly going bust, London was a saturated market for football clubs and Milton Keynes was a city of around 200,000 people with no professional football club. The move was unprecedented and widely condemned within English football. the story of Wimbledon itself showed that a club could rise through the ranks of non-league and get to the very top. Whilst Milton Keynes City had toiled away in non-league, a decent injection of investment they may now have been a League One club, following the example of fellow new-town Stevenage.
English football’s greatest strength is its strength in depth, clubs well below the top-flight and with little hope of getting there can still draw upon thousands of fans in support. Milton Keynes ‘Dons’ are an anachronism in all of this, an English football club represents the community it exists in, Milton Keynes ‘Dons’ were brought in to entertain the people of Milton Keynes.
Over the course of time, Milton Keynes ‘Dons’ will represent their local community (they probably do already). There was no need to take a pre-existing one out of its community just because it was in danger of going out of business. However, we are now probably at the point in time where AFC Wimbledon are where Wimbledon FC would be now anyway and Milton Keynes would have a strong Football League team regardless of how they were birthed.
Getting angry about the existence of Milton Keynes ‘Dons’ achieves very little now. Their existence is a crime against English football and potentially sets a worrying precedent. But they’re here to stay, generations to come will not have any memory of the original Wimbledon and will have always known that Milton Keynes had a Football League team.
There have been efforts to get Milton Keynes ‘Dons’ to drop the Dons from their name but I worry that it would wipe the memory of Wimbledon FC and what happened to them from history. It’s important to remind future generations what happened as we cannot allow this to happen again, as inconceivable as it seems at this moment in time. My use of inverted commas is what I see as the way to remember what happened to Wimbledon FC and remind others than MK ‘Dons’ are an artificial creation.