Opposition Q & A

This weekend West Ham fans will travel to the far end of the District Line to Kingston , the latest venue of AFC Wimbledon, hoping to make it through to the 5th round of the FA Cup. Ahead of the game I spoke to Rob Aitkenhead of The Womble Underground Press to discuss the game and his thoughts on AFC WImbledon’s past and immediate future.
Hi Rob, first off do you consider Wimbledon FC before they were disgracefully sold off and upped sticks to Milton Keynes and your club to be one and the same? Enlighten us if you wouldn’t mind.
The legal entity that was Wimbledon FC limped on beyond recognition, to be later wound up. I do consider AFCW to be a continuation, in the sense that the majority of the fanbase crossed over. I still see many of the same fans I saw at WFC matches in the 80’s, which confirms that the spirit of the club can be found where those fans are. The atmosphere at Kingsmeadow was as near as we could get to recreating Plough Lane.

Although a few years have passed since you gained promotion back to the Football League it’s still an amazing feat. Up there with the old Wimbledon winning the FA Cup, and Leicester winning the Premiership. Assuming you have been supporting AFC Wimbledon from the off, did you have any doubts you would make it back?
You assume correctly, it was an easy transition for me, I could never have gone to MK or defected to Fulham. I had no doubts that we could be successful, and did harbour hopes of league re-entry. I had faith in the volunteer army, and still do now.The only question at the reformation is one which is still valid now: Just how far can we go under our chosen ownership model? Have we reached our level?

Can you also tell us about your ground situation, I seem to recall there are plans to return to your spiritual home on Plough Lane – I guess on the old dogs track, as I’m sure there are now flats on the old site of Wimbledon’s ground.
The greyhound stadium is flattened, the site mostly cleared, and drainage work in progress. You can view the progress via the AFCW website, if interested. Within a couple of years, we might have at least a partly finished ground back where it all started.

As Wimbledon itself is one of the poshest places in South London, and South West London is Rugby Union heartland, where are your young fans going to come from in the future? Or was it always ever so?
Time will tell. The new ground bounce might help hook a few. There are some egg chasers who follow football too! I’m not posh and I dont do egg chasing.

Wally Downes spent a couple of years at àWest Ham as one of our coaches, but there can’t be many people who are more Wimbledon than him: how has he been doing since he became your manager?
He’s doing OK considering the mess he has inherited. He would need to be a miracle worker of biblical proportions to save us from relegation though. We needed him earlier to stand a chance Out of the names mentioned when the job was advertised, there isn’t anybody I’d have preferred over him.

Although winning the FA Cup has been the pinnacle of your success, would you prefer a long cup run or a promotion this season?
Wouldn’t we all love a cup run? I see zero chance of that for us, and as for promotion, have you seen the table lately?

I seem to remember a nightmare game for us at Upton Park on my birthday about 20 years ago, when we went up 3 – 0 inside 10 minutes or so, and ended up losing 3 – 4. Any horrible memories come to your mind regarding West Ham /Wimbledon games?
No, I don’t associate West Ham with horrible memories even if we lost to them, This accolade is usually reserved for Coventry, Oxford, dour teams like that!

Who are the players that are going to be a danger to West Ham at the weekend, and are going to be important to you for the rest of the season?
I can’t pick one from the current crop, that’s how bleak things are currently. I expect nothing less than total annihilation. Best we could hope is to park the bus and try for a money-spinning replay!

Conversely where are the weaknesses in your team that West Ham could exploit?
All over the pitch! With the possible exception of our latest loanee goalkeeper who probably doesn’t deserve a share of the general criticism!

How are you going to line up against us?Formation/players?
Who knows, with this shower. Will some of our sick-notes honour us with their presence, pull their finger out and actually do the job they are paid to do?

What are you hoping for against West Ham on Saturday? Are you going to able to sneak a win? Prediction for score?
Even if you put out a weakened team you should win easily. I’d try a 3-0 scoreline in West Ham’s favour, even if our sick-notes miraculously put in a shift!

Apart from this weekend good luck for the future.

Well many thanks to Rob for his time, he doesn’t sound too optimistic about Wimbledon’s chances, so I will have to agree with him, but I’m just hoping for a victory rather than a thrashing. Assuming Manuel will rest a couple of players I think we will probably let in a goal and get a victory with a two or three goal cushion, so going for 1 – 3 West Ham. COYI

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Please check back after the match for the results.