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AFC Wimbledon Back at Spiritual Home as Plough Lane Reopens

AFC Wimbledon Back at Spiritual Home as Plough Lane Reopens

A team called Wimbledon hasn't played at Plough Lane for almost 30 years, until now! The original Wimbledon FC had a ground built on that street in the London Borough of Merton as their home from 1912 through until the end of 1990-91 season.

The mandatory move away from terraces to all-seater stadiums for top-flight English football was a conclusion of the Taylor Report following the tragedy at Hillsborough in 1989, and forced the Dons to move out. And so began the long journey back for supporters of Wimbledon.

As we shall see, given their fine record of every now and then sneaking into the play-offs, AFC Wimbledon's football odds from Betfair of 25/1 for a top-six finish could be value, especially if returning to Plough Lane has a galvanising effect on the club. They move into their new ground as a mid-table team in EFL League One, but it was a long way back to that level for true Wimbledon supporters.

Rebuilding Plough Lane as an all-seater venue was always the original intention. The ground share across the capital with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park was only supposed to be temporary. By 1998, it had become clear that Plough Lane wasn't a suitable site for renovation and the land was sold to supermarket chain Safeway. The old ground was demolished in 2002.

Like Safeway, the original Wimbledon is no more. The club relocated to Milton Keynes in 2003 and became known as MK Dons from the following season. These controversial moves were pre-empted by the formation of AFC Wimbledon in 2002, the true Wimbledon and a phoenix club with the ambition of rising back up the English football league pyramid.

The new Wimbledon had to start in the ninth tier and played its home matches at Kingsmeadow in the Norbiton area of Kingston upon Thames. AFC Wimbledon made good on their aim and got into the Football League by winning the 2011 Conference play-offs, beating Luton Town on penalties.

By December 2015, Merton Council approved proposals for using the site of the old Wimbledon greyhounds track to build "a new Plough Lane". There was hope at long last for fans of a return to the area.

The new Plough Lane is about 200 yards away from the old one. AFC Wimbledon moved out of Kingsmeadow at the end of the 2019-20 season and briefly shared Loftus Road with Championship club QPR while the finishing touches were put to their stadium.

Almost five years after the local council gave the green light, the new Plough Lane opened on 3 November, 2020, with AFC Wimbledon drawing 2-2 with Doncaster Rovers. Ironically enough, their last game before moving into the stadium was a 1-1 away draw at MK Dons.

The AFC Wimbledon of today is a far cry from "the Crazy Gang" from the final years of the old Plough Lane. They became a third-tier club after again snatching promotion via the play-offs up from League Two in 2016.

They have struggled at League One level over the last four years but managed to stave off relegation and consolidate themselves. Even for neutral observers, it'll be fascinating to see how AFC Wimbledon fare now they finally have their spiritual home back.

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