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Dons fans down the years (3)

1 December 2012

The 1960s

In part three of this feature about Wimbledon fans through history, we look at the 1960s.  By that time, Wimbledon were becoming the dominant force in amateur football and victory in the FA Amateur Cup would take the club to an even higher level.


Two fans recall how the club caught their hearts during that period…


Mike Berry (1963)


I moved from Wandsworth when I was a baby to 50 yards from Plough Lane, just by Haydons Road Bridge. I have vivid memories of all my relatives talking about Chelsea and laughing about Fulham, and they still do! My father was a train driver back then and worked most Saturdays. I didn’t get to my first game until the Amateur Cup Final. I vividly recall the number of coaches parked outside the ground, similar to 1988.


I went with my father to cheer on the local team. I was only about seven at the time and can remember little or nothing of the game. I guess I got hooked then as we won, the team was only 50 yards away and I worked out how to bunk into the ground under the advertisement hoarding by the Wandle!


I was also an aspiring goalkeeper, eventually playing for Garfield Primary, so it was great to watch Mick Kelly play. The rolls from the tea bar under the stand, later Nelsons, were also really nice. As I got older there was pressure for me to go to Chelsea which I resisted. Instead I become a Millwall fan one weekend and a Wimbledon fan the next. Don't ask me – it’s a long story – I'd stopped that by the early 70s.     


The first few years was great winning the league and turning professional but during the latter part of the 60s and early 70s the club didn't really progress and lurched from crisis to crisis, until Allen Batsford arrived and turned the club around. So I guess he was my first real hero.


There were some great highlights over the next 30 years. The second half against Blackburn in 1994 was the best 45 minutes I have ever seen Wimbledon play, but my favourite memory was the game at Sandhurst in 2002 in the Combined Counties League, when we proved all the doubters wrong.


Paul Jeater (1964)


I was first taken to Plough Lane on 1 February 1964. It was an FA Amateur Cup game versus Windsor & Eton. It was a trip organised by Balham & Tooting cub scouts, little did I know where it would lead.


The Dons won that day, 2-1, and I soon realised that it was possible for me to walk from my home to Plough Lane, even better if I went via my grandmother's in Tooting Broadway, she'd give me enough for a bag of chips after the game. I was hooked and for a few seasons I watched the reserves in the Metropolitan League on alternate Saturdays too.


My first boyhood hero was Roy Law. He was a giant. Many years later when I met him at Kingsmeadow I was still a little in awe. I used to stand behind the dug outs, I learned a good deal about football and a few new words as well.


Later as a teenager I experimented with league football and was drawn to my Dad's team QPR, but when my own children were born there was only one place where I wanted to take them to fall in love with the game. I'm pleased they were both able to experience Plough Lane before the move to Selhurst.


There have been some wonderful highlights over the years, Wembley '88, Sutton and Sandhurst 2002 and of course Eastlands in 2011, but perhaps the game that stands out for me took place on a Tuesday evening in August 1986 it was our first home game in the then First Division. Aston Villa were the visitors. The Dons won 3-2. We got our first points. Plough Lane had staged top-level football. And most of the just over six thousand fans went home happy – the Dons had truly arrived.


Next season it'll be 50 years since I first set eyes on Wimbledon, an almost chance visit has turned into a lifetime habit.

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