Sutton match remembered
Today marks 10 years since AFC Wimbledon's first match against Sutton United.
We may have lost 4-0, but the result was immaterial as Wimbledon once again had a football club again. A decade ago today, AFC Wimbledon's first squad would have been gearing up for the club's first friendly match, which was watched by a bumper crowd of 4,657 at Gander Green. Despite the scoreline, it was an evening of celebration. Our current Commercial Director, Ivor Heller, a founder member of the club, announced a six-figure sponsorship deal with Sports Interactive - and AFC Wimbledon was well and truly up and running.
Reflecting this afternoon on a pivotal night for AFC Wimbledon, Ivor says it was just "staggering and amazing that we had a football club again".
"You cannot help but think about it again today," admitted Ivor. "It was the culmination of the hardest six weeks that I have ever had in my life. I did not have much sleep during that time, but it brought about one of the most exciting days of my life. We had a good feeling that a lot of people would come down for the match, but to see the queues of supporters waiting to get into the ground provided a massive buzz. Looking back, it brings so much pride. We kicked a ball in anger for the first time. It meant a great deal and our fans even invaded the pitch after we lost 4-0 - that tells you what it meant to everyone."
The hard work of Ivor and founder members Marc Jones, Kris Stewart and Trevor Williams had paid off as Wimbledon supporters began a journey that led all the way back to the Football League.
As part of the 10-year anniversary, the official website has been running a "Your AFC Wimbledon" series and today we feature two supporters who were there on the night.
Chris Hill, aged 47, who has supported Wimbledon for 37 years, said: "So what do you do when your football club is stolen from you? I didn’t know, but luckily there were a few people who did. I went to the first friendly at Sutton, not knowing what to expect, but what an experience. Four-and-a half thousand people turned up for a pre-season friendly between two non league clubs and I thought 'this is going to work'. A 'six figure' sponsorship deal was announced. I had no idea who the players were, we lost 4-0, but it felt wonderful. Football felt good again. It was also strange to cheer the board. Previously, I think I'd only heard chants for sackings. I remember the chants of "one Kris Stewart" and "half Ivor Heller" from the supporters on the night."
John Mills, a 58-year-old, who is now living in Lincoln, said: "I think the most memorable AFC Wimbledon match for me (apart from the penalty win at Manchester) has to be the very first friendly at Sutton United. A big expectant crowd, a terrific atmosphere, and it was just simply amazing to realise that we really did have a team to follow - and we were not alone. Well done to all at AFC Wimbledon, it has been a great ride so far with plenty more great years still to come."
To read a report from Wednesday, July 10, 2002, click on http://www.afcwimbledon.co.uk/-/reports/friendly--senior/1948/sutton-united