David McKnight’s lengthy list of volunteer roles includes organising coach travel for AFC Wimbledon’s first-ever league match, at Sandhurst Town – and 15 years later he retains his enthusiasm for helping the club.
For those supporters who may have missed David’s interview in the Doncaster programme, it is reproduced in full below – and it certainly sums up the volunteer spirit that has been so vital off the pitch for the club.
In recent times, David McKnight has mainly been involved with maintaining the pitch, but he’s also assisted in the club shop and helped with stewarding, stretcher-bearing duties and fundraising events. And as club historian, David looks after an extensive archive of iconic images from Plough Lane days. It’s all done for the love of Wimbledon, but it’s been great fun too – and that first-ever away game to Sandhurst is a particularly fond memory for David.
“We had four coaches for the supporters that we’d organised through the club,” he told us. “Vicki Lowndes helped me, and we also arranged travel for the players, who we managed to get an England coach for! On the way there, it was hilarious as I got a call from the manager, Terry Eames, who said, ‘We’re lost – our coach driver doesn’t know where we’re going!’ We managed to direct him, and thankfully the players got there in plenty of time. We had 2,500 supporters at Sandhurst that night, and it was a lot of fun.
“Being a volunteer is not about me personally, though I do thoroughly enjoy it. It’s about giving some love back to the club. What we all do is to help the team benefit. We have a club, a passion and a history – those are the most important things. It’s a tribute to all the hard work everyone has done.”
As a former retail manager at Sainsbury’s, David played a key role in setting up the club shop with Tim Hillyer, but it didn’t take long for him to turn into “Mr Versatile”. “Tim did all the buying, but with my retail background I also helped out with the shop in any way I could. We set up the shop with old Sainsbury’s equipment – and a lot of it is still there today! They were getting rid of shelving, racking, hooks and display equipment, and rather than let them dump it, I asked if we could have it.
“There was obviously a lot to do after the club re-formed, and I got involved in any way I could. I started helping Trevor Williams with watering the pitch, and then we realised we needed to divot the pitch because it was disintegrating. We managed to get some other volunteers together to help out. The club didn’t have a groundsman in the early years, and it was a team effort to get the pitch in the best condition we possibly could.
“Chelsea’s staff are now overseeing the pitch maintenance, but our volunteers are still very much on board. They all love helping to look after the pitch – as far as they’re concerned, it’s like a baby to them! They’ll do everything they can to make sure it’s in 100 per cent condition for the team to play on. The volunteers put in extra hours whenever they’re required to – they take great pride in the pitch. They are also willing to learn things from the Chelsea staff, which will prove useful when we move back to Plough Lane. In the past, when the pitch has been covered in ice and snow, we’ve had as many as 60 volunteers helping to clear the surface, and that shows what we’re about as a club.”
Look out in Saturday’s match day programme for another interview with a dedicated volunteer at the club.