We asked you to take us down memory Lane - and, oh boy, have you responded! It feels like we’ve discovered a treasure chest of priceless moments that will forever be passed on from generation to generation.
The question was simple: Tell us what made Plough Lane so special? Why are we all in such a rush to get back there? What was it about our old home that we’ve never been able to let go of?
We expected some obvious answers - famous wins against Arsenal or Manchester United, perhaps, or maybe beating Watford on the way to our famous 1988 FA Cup triumph.
What we unlocked, however, was something infinitely more precious - the untold, unknown, human stories of loyal fans who had their own deeply-personal reasons for relishing cherished moments.
One of them came from Colin Whaley, who started watching The Dons in the 70s. He enjoyed memories like: “Billy Holmes’ shock of blonde hair which matched his enigmatic skills, Mickie Mahon’s silky wing play, the wonderful John Leslie and Stevie Galliers, the imperial style of Dave Donaldson, the amazing Dickie Guy, Vinnie Jones’ stunning first game, the marauding Fash, etc.”
Colin’s most profound memory, however, is tinged with sadness – yet underlines how our club is so much more than just results.
“The memory that sits above all else for me was sitting in my Dad’s East Stand seat for our first-ever game in the First Division against Aston Villa. My Dad had supported the Dons for years, home and away, and seen them rise through the divisions. He was one of the first to renew his season ticket but, just six days before that match, he sadly died of a heart attack - leaving me to move from the terraces to sit with his best friend, Dave Miller, that evening.
“Mixed feelings for sure - but I did feel him with me.”
Eighty year old Ron Wilson wrote in to say he’s been supporting Wimbledon ever since he was eight years old - and one of his favourite memories involved our current manager when he was a player.
“I still have memories of players like Harry Stannard (my favourite), Ron Head, Jimmy Haydock (what a keeper), Pat Eddleston, Alec Fuce, Frank Lemmer and Arthur Maggs,” he told us.
“Strange to say, it was a young Wally Downes who most emphasised the Wimbledon spirit. He’d been badly fouled and while he was being treated, my father called out: "Get your uncle (the boxer, Terry Downes) to sort that defender out!” Wally got up, walked over to us and said: "I don't need my uncle," in true Dons’ style. Wally made his own retribution.”
Sandra Reid Brown wrote to say she’s followed the Dons for the past 57 years. “One of my first memories was a cup game against Gloucester City. As a four/five year old it was very exciting. However, at the grand old age of eight, I saw the wonderful Eddie Reynolds score in his last game for the Dons against Worcester City. Fabulous days and fabulous memories.”
Pete Everett recalled the first time we played Liverpool in the old Division One. It was an all-ticket game and Pete wrote: “I arrived at 12.45 pm and still had to join a queue which stretched three-quarters of the way around the ground. The crowd topped 16,000 which felt like it sounds– a very tight squeeze! The occasion was wonderful and we really felt we had arrived that day.”
Ian Bloor remembered a cracking goal from 62 years ago! “It was the 1957/58 season, I was standing behind the goal at the Durnsford Road end and watched a 35-yard pile driver from Jim Wright hit the back of the Wycombe Wanderers net!”
Alan Barnett also remembered another cracker - but can’t recall who the opponents were that day, or what the date was. “It must have been early 1960s,” he said. “Our number eight, Brian Martin, picked up a loose ball probably nearer the half-way line than the goal, some 35-40 yards out. He volleyed a shot from below the Plough Lane North Stand and the ball shot like a bullet into the back of the goal at the Wandle End, where I was standing. There was a stunned silence as the crowd couldn’t quite believe what they’d seen.
“Even the referee chased after Martin - just to pat him on the back and congratulate him on scoring one of the most amazing goals you’d ever see. A fantastic memory of a great player.”
It certainly sounds like one hell of a goal - but can anyone out there help Alan remember who The Dons were playing that day?
Mike Stacey told us about three precious memories. The first was Steve Galliers’ crunching tackle against Tottenham’s Graham Roberts; the second Laurie Cunningham’s dazzling speed down the wing. The third touched on the true Crazy Gang spirit.
“I was seated in the main stand when Vinnie Jones and Stuart Pearce both flew into a 50/50 tackle without holding back. You could hear and feel the crunch as they collided. However, they both got up with nothing but respect for each other, brushed themselves down and shook hands as men did in those days.”
Mark Worledge recalled our “close-to-unbelievable” 5-0 drubbing of Tottenham but, for him, the FA Cup quarter final against Watford in ‘88 remains his stand-out memory.
“It was a thrilling match,” he said. “Things looked very grim indeed. The serious setback of conceding the first goal, then a straight red card for Brian Gayle.”
The Dons came out fighting after the break, though, and surprise half-time substitute Eric Young directed a pinpoint Dennis Wise cross into the net to level the scores.
Mark added: “From that moment on, the Dons’ eventual triumph never once felt in doubt. That’s what makes this match my most-treasured memory of Plough Lane. The team was just so strong – physically, mentally, emotionally. It felt utterly exhilarating just to stand on the sidelines watching it.”
As we all know, John Fashanu smashed home the winner and we went on to beat Luton in the semi and then Liverpool in that epic final at Wembley. Shortly afterwards, Mark bumped into Dons legend Alan Cork, who was preparing for his testimonial match.
“How bizarre to be chatting casually to this man in the club shop. I’d never met or spoken to him before yet he was openly telling me how the arrangements were going for his testimonial – and whether Dickie Guy would be able to make it. Just a couple of days earlier, he’d made history and earned himself an FA Cup Winner’s medal. Yes, how bizarre and how unimaginable at other clubs … but how very Wimbledon.
“The down-to-earthness of Alan Cork, the second-half transformation in the Watford game were all integrally linked. They were all part of the same unique character that pervaded the old Plough Lane ground. And, magically, we have carried that same spirit through into the AFC Wimbledon years.”
Brian Sullivan was an 18-year-old probationary constable in 1982 when he was posted to Wimbledon - and soon got into trouble for celebrating whenever we scored! He wrote: “I was soon volunteering for football duty each home game and then going off duty as well. A few coppers at Wimbledon nick were already fans and we were soon going to away games.
“I was reprimanded on more than one occasion for celebrating Wimbledon goals whilst in full uniform! C'mon you Dons - home we go!”
Fazal Ahmad still gets the chills when he recalls: “Freezing to death against Sunderland in the FA Cup third round in January, 1987, when we scored the winner with the last kick of the game.”
So there you have it. Some wonderful memories of a wonderful club as recalled by you, our wonderful fans. We played at Plough Lane for nearly 80 years between 1912 and 1991 - and the legacy clearly hasn’t died. Now let’s look forward to going back there next season and creating more precious memories for generations to come.
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