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Heading back to our spiritual home

The latest in our series on the history of our old stadium

5 August 2020

With the Dons soon to return to Plough Lane, we’ve started looking back at the history of our old stadium, which was situated just down the road from the new stadium site.

Today, we turn the clock back to a time when a group of our supporters funded the redevelopment of the stadium after the Second World War.

The picture above (taken on 23 February 1952) shows Jack Wallis (number 6) heading clear to stop an attack from Walthamstow Avenue in an Amateur Cup third round tie, played at a packed Plough Lane.

Requisitioned by the Army for use as a munitions dump during the Second World War, Plough Lane was returned to the club in a dilapidated state when hostilities ended in 1945. A group of locals subscribed to a fund to repair the ground and clothing coupons were collected from supporters to buy a kit for the players so fixtures could resume in SW19. The fencing around the stadium was in such poor condition that ‘gate’ money had to be collected on an honesty basis by passing around a bucket.

Huge crowds watched Isthmian League football in the immediate post war years and Amateur Cup ties often caught the attention of the nation. Over 14,000 fans, paying a shilling (5p) each to stand, jammed into Plough Lane in February 1952 to see the powerful Walthamstow Avenue side, who were 12 months away from holding Manchester United to a 1-1 draw in the FA Cup at Old Trafford, face the Dons. A goalless draw was followed by another stalemate in east London before the As went through in the second replay.

The BBC outside broadcast cameras were on hand to record the tie and see if ace marksman Harry Stannard could score on his 400th appearance for the club. All the attention hid the fact that, by this time, the Dons were in decline and by the mid-1950s crowds were falling, the team was ageing, and the stadium needed a major refurbishment. In the summer of 1955, the committee that ran the club turned to a wealthy businessman and sports fanatic called Sydney Black for help.

Picture below: The east bank at Plough Lane is packed as Wimbledon goalkeeper Alan Hooper gets down to collect the ball to prevent Walthamstow’s dangerous forward Jim Lewis from scoring.

Archive material is written by Stephen Crabtree, the editor of the Historical Don. To sample a copy, contact him at thehistoricaldon@sky.com .


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