The club were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Jack Lonergan following our game against Bolton Wanderers last month and there will be a minute’s silence in his honour before today’s match.
Jack was a well-loved member of the AFC Wimbledon community and regularly attended games both home and away with his father Michael and was our first ever mascot against Sandhurst Town.
A passionate teacher, Jack took pride in maintaining the highest standards of pastoral care for his students and was a credit to the schools that he worked for after finishing his studies at Leeds University.
He also leaves behind his partner Natalie and much-loved cat Winston, along with many dear friends and family.
Below is the tribute to Jack that features in today’s matchday programme.
Jack Lonergan (9 February 1993 – 14 August 2021)
Jack’s father Michael looks back on the life of his son and remembers the lasting impact that he had on all those who knew him best.
Wimbledon – Jack’s First Love
As soon as Jack was born, we applied for his Crazy Gang membership straight away and we still have his original membership card to this day. Jack even got the certificate that was sent to him framed on his bedroom wall and we have kept it all this time.
Jack’s early Wimbledon supporting days were more as a protester than a fan because of the dark moments that the club was going through at that time, he always used to say that he remembered the plane flying, the black balloons and standing in the car park to prevent the coach from leaving.
He had no choice in being a Wimbledon supporter, but clearly, he would’ve picked us anyway because he was a smart lad!
I remember him being in a programme against Newcastle around the year he was born and there was a picture of him as a baby with a Mitre football next to him, and that was something that we could always look back at and he took a lot of joy from that.
When AFC Wimbledon was born, he was a nine-year-old by then, so he was much more his own person. He then went on to be mascot at our first game against Sandhurst Town. In terms of football, he was a talented footballer, he started playing at Wimbledon little league with Jane and Dave Canham, who are well known Wimbledon supporters – he went on tour with them to Holland, played every week for his school team and football was his life, he was never without a ball at his feet.
I don’t think we had a year when there wasn’t a football kit bought, both outfield and goalkeeper because he was a goalkeeper, so there was always a green kit and home kit to go with it for his birthday or at Christmas.
I’ve got pictures of him with Vinnie (Jones) and Neal Ardley down at the training ground and my mother and Jack’s grandmother’s favourite picture of Jack is a picture of him and Vinnie both putting their fists up – it wasn’t the best quality photo, but it was of its era, it was on a disposable camera, and it sits in pride of place at her home in Sutton.
Jack always understood about the accessibility of the club, and it didn’t matter how high a profile a player was, it meant a lot to him when they said hello to him, and I know that was something he always treasured.
We used to go into sports shops when he was young and there would never be any Wimbledon shirts in there and when he asked me why there wasn’t any, I just used to say that they had sold out and he bought it for so long, so I can’t believe I got him to believe that!
One of the things that he had written in an early book at school was that his ambitions in life were to play for Wimbledon, get a girlfriend and have a son and that was it.
When we went to Kingsmeadow, we always had a set routine, it was always Fat Boys for a pre-match meal, every home game that was what we did and it was kind of nice in a way that we always used to see Robbo in there and a few familiar faces, which was something that we always found amusing and entertaining.
There was a group of around 10 to 15 of us who always used to stand in the same spot of the RyGas Stand, and we always had a game of guess the attendance every match – so everyone would throw a pound in every game as part of a sweepstake and then whoever got closest would win the lot. We both had varied success with that one, but you know, everyone has their little routines that they do on a matchday but that’s what we just fell into.
Jack also used to attend the community football classes during the early years of AFC Wimbledon, which was a nice little get together for him and the people there.
As for away games, I never got the train, we always used to drive everywhere, Jack always used to enjoy getting the fixture list out to see what new grounds we could tick off – he loved the obscure grounds and we used to enjoy saying that we remember being at such and such a game.
I would say with absolute certainty that his favourite away ground was Luton Town because of the grittiness of it, the low roof, the atmosphere and the fact that they were a team that also absolutely hated that team from Buckinghamshire.
There were so many memorable games, even now I look back at the Bolton game a few weeks ago, which was the day that Jack died, and it was just a brilliant day for us, but the game that we both loved was when we beat Crawley Town 2-1 in the Conference. We both loved Danny Kedwell, he was our hero, and I won’t hear a bad word said about him.
A Passion for Music and Teaching
There was a conflict when he was an early teenager between football and music because we’d know if he’d ever gone missing because either his football wouldn’t be there or his guitar wouldn’t be there – he loved music, so there was always a conflict between that and football.
He went to Leeds University to study music and then in order to supplement his income, he put out some flyers whilst he was there for music tuition and ended up doing that with a couple of kids and really enjoyed it.
Like a lot of people who went to university, he knew what he wanted to study but he didn’t know what he wanted to do at the end, so I would say he gave teaching a lot of thought whilst he was there.
But there was always the conflict with football, because when he was at university he joined up with their team and displaced the first-choice goalkeeper, which meant he had a year of playing football, continuing his passion for music and looking to study at the same time.
Towards the end he had stayed in touch with his old high school, which is Hall School in Wimbledon, and he thought he’d give teaching a go, so he went back to Hall School Wimbledon and worked as a teaching assistant there for a bit and that was when he decided what he wanted to do.
He really loved teaching, but his passion was not just the teaching itself but the pastoral care as well, he absolutely loved it, the more challenging the child, the more he wanted to help them out.
He always maintained that it was not about what exam results you got, it was more about making these children nice people.
He never missed a day of working at the school, although I will grass him up for sneaking off on the tour of Frankfurt a few years ago – he made an excuse to leave early, we drove all the way there and it was brilliant.
He and his friends always stayed in touch even as they went their separate ways further down the line, they always had that common link, which was either football, music or going out drinking.
Father and Son
It is still so fresh and it’s a situation that you never expect to find yourself in. I spoke to Ivor (Heller) the other day and I said that I couldn’t see myself coming back to Plough Lane because I now have an empty seat next to me. But if it was the other way round and Jack was left on his own, he would want me to go.
Other people were never shy to say that they were really envious of mine and Jack’s relationship, and we also had that naturally close bond.
Jack was very easy to be a dad to and I will always say that my career was being a dad to him, and we were best friends.
If we didn’t see each other, we would always speak to each other without fail, that was part of us being father and son. We were always able to be honest and open with each other, we just enjoyed life really.
Jack was a really good kid, and I couldn’t have wished for anything better as a parent. We did everything together, I respected him, he respected me and that worked so well.
The mantra now that I stick by is asking myself what Jack would want and it makes my decisions so much easier.
His legacy will be lived on by his family, his friends and the students that he taught because of the excellent impression that he made on their lives.
I will never forget Jack and I think about him in every moment of everyday like I always have done and that will never change.
Details of Jack’s funeral and the link for anyone who wishes to make a contribution to the Music Department at St George’s School, a school which Jack held close to his heart, can be found by visiting this page.