Even though it had been a while and the landscape had changed considerably, one of our all-time greats didn’t need showing the way to Plough Lane.
When one of his former managers Bobby Gould visited last year, he blamed his sat nav for getting a little lost in trying to find the Cherry Red Records Stadium, but that wasn’t an issue for prolific goal scorer Alan Cork for his first visit to our still relatively new home.
“It was a bit strange, but we drove in the old way we used to come into work,” said Alan. “Go past the block of flats and turn up here. It has changed a lot, but you still turn right, we used to turn right to come down to the dog track. It’s changed, but I’ve still got great memories of around here.”
One of the blocks of flats up the road on the site of our old ground is named after Corky, scorer of 145 goals over fourteen years, one of nine players to go from the fourth to the first division with Wimbledon and, of course, among those to win an FA Cup medal for that memorable day at Wembley in May 1988.
Corky was keen to make the most of the day and took a tour of the stadium, a detailed look around our museum, caught up with some familiar faces, met new ones and stepped out onto Plough Lane again. This time though he was accompanied by his two granddaughters, as the class of 2023 made it a winning return against Doncaster.
While it was an enjoyable first visit for Corky, it now looks as though it won’t be his last – as he’s agreed to become an ambassador for WiSH (Wimbledon in Sporting History). He’s pictured above with John Lynch and Mick Pugh.
You can see the full interview with Wimbledon great Alan Cork and a short summary below.
145 goals over 14 years with the Dons, how did it click for you being with the club for that long?
Fourteen long years! In hindsight I should have left like some other players, but I stayed and had fourteen wonderful years – so I can’t complain.
Going back to the beginning, how does a lad from Derby end up in South London?
I was at Derby County with Dario Gradi and Colin Murphy at the time. Dave Mackay had left. They got the sack and Dario came down to Wimbledon. I got sent on loan to Lincoln City and in the meantime, Tommy Docherty took over at Derby.
He never saw me play and gave me a free transfer, so that was the start. I met Adrian Cook of Wimbledon on the motorway coming down here and signed at Toddington – and that was it! Done!
In recent years, people talk about the Crazy Gang and 1988, but that was going on a long time before all that – wasn’t it?
When I first started, it was a bit difficult because half the team were part-time – like Dave Donaldson, Dave Galvin, and Jeff Bryant. Then there was a young gang of Steve Parsons, Wally Downes, Steve Ketteridge, Fran Cowley came down from Derby as well and me.
Then younger players started coming through, first Glyn Hodges and as time moved on – John Gannon, Andy Thorn, and Brian Gayle. That was then start of a young group of players being together for a long time.
What you had back then – if you could find a way to bottle it and sell it these days – you’d make a fortune, wouldn’t you?!
If social media was around back then – we’d have been in serious trouble! Everyone looked out for everyone else. If someone did something to someone it was sorted by someone else. That camaraderie - you can’t beat.
Did it take a time for the magnitude of what you achieved that day in May 1988, against the might of Liverpool, to set in?
When you do sit down and think about it – it was fantastic to beat them. It was a special occasion going to Wembley and, personally, my Mum and Dad had never seen that sort of thing – so it was brilliant for them, and it was nice for me!
Asides from that memorable day, what other special memories do you have of playing for Wimbledon?
When we sealed promotion to the First Division at Huddersfield in 1986 - that was a good one. That was a special moment to get up into the top flight. To get in there and to be up there too after a few games – I’ve still got the clip now where Wimbledon were riding high!
The Plough Lane of old – the top flight teams hated going to it. When you look at the stadium we’ve got now – it’s set up for the future, isn’t it?
It’s fantastic! When you look back at the old Plough Lane, the dressing rooms were awful, the little gym was awful, everything was awful – but it was our little awful! This new stadium is brilliant.
What’s life like for you now, because you went into coaching, and you’ve done scouting for England as well?
I was lucky to stay in football for such a long time. I had quite a big spell working for the FA and scouting with Roy Hodgson, that was nice. I did a bit for West Brom and finished off at Burnley. Then covid came along and that was it for me. I just enjoy life now.
It’s difficult for a son to follow in his father’s footsteps, but you must be proud of Jack and what he has achieved in the game?
He’s been a good footballer and looked after himself. He’s 34, so he’s coming to the end of it now, which is a shame. I’m a proud Dad because he’s represented England and Great Britain at the Olympics.
All he needs is to just score a few more goals! I wanted to be more like him though – fitter, run around more and dedicated. He can’t score goals though – bless him!
John Fashanu told me he keeps his FA Cup medal locked up at home, Vinnie Jones donated his to the club and the museum – where do you keep yours?
Mine is up in the loft! I don’t get to see it that often. It’s out the way.
I’ve got all my scrapbooks though and I’ve got to decide what to do with them. I’ve got so many of them, because Mum and Dad would keep any clipping with my name in it and put it in a book. I’ve got five or six black bags of Cork clippings!
Main photo: Ian Stephen (Pro Sports Images).