Tag Archives: Rivals

Creepy Crawley And The Nature Of Rivalry

One of the side effects of writing a blog that’s read by slightly more people than my wife and mum (my dad reads too…) is that every so often someone gets in touch and asks for a contribution to their own site. Often the questions asked come from a different angle and make me consider the club in a manner I wouldn’t normally, and one of those came last month in a piece I did for a website called Best of the Bets.

The question referred to our return to the Football League, and whether we’d be looking forward to renewing any old rivalries. Of course, no one really leapt out as a rival on promotion to League Two, I wrote a few lines about looking forward to finally facing Aldershot, some short-term excitement at reprising a couple of Premier League fixtures at Bradford and Swindon, two new London derbies (albeit ones that don’t exactly get the heart pumping).

Yet no one that really makes you sit up and relish facing off against hated local scum. Maybe one day that void will be filled by Aldershot once we’ve got a few years of mutual back slapping out of the way they’ll tire of being reminded certain clubs only took nine years to navigate their way through the non-league pyramid. Perhaps a club currently higher in the pecking order will drop down (or we’ll move up?) and fill that void… a Brentford, maybe even a Millwall (and I’m convinced when Fulham’s bubble eventually bursts they’ll end up making Bradford look a financial success story…).

The problem being that our rise, fall, and second coming has seen us never end up in the same division long enough to develop significant rivalries with clubs of equivalent size… Which has led to a series of almost manufactured rivalries developed almost to fill a void. The first was the almost comical Merton derbies with Raynes Park Vale, laughable in that as far as I can make Dons fans seem to make up the majority of Vale’s home crowds anyway.

Moving up the divisions, we missed out on a few local clubs such as Kingstonian and Sutton, long memories saw us briefly face off against historical rivals, the likes of Dulwich and Tooting, but mostly the keenest of contests came against those sides who somehow found an extra few hundred thousand pounds down the back of the sofa (or by not paying their tax bill for a few years), or welcomed in a rich benefactor for a few years until they eventually got bored and wandered off. Yet while the likes of Withdean and Bromley have now been left long behind, we do still have one thorn left sticking in our sides after scrabbling out of the non-league game, the team that came up with us last year…

Its unlikely Dons fans would be giving Crawley a second thought right now if it hadn’t been for a combination of two factors… their convicted criminal manager, and one of the few people in a game that tends to close its eyes and pull the blanket over its head when faced with potential scandal who has actually managed to have been conclusively proved to be a cheat. Then of course are the huge piles of cash that allowed themselves to buy their way into the League to begin with.

That Crawley are disliked by Dons fans is no great surprise… they didn’t exactly romp to victory in the popularity stakes last year in the Conference, and their presence in League Two has already ensured they aren’t exactly being welcomed with open arms up and down the country – hell, they even managed to turn Manchester United into popular favourites for a game last year…

The Dons selling out our allocation for Saturdays game probably isn’t too much of a surprise, what with the size of Kingsmeadow meaning pretty much every game has been a full house so far, what did surprise me was Crawley selling out their section, meaning they’ll actually have more in the ground than they did at their own stadium for an evening game against Wrexham a couple of years ago.

It seems this game has been elevated to rivalry status by the sheer number of times the two sides have faced off over the past couple of years, this being the eighth meeting in that time, and its no surprise the two sets of supporters are getting sick of each other… I’m not exactly salivating at the prospect of Saturdays game, it’s one to get out of the way more than anything, yet victory will be celebrated by all of us in the same manner last seasons comeback win was (Kedwell free this time).

And as for defeat… well it’s not exactly going to be like last week where the result was pretty much forgotten about five minutes after final whistle – it has the potential to be an evening-wrecker, much as losing to Hampton or Bromley was. You see, knowing we’ll probably have left Crawley spluttering in our dusty trail in two or three years time counts for nothing right now, especially if a large group of noisy visitors are left celebrating in the corner as we file away into the evening.

Lets face it, Crawley have done nothing wrong in spunking vast amounts of dubiously acquired cash at quick-fire promotions, they haven’t broken any wage caps, they are paying their bills up front, and as long as the Fat Eyelinered one hasn’t been up to his old manila envelope tricks they deserve to be where they are on merit (unlike certain other new towns we could mention). And yet the nation still seems to be captivated with the side that went up with them via the playoffs… Crawley were almost the forgotten champions.

Football fans love a good news story, and the Dons progress with Brown assembling a young talented side within budget, playing good football, will ensure Crawley remain in our shadow for a while yet. And that must really stick in their throats, you’ll hear it in the songs they sing, the desperation… they know what’s coming in the years to follow and are looking for cheap victories while they can, like Withdean, like Bromley, like Hampton… hate us now, so you’ll remember us when we’re gone…

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Them

The Anonymous Don is not my first effort at writing a blog. Around 3-4 years ago I had a a piss take MySpace page dedicated to MK Dons. I grew bored of it very quickly, but it certainly threw up a few surprises. For those of you not In The Know about MySpace it was pretty much a Facebook for strangers, which meant many weirdos, and plenty of mercenaries like myself picking up semi successful dates off the back of a photo taken when I was 21.

The other thing MySpace was really good for was keeping tabs on your favourite bands. One click, and you had their friendship for as long as you wanted. It wasn’t a one way street either, on MySpace you knew before anyone when tour dates were announced, or new albums available. So for example if you wanted to psych yourself up for a big game and needed to hear ‘Take Me Home’ By Everstrong but were too darn lazy to go to HMV Wimbledon, the only place you could buy it over the counter, you simply clicked your way towards Everstrongs page and hey ho! There it was, ready to play in the media player.

Naturally football fans saw a bandwagon and decided to jump on it, and before too long  every club had at least one profile dedicated to their club, each becoming friends with other clubs, posting each other messages and the like. Except MK. So I thought it would be a great idea to set one up for them, under the name MK ARMY!!!! (note exclamation marks) written by a Dongs fan called Frannie. I went to all the trouble of finding pictures and video of Dongs games, even learning a few names of their players (ugh…).

I started writing match reports, where Frannie showed his lack of knowledge about the game in general (for example, Frannie reveals his excitement about MK possibly reaching the Premier and getting to play Harchester United. Or Frannie takes directions from a Luton supporting neighbour for how to get to Walsall and ends up getting lost on the M6 toll). In other words it was stupid and childish. I got some supportive messages from fans of other clubs who got it. The thing was I also received a lot of messages from people who thought it was genuine…

Looking back the years before the move seemed such a muddled time, not just for the club but for me personally. Relegation had been a huge blow to Wimbledon as a club, the only benefit being it reignited my love for them. During my teenage years I barely missed a home game, and took every opportunity to travel away, especially the London games and the occasional treat of a match further afield. When I returned from University in Plymouth after two years away, a failed effort due to lack of finance and effort, I had lost the bug. The humbling at Fulham in the FA Cup was the last straw for me. I spent my Saturdays either playing or watching Kingstonian in the Conference.

But when the team started to fall down the table I was back at Selhurst, as well as making the trip to Bradford. The Aston Villa game was amazing, despite what happened afterwards a lot of Dons fans still rate it as among their favourite moments. Relegation made me more determined to follow my team. I had a season ticket for our first go at the Championship (or was it still called Division 1 then?), and attended most games the season after, the Protest Season. MK’s victory at the three man commission has been covered in great depth elsewhere, and the launch of AFC Wimbledon was so soon after I spent the three days in shock rather than anger.

It was like getting mugged then winning the lottery. AFCW are life changing, football for me has never been the same again. This was a real opportunity for us to take our own team as far as we could with the shared talents of our fan base. I remember being so excited waiting for the first friendly, which didn’t disappoint. There was one small cloud on the horizon however.

At the time any thought or mention of MK filled me with impotent rage, this after all being a football club seventy miles north of where I lived, and several divisions above us. This anger had no outlet, and was finally quelled when I started receiving those MySpace messages, some abusive, some curious. I realised that despite creating this exaggeration of a character, whose catchphrase ‘I love the banter!’ was blatantly stolen from Rob Brydon, normal football fans had no difficulties believing they were looking at a bone fide MK Dons page. Normal football fans just assumed that MK fans are desperately sad individuals, as we did. And this made me feel great.

These days I’m still happy to see them throw away two goal leads at home to Crewe. I never thought I’d see the day Millwall fans showed solidarity by chanting our name at the Winkiedome. I’m glad most football fans respect us for taking a stand. Occasionally I meet people who dismiss us, who claim the true history of Wimbledon football has left and gone to MK, and you try to argue, you try to get your point across, but its like talking to a fax machine. You can never make yourself heard above the whine coming back at you.

Fortunately I’ve never had the misfortune of bumping into a real life franchiser. I have no idea how I’ll react. I’m pretty laid back, so I’d probably just ignore them but be secretly pissed off for the rest of the day. And what if some day we have to play them. The irrational part of my brain can see the positives of playing, and beating them. Secretly its what we all want to happen. The consequences of defeat aren’t worth thinking about.

I was on a train back from Weston Super Mare with dozens of other Dons, as the train pulled in to Swindon station the Dons fans heads started poking up from behind seats one by one like meercats. MK had played Swindon that day, and even though logic would suggest any Dong in attendance would be back home in bed by then, we were on the look out for stragglers. People were up at the doors peering up and down the platform in case they were hiding, but the only people there were a bunch of confused Oxford fans on their way back from Forest Green, wondering what they had done to deserve such attention.

Playing MK would attract the media’s attention, and in true tabloid fashion there will be a few articles looking to stoke up the tension before the big game. Angry Dons fans will boycott any away or cup fixture, but Dons fans looking for personal revenge and a bit of trouble won’t think twice about it. Its absolutely inevitable there will be problems at any fixture we play against them because of this. Fans who would normally go out of their way to avoid trouble will find themselves caught up in the hatred.

For now I don’t even want to think about them. There’s no place in my heart for hatred right now. I’m too busy watching my football club to care. We will have to play them at some point in the future, but lets worry about that when it happens. Right now we have a couple of promotions before it happens, so lets just enjoy the football.

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