Wimbledon in Sporting History was delighted on March 26th to spearhead the latest heritage offering in Merton, with the unveiling of a number of exciting, creative installations at the AFC Wimbledon stadium. Some thirty WiSH volunteers, fans and legends from past footballing glories were present to witness these eye-catching celebrations of some truly historic Wimbledon moments and footballing greats – now on display for all to see when visiting the Plough Lane stadium for matches or stadium tours. WiSH worked closely with AFC Wimbledon and the Dons Trust – in a One Club initiative – to make sure this all happened.
The four must-see installations unveiled on Saturday March 26th are:
1) A creatively visual timeline of football in Wimbledon
This showcases highlights from the history of Wimbledon’s fascinating rise, fall and rise between 1889 and 2020 – and can be seen in the main concourse area of the West stand after passing through the turnstiles. Common in 1889, through the eras of Doc Dowden’s Super Dons in the late 1940s and 1950s, the great non-league to League Batsford Boys of the 1970s, Dave Bassett’s “Mission Impossible” outfit of the 1980s, the Premier League Top Dons of the 1990s, and then the resurrection era of AFC Wimbledon from 2002 through to the club’s return to Plough Lane in 2020. In the midst of the timeline is a comprehensive Family Tree, chronicling the details of the club’s fascinating hinterland, including those of its women’s teams. The timeline took months of hard work in fund-raising, preparations and creative design, and is a stunning display of history captured under the words of the fans’ famous chant: “The Wombles had a dream, To watch their football team, Playing back at Plough Lane where they belong”. Timeline project manager, Matt Couper, paid tribute to those fans who raised nearly £12,000 to pay for the timeline and new installations: “All this work, indeed even this magnificent stadium, is thanks to the fans, which is a pretty impressive achievement”.
2) “We are Winners” wall
This is the first eye-grabbing feature to greet you when entering the West Stand at the top of the stairs before the turnstiles. This (near) ceiling to floor installation, on both sides of the concourse, celebrates four outstanding, successful years in Wimbledon’s footballing history – 1963 (FA Amateur Cup Final win at Wembley); 1988 (FA Cup victory over Liverpool at Wembley); 2011 (winning promotion back into the Football League with victory over Luton in a play-off final in Manchester City’s stadium); and 2016 (securing promotion to League One by defeating Plymouth in a play-off final at Wembley).
The club’s goalkeeping hero from 2011, Seb Brown, was among the guests at the Winners Wall launch, and he told WiSH: “It’s fantastic. The placement is great. As soon as you come through the gates, you’re hit by all the different milestones and the teams that have been part of them. It hits home how far we’ve come as a club, how much success we’ve had – and how everyone has been part of different eras of all of this. It ties everyone to this place, whatever era you’ve lived through. You can’t walk through this foyer now without history being all around you – it’s just so positive”.
3) Tribute installation commemorating Allen Batsford
The man considered by most to be Wimbledon’s greatest manager takes pride of place in this feature on the outside of the south east corner of the stadium. Allen amazingly secured an FA Cup third round win in 1975 for lowly non-league Wimbledon over top division Burnley (plus a draw at European high-fliers Leeds at Elland Road), as well as the three consecutive Southern League championships in the mid-1970s which paved the way for Wimbledon FC’s historic election to the Football League in 1977. Allen’s widow, Maureen Batsford, was present on Saturday to see the unveiling of this wonderful celebration of one of Wimbledon’s all time greatest. “I’m so proud”, she said. “It’s just lovely”.
4) New fans’ photo mosaic
Outside the East Stand, this mural complements the original which has pride of place close to the timeline in the main West Stand concourse. The new mosaic depicts the closed, graffiti’d blue gates of the old Plough Lane stadium and features more photos of fans from different eras whose photos did not feature in the original artwork. It now has almost 3,000 separate images from 440 fans. An additional feature of the new mosaic is another timeline of the football club which surrounds the main mosaic – a celebration again of the rich history of football in Wimbledon.
After the opening of “The Greatest Story in Football” exhibition room (or “museum”) in September 2021, these four new stunning heritage installations are just the latest contribution by Wimbledon in Sporting History to the celebration and sharing of Wimbledon’s rich football history. The Dons’ goalkeeping hero from the great 1970s Batsford Boys team, Dickie Guy, was among the Wimbledon legends present to see these latest displays unveiled, and he was full of praise for all that WiSH has done. His verdict: “You’ve done an amazing job!”
The work continues though. Watch this space for more exciting projects to come this summer which will further build on our efforts to chart our local club’s history and its place in producing that “greatest story in football”.
*Opening ceremony video comming soon