Don the way up: AFC Wimbledon refuse to be compared to any other club, especially MK Dons

Ross McLean
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A.F.C. Wimbledon v Shrewsbury Town - Sky Bet League One
AFC Wimbledon have accrued eight points from eight League One matches this term (Source: Getty)

AFC Wimbledon have long since risen from the ashes of despair and destruction. They have done their talking and do not feel the need to practise any more politics before hosting the ghost of incarnations past on Friday night.

On some level, however, they will be forever haunted by Milton Keynes Dons, the club born when the original Wimbledon were controversially relocated from south London to Buckinghamshire in 2003 – a period which evokes plenty of painful memories.

When AFC Wimbledon secured promotion to League One in May 2016, which ensured the two sides would play at the same level for the first time, their chief executive Erik Samuelson told City A.M.: “We’re not going to let them intrude. They’ve had enough involvement in what we’ve done. They can disappear into the background, this is about us.”

Plymouth Argyle v AFC Wimbledon - Sky Bet League Two Play Off Final
AFC Wimbledon won promotion to League One in May 2016 (Source: Getty)

If the spectre of MK Dons does remain, AFC Wimbledon are intent on forging their own future and, even with on-pitch hostilities resuming in Kingston on Friday evening, they are determined to avoid the burden of history.

“It’s important to focus on who we are and what we’ve achieved, not have our progress measured in relation to any other team at all,” says Samuelson.

“As for the game this Friday, we just want it to pass by quietly, as it did last season, and to get on with the rest of the season. That’s all I really want to say about it.”

AFC Wimbledon V Northampton Town - Sky Bet League Two
AFC Wimbledon hope to move to their spiritual home of Plough Lane ahead of the 2019/20 season (Source: Getty)

The progress Samuelson talks about is stark; six promotions since their formation in 2002, while a new 11,000-capacity stadium at their spiritual home on Plough Lane is on course to open its doors in time for the 2019-20 campaign.

AFC Wimbledon finished their inaugural season at League One level, which included a cathartic 2-0 victory over MK Dons in March, in 15th place and a healthy eight points clear of relegation.

They have endured a mixed start this time around with eight points from as many games although, while stability is paramount, Samuelson has not ruled out manager Neal Ardley masterminding a Championship promotion push.

“The hope is always to be in and around the play-offs,” adds Samuelson, a former partner at PwC.

“The thing we are determined to achieve, if we can’t do that, is to stay in League One because when we move to our new stadium we want to be at least in League One.

Northampton Town v A.F.C. Wimbledon - Sky Bet League One
Erik Samuelson has not ruled out Neal Ardley masterminding a promotion push this term (Source: Getty)

“It’s important that we consolidate as a minimum and, ideally, improve on last season’s position and maybe, at a stretch, push for the play-offs.

AFC Wimbledon head into their MK Dons showdown having halted the four-match winning run of former Premier League champions Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park on Saturday. Striker Kwesi Appiah’s early clincher sealed their first league victory away from home since February.

“We’ve beaten the FA Cup winners [Portsmouth] before but yes [beating Blackburn was the biggest standalone victory in the club’s history],” added Samuelson.

“When you look at the league we’re in and the scale of the teams who went up last season, like Sheffield United and Bolton, and now Blackburn, these are massive clubs.

“It’s a nice reminder of just how far we’ve come and what we’ve achieved. At the same time, you cannot be intimidated by it and we’re not.”

The backstory of AFC Wimbledon suggests they are not easily daunted, not even by blasts from the past.

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