Fans who led the way for the Dons

AFC Wimbledon’s first chairman Kris Stewart is active at the club again, after being energized by the bond issue which raised the final money to build.

Stewart steered the club through four managers and three promotions and handed over to Erik Samuelson in 2006.

There are others who have found the lure of being a part of this most romantic of clubs too hard to tear themselves away from.

Another of the founders, Marc Jones had a big part in the commemorative program which will come out for Tuesday’s match against Doncaster Rovers – the Dons’ first home game in almost 30 years.

Ivor Heller is still commercial director and Trevor Williams – one of the other fans who created AFC Dons, has jokingly threatened to write a book called I Was There Too.

Samuelson said: “Trevor is still there as a volunteer kitman and to support the management and is a much loved and respected part of the club.

“I still think the achievement of Terry Brown – the manager who took us into the Football League – will be hard to match.”

Samuelson also listed other unsung heroes:

Chief steward Luke Mackenzie

Shop manager for 14 years Tim Hillyer

Golden Goal and Junior Dons manager Roger Dennis, who also did Kingsmeadow tours and was on the first board of the Don’s Trust.

Dave Chan and Paul Fletcher both volunteer stewarded from day one, or soon after

Neil Messenbird who ran the cash office, the Dons Draw and the turnstiles for 13 years.

Samuelson said: “Most of those people missed the first half-hour of every game to do those tasks.

“What they achieved was extraordinary and they were one of the reasons that we succeeded. They were all offered payment but turned it down.”

Samuelson acknowledges the importance of a changing mood at Merton council in 2003, when Steve Alambritis led the opposition.

Samuelson said: “We had won promotion to the Conference South and suddenly people were talking about what we needed to do, to build a stadium in Merton – instead of people politely pointing us to the long grass.

“The council’s attitude was vital. We have spoken to other clubs and they all say it is a nightmare if your council is not on your side.”

Samuelson also applauds the support of business organisation Future Merton, led by James McGinley, Tara Butler and Paul McGarry, who did a lot of the planning leg work. Lawyer Dan Norris of Hogan Lovells led the club through the tricky minefield of agreeing issues like VAT with Galliard.

Chelsea chief executive Bruce Buck agreeing to buy Kingsmeadow for £7.5 million was also crucial.

The Dons had more than tripled their £2.4 million investment from 2005 – though they had spent thousands on upgrades.

Samuelson is still angry that then London mayor Boris Johnson blocked the project in March 2016, against the advice of his own officers.

By contrast his successor Sadiq Khan agreed the plan to go ahead.

Supporters of the decaying Greyhound Stadium tried to get then-Communities Minister Sajid Javid to intervene – and also Historic England. Finally in December 2017, the legal agreement between the Dons, the council and developers Galliard was signed outside the site for the new stadium.

The spot is a pedestrian crossing.


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