Moses won’t make Promised Land

Former AFC Wimbledon chief executive Erik Samuelson was one of the masterminds of their return to their spiritual home.

But much like Moses, he will not be able to attend their return to the Promised Land.

The 72-year-old led the project from its early stages in around 2008, to where it looked a possibility in 2013.

And he steered it through the planning application, the very tricky agreement with Merton council and developers Galliard and through to an agreement with all three parties.

The massive setback of the application being blocked by then London mayor Boris Johnson in March 2016 was reversed by his successor Sadiq Khan six months later.

Samuelson stepped down in April 2019.

Former Sheffield Wednesday chief executive Joe Palmer will see the culmination of the project when the Dons host Doncaster Rovers on Tuesday night.

But Samuelson will not be there.

His last visit to the site was in March, taking around All England Tennis Club chief executive Richard Lewis.

He said: “I don’t really want to see a game in an empty ground. It won’t feel like a proper opening until there are fans there.

“It is great to have some good news in the middle of a pandemic and the mess being made in this dysfunctional dystopian environment.

“It is a fantastic rounding off of the story about the club losing everything and now getting to the stage of having almost everything back.”

Samuelson is writing a book about the creation of the club – he has so far interviewed 60 people including commercial director Ivor Heller and former player and coach Simon Bassey, who are among the longest-serving members of staff.

Samuelson said: “I have always been poor at taking time to appreciate what the club has achieved so I am restless and thinking of what we do now. The aim has been clear for 18 years – to get into the league and build a stadium and that has all been done now. It is now up to the Dons Trust board and the football club board what the club does next.

“I don’t think for a moment anyone will be resting on their laurels.

“My best decision was to argue that we had to buy Kingsmeadow six weeks after we started ground sharing with Kingstonian.”

Samuelson will continue his Dons links as chairman of the AFC Wimbledon Foundation – an independent charitable company which has been active for 18 years in the Merton community.

“We look forward to having a base in Plough Lane,” he said. “We want to make it a real hub for the community”.

Samuelson’s successor Joe Palmer, a former chief executive of Sheffield Wednesday, said: “One of the biggest challenges was probably raising the finance to make this dream a reality but we finally got there at the end of the year.

“The fans raised more than £7.5million which is an unbelievable achievement. We want this stadium to be living and breathing seven days a week with community events, a pub that’s open 7-days a week. We want this to be a real hub for the community. Wimbledon haven’t actually played in Wimbledon for almost 30 years so it’s really important for the fans to be back in the borough – back in their home, playing football.”

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