John McCormick writes: I have visited Kingston-upon-Thames. It was within a couple of years of our Wembley triumph (the second one) and I can’t remember much about it, though I’m sure it certainly never struck me as a place that would host a professional football club.
But what do I know about football?
Clearly it’s not as much as Pete Sixsmith
Now, this is an interesting one. We have never played this club. We have played Wimbledon and we did play something that purported to be Wimbledon at a hockey stadium in Buckinghamshire, but AFC? Never.
While they were busy in the Combined Counties League between 2002-04, we were blowing away all the good will that Peter Reid had brought to the club, with a succession of dismal performances and equally dismal signings. Patrick Mboma anyone?
While they were working their way through the Isthmian League (2004-08), we were being relegated with 19 points, getting to an FA Cup semi-final, winning the Championship and going back down again with a dismal 15 points.
In their Conference years (2008-11), we saw the Drumaville renaissance, Roy Keane, that wonderful day when we stayed up and the Mags went down, Steve Bruce, Darren Bent and a 10th place finish in the Premier League.
As they came into the Football League in 2011, we were dispensing with Bruce’s services (with hindsight, a mistake) appointing Martin O’ Neill, sacking him, appointing Paolo di Canio, sacking him, appointing Gus Poyet, getting to Wembley, pulling off an unlikely escape from relegation, sacking Poyet, appointing Dick Advocaat, pulling off another unlikely escape, sacking him, appointing Sam Allardyce, pulling off another escape and watching the Mags go down again, losing Allardyce to England, making the worst appointment in the history of the club, being relegated, appointing two managers who combined to get us relegated to the third tier, almost going bust, and now under new ownership and new management.
And all the time AFC Wimbledon have sailed serenely on and are now in the same league as a club that has 6 league titles to its name, a 48,000-seater stadium, 23,000 season ticket holders and at long last, a grasp on reality after six years of delusion.
So, we make our inaugural visit to Kingsmeadow, situated in The Royal Borough of Kingston-Upon-Thames and formally the home of Kingstonian F.C. AFC moved in with them in 2002 when they reformed and bought out the landlords in 2006. The ground is also used by Chelsea for non-first team and Women’s football, and Chelsea have purchased the ground from AFC.
That brings us to the next part of the story as Kingstonian have left what was once their own ground and are lodging with Corinthian-Casuals at Tolworth and AFC have started to build a new stadium on the site of Wimbledon Stadium (dogs, speedway and stock cars – not all at the same time) which is yards away from the original Wimbledon FC’s ground at Plough Lane, back in their home borough of Merton.
They must have enjoyed last season as they retained their place in Division One while their nemesis, Franchise FC went down to the nether regions of the Football League and hopefully to further oblivion.
In their first three games they have won at Fleetwood, drawn at home to Coventry and at Barnsley. In addition to that, they have put Portsmouth out of the League Cup by winning at Fratton Park, earning them a home tie with West Ham United. I bet they are looking forward to that.
|I hope that they are looking forward to hosting us. Kingston-upon-Thames is hardly a traditional footballing venue. It’s the kind of place where Terry and June would have lived and Surbiton, the setting for The Good Life (pause to drool over Felicity Kendall) is within the boundaries of the Royal Borough.|
The town is busy, has a shopping centre called the Bentall Centre and a very pleasant riverside walk. I had a decent lunch and a pleasant pint of Youngs Bitter at The Bishop on the banks of the Thames but I was told that there are better pubs. The Good Beer Guide recommends The Albion, The Willoughby Arms (where the Yardbirds used to play) and a Wetherspoons Beer Hall called The King’s Tun.
Old folkies (this means you M. Salut) would enjoy Kingston as it has been home to Dave Swarbrick (great fiddle player and the subject of two obits in The Daily Telegraph), John Martyn, crazy but talented singer with a great chuckle and the divine Sandy Denny, her of the pure voice who asks that immortal question Who Knows Where the Time Goes? It was also the home town of composer Derek Bourgeois – what could be more fitting.
The ground is nothing special but it is home to a club who have rebuilt from scratch while others, (Stockport County, York City, Darlington, Torquay United, us) have slid away under dismal ownership.
I have made one visit to The Cherry Red Records Stadium, in 2011 when I saw Accrington Stanley triumph 2-0. It was AFC’s first season up and they had started reasonably well. Stanley came and punctured that well being with a clinical 2-0 win, the goals coming from former Hartlepool player Padraig Almond and Craig Lindfield with former Birmingham, Charlton and Hull City player Bryan Hughes giving a master class in how to run a midfield. Hopefully, Dylan McGeoch will be fit enough to emulate him.
Finally, a shout out for Terry Hall (without Lenny the Lion) who runs a wonderful badge stall at Kingsmeadow and is a dyed in the wool Dons fan.
He has produced a match day badge and will be selling it from his stall at the entrance to the stadium. Pop over and say hello. Tell him I sent you.
But don’t ask for a discount.
5 thoughts on “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Ground: AFC Wimbledon and Kingsmeadow”
Thankyou for your magical writing, much missed whilst away on family holiday.
Lovely article, much appreciated by this Wimbledon fan.
If you’re going straight to the ground by train from Waterloo, you’re better off getting a train to Norbiton, it’s 10 mins walk from there. The stadium bars will be busy but you can get an excellent pint of one of the Wimbledon Brewery excellent ales.
Thanks for that, John. A lifelong Sunderland supporter, my first match at Roker Park starred Ambrose Fogarty. I’ve been exiled to the Kingston area for the last 35 years.
Travelling fans will find a pleasant town centre but should be warned that the Kingsmeadow ground is a long way from the Kingston-upon-Thames railway station and town centre. You can get a 131 bus from near the station which will drop you outside the ground.
Have a great day out. Alas, at my age I couldn’t face the prospect of standing for the best part of 2 hours — even to watch Max Power score another two goals.
I’m surprised Peter hasn’t mentioned Wimbledon’s famous “celebrity supporter” one Brian “Memory” Lane played by Alun Armstrong in “New Tricks” who invariably wore a Wimbledon shirt despite never trying to disguise his North East accent.
I remember that visit to the National Hockey Stadium. It was only two days after we had lost to Millwall in the FA Cup semi final and some 14 year old Womble felt the full force of Mr Sixsmith’s acerbic tongue for trying to make some reference to that defeat. Somewhat more effective than the normal 7 letter instruction which many a supporter would have used in reply.
We got our own back though as we won 2-1 and eventually finished third while the relocated Wimbledon who were about to change their name were relegated.
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