Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Ardley Pledges Support to Stay-Away Dons Fans

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Ardley Pledges Support to Stay-Away Dons Fans

Article excerpt

Byline: Giuseppe Muro

MK DONS v AFC WIMBLEDON Budweiser FA Cup Sunday, 12.30pm, live on ITV1 NEAL ARDLEY today backed AFC Wimbledon fans planning to boycott Sunday's FA Cup game against MK Dons.

The second-round tie will be the first meeting between the two clubs since Wimbledon were controversially relocated to Milton Keynes and emotions are naturally running high.

Some supporters do not want the game to go ahead and are still unsure about travelling to Stadium:mk.

Wimbledon chief executive Erik Samuelson says it is up to the fans whether they want to stay away, a sentiment Ardley, now manager of the League Two team, agrees with.

He said: "It is an individual decision and people feel strongly about it. I think it is time for us to give the fans a little bit of support and say 'whatever you decide, we are 100 per cent behind you'. I would support their decision.

"It has brought a moral dilemma that many fans hoped would never happen but deep down knew that it would. Of course, I understand how the fans feel and if people do boycott it, they will still be supporting us from afar.

"I feel for them. People say football is a religion and to have something that you put your heart and soul into ripped away is going to hurt. I feel for the fans because it is a horrible situation."

Ardley, 40, made more than 300 appearances during 11 years with Wimbledon and was in his final season at the club when the move away from Selhurst Park was confirmed by a consortium led by Pete Winkelman.

"It was something we all felt was wrong," said the former midfielder. "We were being paid by the club so it was difficult for the players but deep down we were supporting the fans.

"In my opinion, AFC Wimbledon are Wimbledon and are the club that they were before. If you ask anyone like Dennis Wise or Robbie Earle, they will all say exactly the same thing. …

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