Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Wimbledon: This Is Where Our Heart Is

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Wimbledon: This Is Where Our Heart Is

Article excerpt

Byline: Julian Bennetts

WHEN Erik Samuelson was dragged to watch Wimbledon at Plough Lane by his son back in 1987 he could scarcely have imagined that almost three decades later he would be masterminding the club's return to their spiritual home.

Since then there has been an FA Cup victory, the demise of Plough Lane, temporary lodgings at Selhurst Park and the move to Milton Keynes before the rise of AFC Wimbledon.

Now, within the next few weeks, AFC Wimbledon will lodge a planning application for a stadium on the site of the current greyhound track in Merton, a stone's throw from what used to be Plough Lane where Wimbledon played until 1991.

AFC are confident they will be successful -- they should find out if that is the case in the spring -- and if all goes well they will be playing in the stadium by the start of the 2017-18 season.

With a capacity of 11,000 that could be expanded to 20,000 if they progress through the leagues, the potential stadium move would complete an astonishing journey.

"We started with nothing; no ground, no team, no manager, no kit, no training ground," said Samuelson, AFC's chief executive. "Now we're in the Football League, looking solid and are hoping to build a new ground. The story of the old Wimbledon was quite romantic, and it would be romantic for us to come home, to be back in the heart of our community where we belong."

AFC are based at Kingsmeadow Stadium with a capacity of 4,850 and situated six miles from the proposed new home. The club's swift ascent through the football pyramid is in danger of being stymied by their current ground and the lessons have been learned after the dilapidated state of Plough Lane eventually led to Wimbledon's demise.

"The last thing we want is to be as successful as the old club were and then choke to death as the old club did due to the stadium," said Samuelson. …

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