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AFC Wimbledon should bury hatchet with MK Dons, say Crazy Gang members

It's time to bury the hatchet with MK… so long as they ditch the 'Dons', say original Crazy Gang ahead of grudge match

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UPDATED:

17:57 GMT, 29 November 2012

It may have been 24 years ago but when the FA Cup comes around, it still stirs passionate emotions among the most famous football mavericks of them all – the Crazy Gang of Wimbledon who shocked the then mighty Liverpool to lift the famous old trophy at Wembley in 1988.

And those passions are no less fiery due to the nature of this weekend’s second round games that pit the reborn AFC Wimbledon against the hated club they call the franchise robbers who stole their birthright – MK Dons.

It was when the original Wimbledon, founder members of the Premier League, died and their League place in the fourth tier was snapped up by the Milton Keynes outfit, headed by opportunist chairman Pete Winkelman, that a vow was taken to restore the old club.

The upset to end all upsets: Lawrie Sanchez heads the winning goal in the 1988 FA Cup Final at Wembley

The upset to end all upsets: Lawrie Sanchez heads the winning goal in the 1988 FA Cup Final at Wembley

Legends: Dave Beasant (centre) and Bobby Gould (bottom) celebrate with the famous old trophy

Legends: Dave Beasant (centre) and Bobby Gould (bottom) celebrate with the famous old trophy

So successful has that been that AFC have climbed all the way back from the Combined Counties League and back into the Football League – and now have the draw that the game would lick their lips over – though AFC fans have warned they won’t set foot in the place that forced them to start all over again on a park pitch.

But the old Dons heroes, the REAL Dons, who won that FA Cup, believe it is time to bury the hatchet with MK – as long as Winkelman agrees to drop the Dons from their name and renames them City, Town, United or some other.

Goalkeeper Dave Beasant, who comes only behind FA Cup Final scorer Lawrie Sanchez in the pantheon of Wimbledon legends by saving a penalty on the great day, led the call last night to call a truce.

Beasant said: ‘There is a lot of bitterness from AFC fans that Wimbledon lost their League status. They think that MK didn’t go about it the right way, when they should have only gained a place in the League by qualifying through non-league football.

‘You understand the bitterness but it’s been done, it was a while and the position isn’t going to be changed. And MK Dons are a progressive team, having gained promotion to League Three, just as AFC have progressed into the League proper.

Dons folklore: Beasant dives to his left to save a penalty from Liverpool striker John Aldridge

Dons folklore: Beasant dives to his left to save a penalty from Liverpool striker John Aldridge in the Final

‘I know a lot of fans won’t forget about it. But this is now a Cup match, the two teams are meeting for the first time. And AFC getting there from where they started is what Wimbledon’s history is all about.

‘We were never a big club but got a big name through winning the FA Cup. It’s a game that will be talked about because of the way MK attained their League status on the back of Wimbledon losing theirs.

FA Cup Final 1988 – Match Facts

Wimbledon: Dave Beasant (c); Clive Goodyear, Eric Young, Andy Thorn, Terry Phelan; Alan Cork (Laurie Cunningham 56), Vinnie Jones, Lawrie Sanchez, Dennis Wise; John Fashanu, Terry Gibson (John Scales 63)

Manager: Bobby Gould

Goals: Sanchez 37

Liverpool: Bruce Grobbelaar; Steve Nicol, Gary Gillespie, Alan Hansen (c), Gary Ablett; Ray Houghton, Nigel Spackman (Jan Mlby 74), Steve McMahon, John Barnes; Peter Beardsley, John Aldridge (Craig Johnston 64)

Manager: Kenny Dalglish

‘Of course I have more of a feeling for AFC because they represent the foundations that Wimbledon came from. I don’t know how many fans went with MK or how many stayed. I know a few did and one or two became directors.

‘But I do feel they should stand on their own two feet now as Milton Keynes – forget calling themselves Dons.’

Beasant, now a part-time coach with Bristol Rovers and previously Glenn Hoddle’s academy in Spain until it finished, added: ‘If they would drop the Dons from their name, I do feel that would go some way to appeasing Wimbledon’s current fans.’

In looking back to those great days of the Crazy Gang, Beasant says: ’We weren’t given the credit we deserved as individual players because of the way we played. But look how many of us did move on to bigger clubs after the Cup triumph – myself, the likes of John Fashanu, Dennis Wise and Vinnie Jones.’

Yet through the mists of time he sees one man as the original Crazy Gang founder – current West Ham coach Wally Downes. Beasant explained: ‘He was the original before myself and Alan Cork joined in. Then the likes of Fash, Wisey and Vinny became associate members.’

New dawn: Wimbledon's league place was taken by the newly-formed MK Dons in 2004

New dawn: Wimbledon's league place was taken by the newly-formed MK Dons in 2004

New dawn: Wimbledon's league place was taken by the newly-formed MK Dons in 2004

Injury prevented Downes from sharing in the FA Cup glory but he was there from the start as an apprentice Crazy Gangster.

Another who came through that route was Cup Finalist Andy Thorn, up until recently the Coventry manager before his heroic struggle to keep them from being relegated to Division One gave out.

Thorn, who is now eager to get back into the managerial fray after settling compensation, remembers the kind of stunt the Gang were famous for. He said: ‘We used to go everywhere in this minibus, lads all piled in the back, feet up on the kit like a bunch of schoolboys. That was the way we went to White Hart Lane to play our FA Cup semi-final against Luton.

‘It was a minibus I remembered well after my first experience of the senior team, a trip to Leyton Orient when I was probably 13th man.

VIDEO: Dean Holdsworth's FA Cup memories

‘After we won, I was ordered to get to the nearest off licence in Leyton High St to get the beers in. I duly brought armfuls of cans back, handed them over, upon which the back doors were slammed in my face and they roared off leaving me stranded in the middle of the high street!

‘So I was left to get a couple of buses and trains back home on my own.

‘But it was all part of the growing up, the toughening up. We don’t go out of our way to see each other these days but it’s as though we’ve never been away when we do bump into each other. It seems we’re all following the same pattern of life, a few divorces, and we’re all moving on.

‘On the big game, I regard them as two
completely separate clubs now. But with Wimbledon, the way we battled
from where we came from to get as far as founder members of the Premier
League, what we had to overcome, the supporters of the new AFC have done
exactly the same thing. It epitomises what Wimbledon are all about.’

Phoenix from the flames: AFC Wimbledon have risen through non-league football to League Two

Phoenix from the flames: AFC Wimbledon have risen through non-league football to League Two

Phoenix from the flames: AFC Wimbledon have risen through non-league football to League Two

Cup Final winning manager Bobby Gould regards himself as an honorary Crazy Gang member and recalls hilarious times. Gould, who now has a regular show on Talksport, said: ‘I originally joined Wimbledon as a player after the sack from Chelsea as a coach in 1981 when I answered an advert from then manager Dave Bassett for a centre forward. It was 40 a week and 20 expenses.

‘When I was manager the one who was always up to something was Dennis Wise. I could never take my eyes off him.

‘The players used to have what was known as The Circle when a dispute needed settling. They would form a circle and the two players who had a problem with each other would have a grapple, like wrestling – but no punching or biting!

‘After a few days there, Wisey shouted: ‘’Circle’’. I said: ‘’Who’s in it’’ He said: ‘’You are Gouldy, you’ve upset me’’. So I couldn’t back down,

‘We started to fight and all of a sudden I land on his fist and crack a rib. I had the physio Steve Allan in and said: ‘’Get me up the stairs to the dressing room before I faint because at the moment I’m winning’!

‘But I had fought Wisey in the circle. We laughed and we never stopped. But the beauty of them was they knew when they wanted to do the job and went about it the right way.’

VIDEO: We are Wimbledon

Gould will be supporting AFC this weekend, though admits: ‘I started off supporting MK in the early days, simply because I wanted Wimbledon to survive in some form or other. But once AFC came on the scene, starting up from a Sunday kickabout, my allegiance changed to them.

‘On the day I’ll be wearing my lucky tracksuit that I wore the day we won the FA Cup. I agree with Dave Beasant that now MK should do the decent thing and drop the Dons part of their name. Why not be City, United or whatever. They don’t need it, they’ve handed back all the trophies so they recognise that Wimbledon are the true Dons.’

Alan Cork, who can proudly claim that he played for Wimbledon in every division of the old Football League, sadly does not connect with AFC as much as some of the others. He said: ‘I don’t have a club to go back to in Wimbledon like I can with Sheffield United, because it’s not the same one I played for. I know a lot of the boys do associate with AFC but as far as any dispute with MK Dons is concerned I don’t have a serious view.’

Cork, formerly a No 2 for Gary Megson at Bolton and now a part-time scout for Stuart Pearce’s England Under 21s, added: ‘MK have an excellent stadium and a thriving club. The cup tie I won’t be supporting either, as my loyalties now are to Southampton where my son Jack plays and is doing very well.

‘It’s hard to get to watch him because I am normally at another game. I was recently at Italy v. Spain Under 21s for Stuart. Italy are in our group in the championship finals next summer. Spain have got quite some side….’

Different Dons with differing views but the old boys will all have memories of great past deeds this weekend.

VIDEO: The best FA Cup second-round shocks

Saturday debate: Should the FA Cup be seeded?

Saturday debate: Should the FA Cup be seeded

IAN LADYMAN

No. Categorically not. The FA Cup has already been squeezed out of shape. We've lost multiple replays, for example, and now have the shameful spectacle of seeing the semi-finals played at Wembley. The last thing we need is to introduce a system that would effectively play into the hands of the big teams. The FA Cup is standing the test of time simply because it remains such a romantic, intriguing competition. The one thing I would suggest – if only for a trial season – would be that any team drawn against a team from a lower league should automatically be made to play the tie away from home.

High times: Jamie Hewitt scores for Chesterfield in Cup semi-final against Middlesbrough

High times: Jamie Hewitt scores for Chesterfield in Cup semi-final against Middlesbrough

NEIL ASHTON

Yes. The FA could generate so much more excitement around the competition if they forced the team in the higher division to play away, creating a potential giant-killing in virtually every tie. For example, Tottenham's home tie with Cheltenham in this year's third round would instead be played at Whaddon Road; likewise Everton v Tamworth. The FA could add to the occasion and generate better atmospheres by playing every round under lights in midweek. Replays should also be scrapped, which would increase the prospect of teams in lower divisions getting a scalp on home territory.

MATT BARLOW

No seedings for me, thanks. The FA Cup's beauty is rooted in its free nature and the element of chance. Giant-killings are great but so are tales like Chesterfield's run to the semi-finals in 1997, which was assisted by five home ties. We ought to cherish the competition and protect its status.

Glory days: Dave Beasant celebrates Wimbledon's Cup triumph

Glory days: Dave Beasant celebrates Wimbledon's Cup triumph

ALEX KAY

Even the question makes my blood boil. The FA Cup has provided us with some fairytale winners: Coventry in 1987, Wimbledon in 1988 and Portsmouth in 2008 are just a few recent ones. But they were made possible by big teams knocking out other big teams, which seeding would make impossible. It's those unlikely winners that we still talk about now.

LEE CLAYTON

No. Too much has been changed. The old Cup has taken a battering but remains a cherished competition with nostalgia and a hint of magic. City v United electrifies the round and, if the Cup were to be seeded, we'd end up with the same teams left in all the time. Leave it alone!

LAURA WILLIAMSON

No. Getting rid of replays and slashing ticket prices could help some Premier League teams work up a bit more enthusiasm. Why should the smaller clubs be denied a big pay-day and the chance to play in a 40,000-seat stadium It's fine as it is.

Sweet success: Portsmouth celebrate 2008 triumph

Sweet success: Portsmouth celebrate 2008 triumph

RONNIE RADFORD

(Scorer of THAT goal for Hereford v Newcastle in 1972)

They should leave the draw alone. You are talking about doing something to make it easier for top teams to win it – that is not what the Cup is about. The Cup changes people's lives – and not just those who play in it, but whole communities. The Cup has gone down in Hereford folklore. I have memories and friendships which I wouldn't have otherwise and which 150,000 a week couldn't give me.

DAVE BEASANT

(Wimbledon FA Cup hero, who saved a penalty in the 1988 final)

There's no way the FA Cup should be seeded. I know the idea would be so that the biggest clubs get to the final, but this weekend's clash between Manchester United and Manchester City is massive in itself and would not happen if the competition were seeded. The luck of the draw is all part and parcel of the competition and it should stay that way.

DAVID BERNSTEIN

(Football Association chairman)

What makes the FA Cup so special is that the draw has that magical air of unpredictability about it and I think it needs to retain that aspect so it has a unique identity when compared with other competitions. Who could predict that we would have a Manchester derby in the third round this season Don't forget that Manchester United were drawn against Liverpool at the same stage last year, which shows that all clubs, regardless of size, are at the mercy of the draw on the day. Crawley also got to play at Old Trafford and it's this variety that makes the draw essential viewing. I'll be at MK Dons v QPR and I'm sure the home fans will be eyeing up a giant-killing. It's these prospects that have made the FA Cup the great competition that it is.