Fashanu: I understand the emotions, but let's have some peace and love in the FA Cup
20:50 GMT, 1 December 2012
Wimbledon legend John Fashanu has
called for 'peace and love' to break out between bitter rivals MK Dons
and AFC Wimbledon at their FA Cup second-round tie.
Fashanu, a key member of Wimbledon's
FA Cup-winning side in 1988, has defended the existence of MK Dons, a
team dubbed Franchise FC by many Wimbledon fans who accuse them of
'stealing' their old club when, in an unprecedented move in English
football, they were relocated to Milton Keynes and renamed nine years
Existing fans formed AFC Wimbledon as
a non-League club in 2002 and, while some will boycott the tie
altogether, others will attend the game in contamination suits to
underline their continuing contempt for Milton Keynes, who incorporated
the original 'Dons' nickname into their official name.
Different times: Wimbledon players celebrate their incredible 1988 FA Cup win
AFC's directors will keep away from the MK boardroom, while MK manager Karl Robinson said his scouts have been asked not to attend AFC home games in the build-up to the match.
Yet against this highly charged backdrop, Fashanu has admitted he embraces both clubs and defended his long-time chairman Sam Hammam, who sold Wimbledon to Pete Winkelman, who then moved them 60 miles north.
'I have to tread very carefully because I love the Dons and I love AFC Wimbledon,' said Fashanu. 'If AFC can beat MK it will be hard to know whether to laugh or cry. It's going to be so emotional for anyone and everyone connected to the Crazy Gang.
Legend: John Fashanu in action for Wimbledon
'All I hope is that we get to see a brilliant game and that afterwards, no matter who has won or lost, that there might be some peace and love between both clubs.
'MK Dons have a right to be where they are. Hard as it might be for some to stomach, Sam Hammam did what was necessary. He couldn't go any further in Wimbledon, he had hit a brick wall. This was the man who spent millions of his own money to keep Wimbledon going. He bankrolled the club and paid everyone huge salaries given the crowds we used to get.
'Wimbledon were a family club with unity and love for each other. That never changed for me even when they became the MK Dons. I'd never tell the fans what they should do or whether they should boycott the game. Only the individual can make that call. It's understandable people feel this way but it's also a huge shame.'
Fashanu, 50, will watch the contest on television in Nigeria, where he now works in business.
'It is a juggernaut of a tie. They have so much in common and, despite all the problems, will forever be linked in history,' said Fashanu, who will open a 50million football academy in London next weekend. 'It's going to be explosive.'
AFC Wimbledon are currently managed by former player Neal Ardley and now play their football only one division behind League One MK Dons after five promotions in nine seasons.
Much maligned: Former Wimbledon chairman Sam Hammam
Former Wimbledon director and lifelong fan Peter Miller, who grew up in a flat overlooking the club's original ground at Plough Lane, says those AFC supporters who attend will boycott any supplementary spending on food, drinks, merchandising or programmes.
'I will be there but many who have travelled the length and breadth of the country are boycotting the game,' said Miller. 'A few won't even watch it on television and even the directors are split.
'Such is the resentment against everything the MK Dons represents that our supporters have been asked not to put money into their coffers by buying programmes or using any of their food stalls.'
What's in a name: The MK Dons' stadium
Pete Winkelman, the MK Dons chairman, has admitted that he is 'not proud' of the way football came to Milton Keynes, having done the original deal, built the new stadium and developed the surrounding land.
But he insisted the club would not relinquish their 'Dons' name.
'I do understand that on this special occasion, this historic occasion, this first meeting, that AFC Wimbledon officials would rather sit with their own supporters,' he said. 'If there is a replay, I will do the same.
'But I was disappointed to hear about the boycott, I hope that doesn't happen. Boycotting your team or leaving your team alone is perhaps the worst way of voicing your disapproval of what went on.
On the up: AFC Wimbledon celebrate promotion from the Blue Square Premier League
'I've been very clear about this. I'm a custodian of the club and the only way our name could ever change is if our supporters demanded it. I take responsibility for the club getting here, but now it's here it's actually the responsibility of all of us. And I think it's incredibly clear, and clear in every conversation I have, that we are the MK Dons, we're going to stay the MK Dons, and in the future we're going to be the MK Dons.'
Although there is a tradition for sports clubs to change location for business reasons in America, the story of the Dons remains unique in English football.
Former player Wally Downes, now assistant manager at West Ham, said: 'I am not looking forward to the game. It's AFC Wimbledon against Franchise FC. MK Dons are in a position they didn't earn, they didn't even inherit it, they just bought it. Of the two teams, one is a proper football club and one is a fraud club. I can see why AFC fans would boycott the game.'