Kingston upon Thames is not a location associated with football diehards but there will be around 3,000 energised spectators at the Kingsmeadow stadium this afternoon for a pre-season meeting between the two most high-profile supporter-run start-up clubs in England: AFC Wimbledon (founded 2002) and FC United of Manchester (founded 2005).
The occasion is the Supporters Direct Cup, a friendly event with a barbecue and fund-raising auction in a week when the Chelsea captain, John Terry, who lives not far from Kingston, decides whether to accept an annual salary of around £10m from Manchester City – or £7.5m from Chelsea.
It is a reminder that there is life beyond the Premier League and beyond the skyscraper finance that sees Manchester United carry a debt estimated at £700m. As Kevin Rye of Supporters Direct, the body that helps facilitate fan takeovers of clubs, said: "The people of the two clubs meeting tomorrow are running football clubs, not multimillion pound corporations."
Rye made the point that achievement at clubs run by fans is not to be measured solely in progress on the pitch – "holistic" is the approach.
Erik Samuelson, AFC Wimbledon's chairman, agreed. Samuelson used the word "lovely" to describe his club. "If we hadn't been idealistic and romantic," he added, "we wouldn't have started this. But as we grow, it's about how we keep that culture."
Seven years after seeing the Football Association enable the old Wimbledon to move to Milton Keynes, the breakaway club is four promotions on.
This coming season AFC Wimbledon are in the Blue Square Premier division. Another promotion and they will be in the Football League, another step closer to "righting the wrong" of losing their original club. Relegated Luton Town are the opening-day visitors to Kingston. It is a 4,700 sell-out.Reuse content