Niall Couper: MK Dons FA Cup draw is real fans’ worst nightmare

An AFC Wimbledon fan explains why he will shun tie against his club's nemesis

The moment it happened my stomach turned over. It was nothing short of horrible. The match had been close before. AFC Wimbledon were drawn against Franchise, as real Dons fans call that bunch from Buckinghamshire, in the FA Cup in 2010. Then, as now, both sides faced first-round replays. Thankfully back then Stevenage levelled against Franchise in the last minute before winning on penalties to make our tie the following night an irrelevance.

This time there was no reprieve. We spent most of Monday night's replay against York City desperately trying to lose. We all knew that it would take a minor miracle for Cambridge City to overcome that lot. I have been following Wimbledon since 1982, at nine I was a mascot against Hull City in the old Fourth Division, but here I was, half-praying for defeat. You could sense some players felt the same. Seb Brown, goalkeeper and life-long Wimbledon fan, even punched the ball into his own net. But however much we tried, we could not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It took the first 45 minutes the following night for our fate to be sealed – by then they were 3-0 up.

Now for those not connected with Wimbledon it could seem like the greatest game a Dons fan could ever want. AFC Wimbledon, the club created by the fans in response to the decision to allow Wimbledon FC to relocate to Milton Keynes, facing their nemesis. For the neutral this is all about revenge. But it is much more complicated than that.

This is not Liverpool and Everton or Arsenal and Tottenham – that is about geography. This is not Rangers and Celtic – that is about religion. Frankly, AFC Wimbledon against Franchise FC is more important than that. I suppose the best way to describe it is as a bitter, bitter divorce. They got the house and all the possessions and paraded it about in front of us. We got the soul.

Until Peter Winkelman, the chairman of Franchise FC, admits he stole a club, until Raj Parker and Steve Stride, who are believed to be the two members of the FA Panel who gave Wimbledon FC permission to relocate, admit they were wrong, and until the suffix "Dons" disappears, I can't forget the pain.

I'd quite like them to follow Pittsburgh's example and take the suffix "Steelers". In the meantime, every time I see a Franchise shirt or even hear their name, I shudder. Yes, it's irrational. But the past 10 years have also taught me something more fundamental. Football should be about fans. I have respect for those clubs rooted in their communities who care for their supporters, the Charltons and Brightons, and those clubs that have taken supporters' trusts to their hearts. Frankly that ain't Franchise FC.

So where will I be when the tie kicks off? I can't step foot in their stadium. For me that would serve to legitimise them. I hope to be at AFC Wimbledon's stadium in Kingsmeadow, surrounded by fans not just of the real Dons, but also supporters of clubs of all colours celebrating all that's good about football with a family fun day.

Niall Couper is author of 'This is Our Time: The AFC Wimbledon Story' (Cherry Red Books, £14.99)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada