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Monday, 15 May, 2000, 15:09 GMT 16:09 UK
Wimbledon: The highs and lows
Sad 'Dons trudge off the pitch after being relegated
Sad 'Dons trudge off the pitch after being relegated
For 14 seasons Wimbledon defied the odds as the Crazy Gang spirit kept them in top flight football.

On Sunday their luck ran out as a torrid late season run saw them dumped out of the Premiership.

Ask football fans who they would vote the most successful team of the last two decades and many would say Liverpool, Manchester United or Arsenal.

But the 'Dons should be given major credit for a meteoric rise from non-league obscurity to Premiership football - with an FA Cup honour to boot.

Wimbledon were elected to the Football League in June 1977 but had already made a name for themselves after a number of giant-killing FA Cup runs in the mid-70s beating the likes of Leeds, Middlesbrough and Burnley.
'Dons highs and lows
1977: Elected to Football League
1983: Fourth Division champions
1984: Promoted to Second Division
1986: Promoted to First Division
1988: FA Cup winners
1994: Finished sixth in Premiership
2000: Relegated to Division One

They were promoted to the Third Division in 1979 and were twice relegated to Division Four but went up again, as champions in 1983.

In 1984 they were promoted to Division Two and earned top-flight football status in 1986 under the route one guidance of Dave Bassett and the enthusiasm of the original Crazy Gang.

Charismatic figures included Vinnie Jones, John Fashanu and Dennis Wise, who loved nothing better than bloodying the nose of illustrious opponents.

They charged their way to football's top table, with utter disregard for reputation.

And the route-one football practised by manager Dave Bassett ultimately brought them the FA Cup honour under Bobby Gould in 1988.

Liverpool were hot favourites to win at Wembley but a 'Dons goal from Lawrie Sanchez and a missed penalty from The Reds' John Aldridge saw Wimbledon pull off one of the greatest ever upsets in the history of the FA Cup.
Relegated 'Dons players cry
Relegated 'Dons players cry

In the First Division however, mid-table mediocrity was more their theme.

In 1992 they were one of the inaugural members of the Premier League and in 1993/94 finished sixth - their highest ever position.

But while many Premiership teams had multi-millions to spend on players, Wimbledon had to sell theirs to balance the books.

The gulf between the haves and the have nots saw Wimbledon teetering perilously close to the relegation zone in 1998 and again in 1999.

In a bid to step up their status they signed John Hartson from West Ham for a club record 7.5m but injuries and disciplinary problems have sidelined the Welsh star.

Revive fortunes

And Joe Kinnear, who had been boss for more than six years, resigned at the end of last season after suffering a heart attack.

Wimbledon plunged from 6th to 16th.

This season they brought in former Norway manager Egil Olsen to try and change the fortunes of the south London club.

However his idiosyncrasies did not fit in with the Crazy Gang spirit and a dismal run of results cost Olsen his job and Wimbledon Premiership survival.

Now, with no home, few fans - even by First Division standards - and the likely exodus of a host of star players, Wimbledon could disappear as quickly as they arrived.

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