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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 May, 2003, 09:46 GMT 10:46 UK
A season to remember
By Stephen Betts

AFC Wimbledon played their last home game of the 2002/2003 season to a capacity crowd of 4,262 in the ground they hope to own by the beginning of next season.

The Combined Counties League season continues for another week or so, but AFC Wimbledon are now certain to end up a very creditable 3rd with 111 points, enough to gain promotion in almost any other league in the country.

The Dons can count themselves a little unlucky to have been up against two other incredibly strong teams in AFC Wallingford and Withdean 2000.

AFC Wimbledon take to the pitch
Wimbledon take to the pitch

Despite an impressive 10 game winning streak earlier in the season and finishing unbeaten in their last 16 games (in which they scored 52 and conceded just 11), points dropped at crucial times have proved costly.

AFC Dons started their campaign in the Combined Counties League in front of another capacity crowd, this time at Sandhurst Town on 17 August - impressive given that the first team trials only took place on Wimbledon Common on 29 June.

Of those eleven players, six took the field for the last game of the season, emphasising how manager Terry Eames is concerned about developing a core of players, rather than simply merely drawing on AFC's undeniably vast resources for a club at this level.

"I want a group of players that will work together, that will bond together" says Eames. "I don't want players who'll come down, play in front of 2,500 and lord it."

Off the pitch, the club can consider itself to have won almost as many victories as on it.

They have averaged attendances of nearly 3,000 - just beating that of Wimbledon FC, whilst playing six divisions lower.

The Non-League Paper now devote a full-page to AFC Wimbledon every week, and a DVD of the start-up of the team and the first half of its inaugural season has been released.

Fans of AFC Wimbledon
AFC Wimbledon fans have had plenty to cheer about this season

The club's top goalscorer Kevin Cooper scored 41 goals and ended up second in BBC London's player of the year award, just behind Gianfranco Zola.

Perhaps most importantly for fans of football in Wimbledon, they will be able to attend a true home game for the first time since 1991 when Plough Lane was sold.

The Don's Trust, the charity that owns AFC Wimbledon, are working out a deal to buy Kingsmeadow, the ground that they are currently sharing with Kingstonian FC, from that club's chairman, Rajesh Khosla.

This is an ambitious undertaking as they will need to raise 3m pounds, but, aided by a national advertising campaign and the dedication of the fans, they are confident that they will manage it.

AFC Wimbledon have assured The K's Trust that they will be getting a very good deal when they become the tenants.

In another publicity coup, the Wimbledon FC Ladies teams voted unanimously to swap allegiances to AFC.

The Kingsmeadow ground AFC Wimbledon are hoping to buy
The Kingsmeadow ground the club are hoping to buy

Combining this with the three youth teams and reserve team starting next season there will be seven teams playing under the AFC Wimbledon banner.

Chairman Kris Stewart thinks this is central to the philosophy of AFC Wimbledon.

"One of the things about going round to some of these tiny clubs is that they are well-rooted in their communities, and that's what we should be aiming for," said Stewart.

This dedication to the community flies in the face of some of the findings of the FA-appointed Commission.

"The one that always sticks in my throat is where it says the creation of a new non-league side such as Wimbledon Town would not be in the best interest of football. We've proved them wrong and we're going to carry on doing that," said Stewart.

"It's a weird and wonderful world if you're a Wimbledon supporter," said John Motson after the 1988 FA Cup triumph over Liverpool.

And that line never seems more true.

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