MK Dons ‘till we die. That is the message from football fans throughout the city in the wake of calls for Milton Keynes Dons to ‘Drop the Dons’ from their name.
Fans rallied around the club after manager Karl Robinson insisted there is ‘no chance’ the club will lose the moniker.
And one supporter even suggested setting up a separate campaign asking for AFC Wimbledon to drop ‘Wimbledon’ from their name – as they don’t even play there.
The angry reaction came after the Wimbledon Guardian launched a campaign asking for the club to remove the ‘Dons’ from its name as it ‘exists only as a cruel reminder to fans of both clubs of what came before’.
And next week, Merton Council is set to debate a cross-party motion calling for MK Dons chairman Pete Winkelman to apply to the Football Association for a change of name prior to the April 1 deadline for the 2012-13 season.
The move is part of a ten week campaign involving the Guardian, Merton Council and Wimbledon Independent Supporters Association (WISA) set to culminate on the 10-year anniversary of the formation of AFC.
The ‘Drop the Dons’ calls come despite:
> Wimbledon having left the Borough of Merton to play at Plough Lane 12 years before the move to MK
> Previous statements by high profile WISA members referring to the club as MK Dons
> Dons season ticket holders still travelling from Wimbledon to watch the club at stadium:mk
> Pete Winkelman having spent considerable money maintaining the Wimbledon youth sides and employing staff members from that club
> AFC Wimbledon playing in Kingston Upon Thames: outside the Borough of Merton
Although the club has remained tightlipped on the subject, Dons manager Mr Robinson said it had no intention of dropping the Dons part of its name.
Speaking after Tuesday night’s defeat at Stevenage, he said: “We’re MK Dons and we always will be, and they need to shut up.
“It’s our identity now. They know the truth and they know they had their chance. We’re MK Dons and we’re MK Dons to stay for as long as I’m here.
“I believe very passionately in this club. I went to see a film about Milton Keynes, and I am very proud to live here and proud to manage MK Dons. We are Dons for a reason and I hope we stay Dons for a long, long time to come.”
Chairman Mr Winkelman courted controversy when, as part of consortium Inter MK, he bought Wimbledon out of administration and brought it to Milton Keynes in 2003.
But while the club moved a long way from its London home, it even now maintains links to the old Wimbledon side.
Mr Winkelman kept the club’s youth side and paid relocation fees for staff. Furthermore Dons fans favourite and club captain Dean Lewington and goalkeeping coach Paul Heald were part of the set-up when the move took place.
And fan Paul Hatton says he will stop supporting Milton Keynes Dons if the side ‘Drop the Dons’.
Mr Hatton, a former Wimbledon fan who lives in London and travels to stadium:mk from the capital for home games, said: “I think it’s a joke, we are MK Dons and if Pete Winkelman allows himself to be bullied into dropping it I will stop supporting MK Dons,
“I’m ex-Wimbledon Football Club and travel to MK every week to watch Wimbledon. We are the real Dons and the real Wimbledon, end of story.
“I think AFC Wimbledon should drop Wimbledon from their name as they don’t play in Wimbledon.”
But one of the most compelling piece of evidence as to why Milton Keynes should ‘Keep the Dons’ comes from WISA vice chairman Ross Maclagan.
Speaking to FourFourTwo magazine about the signing of an Accord created partly to transfer the ‘patrimony of the former club’ to the Borough of Merton in June 2008, he said: ‘We put enough pressure on the MK Dons that they eventually decided to come to the table.
‘We’ve come to a solution. This is an opportunity to move on. We may never be on each other’s Christmas list, but we can concentrate on our own clubs now’.
In the same article Wimbledon legend Lawrie Sanchez - scorer of the goal that helped defeat Liverpool in the 1988 FA Cup Final - said ‘it is time to forget’, adding that both clubs should ‘stop thinking about one another’.
And former AFC chairman and founder Kris Stewart, one of the men who has backed the Wimbledon Guardian campaign, coined the name MK Dons before the club had even moved to Milton Keynes.
Writing in WISA programme Yellow & Blue in March 2002, he said: ‘MK Dons would be an exhibition team, relying on famous players and a big-name manager’.
Merton Council’s motion states: ‘The council notes that Wimbledon FC effectively ceased to exist in 2004 when the owners moved to Milton Keynes’. But the club had not played in Wimbledon since it packed its bags and left Plough Lane for Selhurst Park, home of Crystal Palace, in 1991.
By the council’s criteria this suggests Wimbledon Football Club ceased to exist when they left Plough Lane.
It goes on to say that the 2006 Accord ‘ensured Milton Keynes Dons FC would no longer claim to be Wimbledon FC’.
In fact, while the Accord recognised ‘the hurt which was caused’ by the move to MK and gave over the ‘physical patrimony’ of the club including the 1988 FA Cup replica, it stopped short of making any such claim.
Throughout the Accord, signed by WISA, the club is referred to as Milton Keynes Dons.
Milton Keynes Council leader Andrew Geary, a Dons season ticket holder, said any moves by Merton Council to interfere in the running of MK Dons were unwelcome.
“Like it or not Wimbledon came to MK. It now has its own identity and brand that Milton Keynes, and I, are extremely proud of,” he said.
“MK Dons is a brand name and a community club. Any moves to change that name will be unwelcome.
“With the resurgence of AFC they might be more interested in concentrating on that very successful side rather than ours.”
And deputy leader David Hopkins added: “The club is the MK Dons. If it had not been for Pete Winkelman the business would have disappeared.
“They hadn’t played at Wimbledon for donkey’s years. If Pete hadn’t picked the club up it would have been lost.
“No-one stole their football club, it went out of business.”
Fans on Twitter also rushed to the defence of the Dons:
- @Paul_XL5: ‘It’s totally laughable and some people need to get over themselves.We’ll call ourselves what we damn well like’.
- @DominicNewbould: ‘Will they ask Aberdeen to drop “Dons” as well? Wimbledon use this fake controversy to build their support - nothing to do with MK’.
- @Richard_MK: ‘Have Wimbledon Council got nothing better to do. I hear the Wombles are looking for a pay rise!!’
- @Bingobrewtea: ‘Leave the dons alone, we like the title mkdons. Seems wimbledon need to get a life’.
- @LucindaOfficial: ‘I think Wimbledon should worry a bit more about their game rather than what other teams are called’.
- @AMacMKD95: ‘wimbledon care more about us than themselfs, past few weeks we had good media attention and they’re only trying to ruin it’.
- @SarahBowenMK: ‘regardless of if you agree with the way MK Dons were formed, Wimbledon are a part of Mk dons history, the name reflects that’.
- @kevinGroom555: ‘what the? Is Wimbledon going to object to every use of Dons nationwide for all towns’.
- @Mpr2009: ‘I presume the other dons, aberdeen, will be next on the campaign’.
- @goodvote: ‘Milton Keynes are proud of the Dons, we should keep the title to show where we’ve come from’.
- @Chris_mk: ‘it’s nonsense, that’s the name of our club! Will Man Utd be asking Newcastle to drop their United?’
- @HappyDude88: ‘Time to move on Wimbledon fans. Why bring this up eight years after the rename in the first place?’
But some Dons fans on the social networking site did back the name change:
- @Markdolling: ‘Dons season ticket holder - totally agree it’s time to drop the Dons. MKFC will do just fine thanks’.
- @wideawakewesley: ‘I think we should drop the Dons reference. Doesn’t help the image of the club or the town’.