We're on

WIMBLEDON FC are on their way to Milton Keynes with top flight football just 10 weeks away if a temporary home can be found.

WIMBLEDON FC are on their way to Milton Keynes with top flight football just 10 weeks away if a temporary home can be found.

Years of wrangling, and months of nail-biting, ended this week with a Football Association-tribunal saying yes to the South London club's move here.

The FA, and the Football League, had rejected the plan as not being good for the game but both bodies say there is now little anyone can do to stop it.

Pete Winkelman, the chairman of the powerful consortium behind the 28,000 seater stadium at Denbigh North, Bletchley, and key to the ground-breaking scheme, says he is overjoyed.

"We have made an idea become reality," he said.

Wimbledon chairman Charles Koppel told the Citizen the club would repay Milton Keynes for the lifeline it had offered them.

He said the Dons, homeless for 10 years and with a steadily dwindling fan base, would have gone under without it.

But there remains a giant hurdle to overcome before Wimbledon play their first game here in August.

Wimbledon have burned their boats and cannot realistically go back to South London.

The new super stadium will not be ready for 2004.

Until then home games could be played at the National Hockey Stadium if the present plastic pitch is replaced with real grass, new stands are erected and all health and safety, security, traffic and parking conditions are met.

The temporary ground must also comply with the requirements of the Football League.

"It is going to be tight," admitted Pete yesterday.


He said the consortium, the football club, hockey stadium, council and police are working towards a 10-week deadline but contingency plans are being considered, including playing at the Bowl which is a greenfield site.

And the Citizen understands the possibility of a ground-share with Northampton Town at Sixfields for the first part of the season has not been ruled out.

It would be the ultimate irony that a club which sought to escape sharing a ground with fellow-Londoners Crystal Palace by challenging the football establishment to move from its roots might begin a new season doing the same thing miles from its new 'home'.

There will be no name change when Wimbledon play in Milton Keynes for now.

Its 113-year heritage will be respected in deference to past fans and the Football League, but an insider at the club said the obvious choice for the future would be MK Dons as suggested by the Citizen more than a year ago.