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Beware of minnows Spurs!
How should one address a match preview regarding our FA Cup Third Round tie against AFC Wimbledon? Famously created in 2002 by loyal Wimbledon supporters after their club was allowed to re-establish itself as MK Dons over 50 miles from their traditional home, AFC Wimbledon attracted the sympathy of football fans up and down the land as they grafted their way up through the non-league levels, winning Football League status in 2011 in a Conference play-off final against Luton. That game was played at The City of Manchester Stadium (The Etihad) against Luton and finished 0-0. Wimbledon won 4-3 on penalties.
Of course, there are historical links with the Wimbledon who won the FA Cup in 1988, and who featured in the Premier League until they were relegated in 2000. Indeed, that FA Cup and other trophies won by the Wimbledon "Dons" were transfered from Milton Keynes after an agreement in October 2006. MK Dons will forever be known as "Franchise" to Wimbledon fans and AFC Wimbledon sympathisers. MK Dons and AFC have met 6 times in the last 5 years, with MK 4-2 in wins. The two clubs last met in September at Kingsmeadow with MK coming out on top, and they meet again next Saturday at Milton Keynes.
All the record books and websites I access regard AFC Wimbledon as the club founded in 2002, and whose path from the ninth tier of football to the third has been followed with enthusiasm and appreciation. Wimbledon currently play their home games at Kingsmeadow, which was shared with Kingstonian until last year, but is now shared with Chelsea Ladies. Only in the last month have Wimbledon been granted permission to begin work on an 11,000 seater stadium on the site of the old Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium, only 250 yards from their old Plough Lane home. We have not previously played AFC Wimbledon at senior level, although our PL2 team played a Checkatrade Trophy game in October, in which former Spur Dean Parrett scored an added time winner. (Wimbledon 4 Spurs 3, 03.10.17)
Wimbledon have been allocated 7,700 tickets for tomorrow's game and are bound to make loads of noise in what will be a less than full Wembley stadium. The upper tier will be closed, and Spurs have been plugging the availability of tickets on general sale endlessly. I understand though that the game is now more or less sold out in terms of the planned capacity.
Apart from that glorious day in 1988, this incarnation of Wimbledon had a winning day at Wembley in May 2016, when they beat Plymouth in the League Two play-off final to reach the third tier of league football to continue their fairy story of the 21st Century. The crowd then (57,956) was bigger than we will probably see tomorrow.
Wimbledon's manager Neil Ardley was appointed in October 2012, and is of course Wimbledon through and through, having played for them between 1990 and 2002. Had the "franchise" move not taken place, perhaps Ardley would have been a one-club man. he played in four of the five games we had against Wimbledon in early 1999 in a spell of 8 fixtures which included the Premier League, FA Cup and a League Cup semi-final. Wimbledon were managed by former Spur Joe Kinnear then, and we had George Graham in charge. Two of those five games were attritional 0-0 draws, but we did win both the FA Cup Fourth Round replay and the League Cup semi-final second leg. That was the year we beat Leicester in the Final.
There are two Spurs connections in the current Wimbledon squad. One is midfielder Dean Parrett (now 26), who hasn't played since October, and is hardly likely to feature here due to an ongoing injury problem. Back in 2007, Parrett was playing in the same academy team as the likes of Andros Townsend and Adam Smith, both now Premier League players. Dean had loads of promise, and was a player with strength aand skill in the middle. I remember being impressed with him when he was given a senior club debut in the UEFA Cup against Shakhtar Donetsk by Harry Redknapp in 2009. Dean then had to wait till early in the 2011-12 season for another game, also in European football, making brief appearances against PAOK and Rubin Kazan. Dean's career then took him to Stevenage and now Wimbledon.
The other Spurs connection is attacking midfielder Andy Barcham who is now 31. I used to enjoy watching Barcham at Academy level, and thought he had a promising Spurs career ahead of him. Sadly, he only made one first team appearance against Port Vale in the League Cup in 2007. Barcham used to score a lot of goals at Academy level, but as a professional player he has been primarily utilised on the wing, having played for Gillingham, Scunthorpe, and Portsmouth before his move to AFC Wimbledon in 2015. Barcham has made 24 league starts this season, and would relish a chance to play against the team he still supports (he was at the Real Madrid game in November) at Wembley.
AFC Wimbledon are currently struggling in the League One relegaton zone and have won two of their last seven games in league and cup games. This the third time they've reached the Third Round of the FA Cup, and in 2015 they had a dream tie at home to Liverpool, who they had famously beaten in that 1988 Final. Steve Gerrard scored before and after Adebayo Akinfenwa got a goal for the minnows to put Liverpool through. Akinfenwa was in the Wycombe Wanderers team who gave Spurs a scare last year in the fourth round of the FA Cup when we were grateful to Son Heung-min for an almost last second goal to give us a 4-3 win. That episode should serve as a reminder to those who represent us tomorrow to beware of FA Cup minnows!
Wimbledon's top scorer is 27 year old Lyle Taylor, who has 13 goals this season incuding three penaties in all competitions. Taylor scored Wimbledon's winner again st Lincoln in Round 1 and two in the Round Two 3-1 win over Charlton. Cody McDonald scored Wimbledon's other goal in that game, and has 4 to his name this season. Last season McDonald played for Gillingham and was in the side that lost 5-0 to Spurs.
Wimbledon's current league form is not the barometer by which to judge their chances tomorrow. They haven't played since New Year's Day and don't have the same need to perhaps rest and rotate players as does Mauricio Pochettino. No doubt we will play a weaker side than usual, but I still expect that side to include Vorm, Trippier, Foyth, Wanyama, Winks, Lamela and Dembele, and to have enough strength in depth to beat AFC 3-0.
Match referee David Coote is not on the Premier League list, but is an established and experienced Fotball League referee, primarily looking after Championship games. Mr Coote has been in charge of a Tottenham game once before. That was last season in the EFL Cup when we beat Gillingham 5-0. That was a game in which both Cameron Carter-Vickers and Harry Winks made their full debuts, and also Marcus Edwards came on after 75 minutes to make an impressive cameo appearance. Carter-Vickers is doing well this season with Sheffield United, whilst Harry Winks could make a welcome return to the starting line-up. Marcus Edwards was not involved in Wednesday night's PL2 game at Leicester, and may be involved.
· "It was Twenty Years ago today!" - On 5th January, 1998, Spurs beat Fulham 3-1 in an FA Cup 3rd Round game.
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