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Looking back at Wimbledon’s former home Plough Lane

Next up in looking back at former home of football clubs, it’s Plough Lane of Wimbledon, and what a ground it really was back in the day.

Plough Lane was the home ground of Wimbledon FC, from September 1912 until May 1991, when the club moved their first team home matches to Selhurst Park as part of a groundshare agreement with Crystal Palace.

During the 1930s and 1940s, crowds of between 7,000 and 10,000 were not uncommon at the ground. Wimbledon’s highest attendance at the ground came on 2 March 1935, when 18,080 people were attracted to an FA Amateur Cup tie against HMS Victory.

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1912: September 7, Wimbledon play their first match at Plough Lane — having secured a freehold on the land.

1984: Ground is sold to chairman Sam Hammam for £3million.

1991: May 4, Wimbledon play their final game at Plough Lane, a 3-0 defeat to Crystal Palace — who they would ground share with the following season.

1998: Hammam sells Plough Lane to supermarket  Safeway.

2002: The same season as AFC Wimbledon’s formation, Safeway fail to get planning permission but  Lane stands are demolished.

2005: Site is sold to developers to build 570 flats — which are completed in 2008.

2013: Dons submit plans to  Merton Council to redevelop the Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium.

2015: Merton Council  agree to the proposal for a 20,000-seater ground on the site of Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium.

2016: March 22, major blow as London Mayor Boris Johnson calls in  scheme for a review.

2016: July 27, Johnson’s replacement Sadiq Khan moves plans back to council to press ahead.

2016: Sep 27, final approval is granted for the Dons to build their dream home.

2017: Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium is closed.

2018: Work begins on building the new ground.

In 1991, following the publication of the Taylor Report recommending all-seater grounds for top-flight clubs, Wimbledon left Plough Lane to groundshare with nearby Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park — an originally temporary arrangement that ended up lasting over a decade. Wimbledon’s final first team match at Plough Lane came on 4 May 1991 against Crystal Palace which was seen by 10,002 spectators before they swarmed onto the pitch to bid farewell to the ground.

Both Wimbledon and Crystal Palace’s reserve teams used Plough Lane as their home ground until 1998, when the site was sold to Safeway. Whilst site redevelopment plans were negotiated, the stadium remained derelict for several years until it was finally demolished in 2002. The site then became a private housing development known as Reynolds Gate, completed in 2008.

Plans to build a new stadium for AFC Wimbledon on the nearby site of the Wimbledon Greyhound track, approximately 200 yards from the original Plough Lane stadium, were approved by Merton Council in December 2015.

In December 2017, the club received final permission to begin work on the construction of the new stadium. The club aim to have the stadium ready to move in to in 2019. It will have an initial capacity of 11,000, with the option of increasing to a 20,000 capacity at a later date.

Fast forward to Tuesday the 3rd of November 2020 and Plough Lane is finally set for it’s first game in over 29 years.

Work around the ground still needs finishing off, but due to the coronavirus, fans aren’t allowed into their new home, so the club do have plenty of time to get that finished.

Club legend Dickie Guy, who made almost 600 appearances for Wimbledon, hailed the achievement in getting back to Plough Lane.

He said: “It will mean everything to see the club back at Plough Lane.

“To have our club taken away from us like we did back in 2002 by the outrageous decision from the FA.

“To do what our supporters have done — by putting their hands in their pockets to get the stadium done — and what the team has done on the pitch throughout the years to get back to League One.

“It is just an amazing story which I don’t think will ever be repeated.”

Take a look at more photos and memories of the ground as we continue looking back at Wimbledon’s former home Plough Lane on the next page.

You can also get your nostalgic football fix by visiting the Fan Banter Store, there is a wide variety of Wimbledon vintage football shirts and matchday programmes.

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