Who Are These Jobbers?
Speaking on The Guardian’s Football Weekly podcast, journalist and AFC Wimbledon fan Andy Brassell described at length his sheer disbelief at the thought of his side playing Sunderland in a league game. Brassell explained how every step of The Dons’ adventure has been met with a stunned bemusement from supporters.
Firstly, it would be playing York City in a league fixture, then Luton Town, then Coventry City and now Sunderland. It is pretty astounding how in just 16 years, a football club can go from hosting trials on Wimbledon Common to selling out their stadium in anticipation of playing a six-time First Division winning side in a third tier fixture.
Much like Brassell, I too am in stunned disbelief of this fixture. I also have been amazed at Sunderland’s recent adventure. First it was losing to Blackpool in the Premier League, then to Bournemouth, then playing, losing and being relegated against Burton Albion in the second tier and then having to play a team that didn’t exist when Sunderland reached their highest ever Premier League finish.
It’s been a hell of a toboggan ride.
While Sunderland’s travels have been somewhat traumatic, I can still not comprehend losing my football club completely. How the Football League simply stood by and allowed that fat Mick Hucknall impersonator, Pete Winkleman, move a previously established top flight football club to the most soulless place in the land is still unforgivable.
I can take losing every week, I can take being relegated but for my football team to cease to exist is something I am unable to fathom. However, the joy Wimbledon fans must now feel having risen from the ashes - at the expense of the team that was meant to replace them - must be incredible.
Six promotions in 13 years, a new stadium in Wimbledon on the horizon and facing one former and another soon-to-be former Premier League sides in the space of a week - it must be a pinch yourself time for everyone associated with AFC Wimbledon.
And for that very reason, I hope we absolutely leather them. Can’t be having anyone else being happy in football.
What’s The Ground Like?
If you looked around Burton’s Pirelli Stadium and thought “aww, isn’t this cute”, you are going to be ruffling the hair of every single AFC Wimbledon supporter when you fix your gaze onto Kingsmeadow. This fixture represents one of the largest ever stadium size disparities between two League One sides. The Stadium of Light’s capacity dwarves Kingsmeadow by just 44,150 and you better believe every man, woman and child wants to be here.
The ground sits in the suburbs of Kingston upon Thames and features some wonderfully named stands. While the John Green Stand and Paul Strank Stand honour key custodians in Wimbledon’s rise, the Chemflow End flushes all that down the toilet. There is also the RyGas Stand which, sadly, no longer bears the name of the Your Golf Travel Stand.
All 725 Sunderland supporters are housed in the RyGas Stand and before you ask - no, I don’t know of any spares knocking about.
How Do I Get There?
As the good people at the Football League see fit to cram all of our longest away trips into one month, we are set to embark on another absolute trek this weekend. After the almighty midweek slog to Gillingham, it is just the 300 miles to Kingsmeadow and if you’re driving to this then goddamnit do I respect you.
Oh, by the way, just to let you know (again) AFC Wimbledon don’t play in actual Wimbledon - they play in Kingston upon Thames.
Take the A1 (M) to junction 35 exiting for the M18 and then M1 heading south. Leave at junction 6A near Watford for the M25 and follow this until junction 10 where you take the A3. Take the exit for New Malden/Worcester Park and then a left for Malden Road. Take another left on to Kingston Road and the ground is on your left hand side. Like with most places in this godforsaken league, street parking is your best option.
Struggle to follow simple instructions? Type KT1 3PB into your sat nav.
If you’re a fan of spending the majority of your day on public transport, the nearest train station to Kingsmeadow is Norbiton. From King’s Cross, take the Victoria line to Vauxhall before taking the South Western Railway service to Norbiton. The ground is a 15-minute walk from here.
A Love Supreme buses leave the Stadium of Light at 7am and fares are priced at £42. Book your place here.
Where Can I Get The Sesh Started?
We’re getting closer, folks. We’re getting closer to realising the dream of drinking in an opposition team’s social club before a league match. AFC Wimbledon has two bars inside the Paul Strank Stand which have been described as “dim and drab” but dish out real ale from a local brewery and put on a barbecue.
The closest pub to Kingsmeadow is The Bricklayers Arms on Hawks Road but there are plenty of delicious alcoholic beverages to be supped around Kingston. There are a handful of pubs near Norbiton railway station including the “artily revitalised” The Norbiton on Clifton Road which also doubles up as a Thai restaurant. A little further up Kingston Hill is The Albert Pub which offers beers by a candlelight which is...good?
For all you reprobates The Kings Tun on Clarence Street near Kingston railway station provides all your Wetherspoons needs. However, if you’re coming to this neck of the woods then you have to swing by the famous Fighting Cocks bar on Old London Road - an absolute institution of the punk/rock/ska/everything else scene.
I’m Staying Owa, Is There Owt To Do?
Now contrary to popular belief, I am not the kind of person to tell you what to do with your weekend in the Big Smoke. However, if I was staying over in Kingston I would happily pitch up in the Fighting Cocks and enjoy the dulcet music until closing time. What? That doesn’t sound absolutely perfect? Killjoy.
Alternatively, you can swing by Notting Hill Carnival - Europe’s biggest street festival - which takes place in W10 over the bank holiday. Sunday is the designated ‘Family Day’ so take the bairns to this celebration of Caribbean culture with quality food, live music and an all-round party atmosphere.
Speaking of parades, head to Smithfield Market before the match on Saturday and see the Sausage Dog Parade wobble its way through London. If that doesn’t take your fancy then surely something in the capital city will, I can’t do it all for you.