1910 to 1919
Wimbledon had no alternative but to announce, on September
3, 1910, that all football was suspended. It was to prove the end of an era, but
while the club itself was treading water, another Wimbledon team was emerging in
nearby Coppermill Lane, now home of the Wimbledon Greyhound and Speedway
This side comprised council workers, but they were backed
by former Wimbledon chairman Headicar and it was he and Lieutenant General H.
Kent who paid their initial County and London FA affiliation fees. Former
Wimbledon players too, in Sandy Davidson and Johnny Canham, joined the fold and,
on July 1, 1911 they decided to call themselves Wimbledon Borough FC, adopting
the council's crest as their badge.
How ironical that the local authority's lack of support
should lead to the club's demise, initially, while their later encouragement
should lead to its rebirth. For that is exactly what happened. Leytonstone FC
had already set the precedent, by disbanding and reforming, and the Wimbledon
Borough side were to follow suit, dropping the word 'Borough' from their title
to compete again in the Surrey and London Senior Cups and the FA Cup proper for
the 1912-13 campaign.
And there was a new ground as well, a move to Wimbledon's
famous home of today, at the comer of Plough Lane and Haydons Road. The initial
approaches for the site, disused swampland that was once a refuse dump, had
been made during the club's one season layoff. Initially purchased leasehold,
co-owner, Mr. Gill Knight, provided £50 towards the cost of necessary immediate
improvements, while over the next two seasons the pitch was fenced in and the
playing surface greatly improved; a dressing room was built; and a covered stand
for 500 seating spectators erected.
Dramatic improvements, these, by a club written off, but
by a club that just didn't know when to die. The first season at the new ground
began on September 9,1912, but the first League points were a long time in
coming, achieved in the Southern Suburban competition against South Tooting at
the end of November. Although there were honours, in the form of a Knighthood,
for the former president Holland, there was nothing else for the club to
celebrate that season.
They finished bottom of the table, but had a new president
in Lt. General Kent and new secretary in S. J. Meadows, who had taken over from
Mr. C. A. Snook, the man who had led the club through its transformation. All
the old faces were there, in Messrs. Anstee, Marks, Campion, Headicar, Spiller,
Canham and Bitton, and there was again a genuine belief in the club.
The FA and Amateur Cups would be contested, and although
hopes in the former came to an abrupt end in a 4-0 extra preliminary round
defeat at the hands of Walton, Wimbledon were to make their big screen movie
debut on November 1,1913.
Dave Walker, victim of that Boxing Day bashing seasons
earlier, was their first cinematic star as it was he who scored the winner in
the replayed London Senior Cup game with Leyton at Plough Lane, screened later
the same evening at the Queens Theatre.
From then Wimbledon's fortunes began to turn for the
better. Consistency became the name of the game as they were able to field much
the same side for the second half of the season, climbing to a respectable fifth
in the Southern Suburban League.
Vice president and chairman Mr. H. w. Marks presided over
the end of season's annual dinner, in the absence of Lt. General Kent who was
attending a regimental function. Listed among the many members also in
attendance were secretary S. J. Meadows, J. A. Gill Knight, W. Spiller, J. Campion, W. Bitton, A. Scarborough, vice president E. Anstee, press secretary G.
Owen, ground manager G. Henwood, first team captain R. Canham, second team
captain J. Brown and assistant secretary, Courtney Martin.
Mr. Meadows reported that the committee were quite
satisfied with the past season's work, considering their humble beginnings.
There were now 100 paid up members, and a balance, in hand, of £12, six
shillings and 10 pence. But Britain was on the brink of World War, and although
Wimbledon entered the 1914-15 season in confident mood, taking out a pre-season
advert in the Wimbledon News to reveal their hopes and plans, the thoughts of
all were turning to the battle fields of Europe.
As early as September 5 that season Wimbledon arranged to
donate all proceedings from their match with Tufnell Spartans to War Distress,
a move repeated throughout the season. By the end of October, 27 Wimbledon
players had left to join the forces and from then the formation differed from
week to week as players came home for leave or left to join up.
Wimbledon were able to complete their season's fixtures
but, on September 13, 1915, made the following announcement: "At a committee
meeting of the club it was decided that no football engagements for the present
season should be entered into, this course being adopted in common with the
majority of first class amateur clubs."
The Wimbledon club officers who remained at home
continued the improvements at Plough Lane, used for occasional benefit games
between various regiments and units, and so the war years continued, with few
reports of any football at the club through 1916, 17 and much of 1918. But then,
on November 23, 1918, the Wimbledon News announced: ''Wimbledon Football Cub to
Mr. A. Gill Knight writes: "I, as vice president, beg of
you to announce in your valuable paper the fact that we are preparing to restart
the club immediately and that we shall be glad to hear from old members and any
first class players who are desirous of joining a tip top club. ''We have the
finest ground in the southern district and have spent large sums erecting a
stand and dressing rooms, and laying out and banking the ground at Plough Lane."
A trial match, between the north and south of London
against Hampstead Town kicked off the new beginnings on December 14, 1918. The
start of a new season proper, in a hastily arranged United Senior League, on
January 4, 1919, kicked off a new era in the history of Wimbledon Football Club.
The United League comprised Catford, Southend, Tufnell
Park, Darracqs of Tooting, Great Western Railway, Hampstead Town, Southall and
Barnet Alston, as well as Wimbledon. The Dons had a real interest in the
competition as Mr. Gill-Knight had provided the trophy and they were to make a
flying start, defeating Catford 2-0 in the League opener on January 4, 1919.
Tufnell Park and Danacqs were both beaten, 1-0 and 4-2
respectively and Great Western Railway went much the same way, suffering a 2-0
defeat at the hands of the in-form Dons. Pre-war skipper Billy Woods, who had
just been demobilised, was in the crowd for that one, along with former 'keeper
But the next four reported games showed a change in
fortunes. Wimbledon picked up just one point, while their Charity Cup clash
against Charlton Athletic ended in a 4-1 defeat. Wimbledon faced Charlton in a
friendly as well, faring no better in a 3-1 defeat, but they got back on the
right track with a 1-0 win over Barnet Alston.
There were fund raising games to face as well, against
Metrogas and Metropolitan Police, with monies raised going to the wives and
families of footballers who lost their lives in the war.
Wimbledon were to stage their first end of season dinner
dance since the outbreak of war and among the members attending was the club's
founder, J. W. Selby. There was a general meeting, at the Town Hall on June 11.
Joseph Hood was in the chair for that and he was certainly looking forward to
the coming seasons. He did not expect the club to win the FA Cup, he said, but
was confidently expecting one or two trophies, at least, to make their way to
The following season did indeed produce some memorable Cup
moments as Wimbledon progressed in the FA Cup and reached the fifth round of the
Amateur Cup. Edgar Goodens was back in the ranks, as captain. He had joined the
club in 1913, but on returning from the Army had opted to play for Merton and
helped them to the Amateur Cup final.
He and vice captain George Armitage were regarded as two
of the best half backs in the amateur game. Wimbledon's line-up was widely
regarded as one of the best that had represented the club, while their success
in the United League led to them being elected into the Athenian League on its
resumption after the war years for the 1919-20 season.
Their reserves were to compete in the Southern Suburban
League, while there was midweek football to enjoy as well, in the Kingston
Wimbledon were to finish seventh in their first season in
the Athenian League, a creditable achievement and lost just once all season in
Wednesday competition to take that title. But it was in the cups that they found
their best form and biggest crowds. Walton, Sutton and Kingstonian were all
knocked out of the Amateur Cup before Wimbledon drew Tooting.
Over 9,000 spectators turned out for that one, but
Wimbledon were in dire trouble, 2-1 down with just seven minutes left. It was
then that the elements intervened. A blanket of dense fog descended, the
referee called it off and Wimbledon won the replay, 6-2!
There was a similar situation in the Surrey Senior Cup.
Having overcome the threat of Kingstonian 3-1, in front of over 6,000
supporters, Wimbledon were then convincing winners over Summerstown. But the
visitors objected, won their appeal to get the game replayed and knocked out
Wimbledon in the rearranged tie, 2-1.
Another bumper gate, topping 5,000, turned out when
Wimbledon faced local rivals Summerstown again, this game finishing a draw,
while friendly fixtures saw Wimbledon lose out to both Chelsea and Hampstead,
5-1 and 3-1.
In the FA Cup, Wimbledon progressed over two hurdles
before being beaten by the professionals of Guildford, while their Amateur Cup
run finally ended at the hands of an excellent Dulwich side, by the resounding
margin of 9-2.
The only silverware for Mr. Hood to savour, therefore,
came from the Kingston Wednesday League, while the Reserves battled gamely to
finish fourth in the Southern Suburban League.
improvements off the field as well. The Club purchased an old Army hut to be converted into dressing rooms and a committee room, while the washing facilities
were spruced up and work continued in building up the banking around the