1920 to 1929

1920-21

Wimbledon's second season in Athenian competition was to produce a close fight between them and St. Albans for the title. St. Albans just had the edge at the finish, with Wimbledon second, two points adrift, but they again triumphed in the Wednesday League. There was more success on the Cup front. In the Amateur Cup, Dulwich were overcome 2-1 and Ilford 3-2.

Eight thousand spectators turned out to see the end of Cardiff Corinthians by the only goal, but the run finally came to an end by the same 1-0 scoreline at Leytonstone, decided only by a last minute penalty. Wimbledon, however, were to go all the way in the Surrey Senior Cup competition, facing Metrogas in the final at Crystal Palace. Honours finished even at one goal apiece and the clubs shared the trophy.

Wimbledon were back on their European travels as well, this time visiting Belgium. They were to win the Bruges Tournament, with a win over fellow tourists, Orrell FC from Liverpool 3-0, followed by a 3-2 triumph against tournament favourites, Le Cercle Sportif.

The reserves were eighth in the Southern Suburban League, while Wimbledon's line­up for their final Athenian game of the sea­son read: A. Bennett, A. Austin, H. Allwright, J. Macey, E. Goodens, W. Keeble, J. McEwen, G. Armitage, W. Cotton, G. Cannon and R. Green.  That W. Cotton was Billy Cotton the Bandleader.

Wimbledon, no strangers to controversy already, were caught up in yet more during that season. The Isthmian League, big rivals of their Athenian counterparts, announced they were going to increase their membership from 12 to 14 clubs. Both Wimbledon and Wycombe Wanderers were approached and the Dons plan to leave the Athenian League at the end of the 1920-21 season leaked out.

The Athenian League management committee were furious. One senior member announced that if Wimbledon went ahead with their move, then the entire Athenian League committee would sever their links with football altogether. In the end, though, good sense prevailed. Wimbledon did leave the League at the end of the season, while the Athenian League committee members were persuaded to stay on.

It was still something of a gamble for the Dons, though. The decision to increase the size of the Isthmian League was still to be voted on at the League's annual meeting. If the vote had gone the other way, then both Wimbledon and Wycombe Wanderers would have been out in the cold, with no League football of any sort.

It did, however, go in their favour, opening yet another new chapter in the club's history. But as one new era was dawning, another was ending, with the sad death of their president, Lt. General Kent. A veteran of the Crimean War, he was the oldest British General in the Army. Joseph Hood, MP, took his place as president.

1921-22

The move up into the Isthmian ranks now put them among the elite in the amateur game. But Wimbledon were to find it a tough transition, winning just seven games of 26 played, finishing next to bottom and having to apply for re-election. They were now running four teams and their reserves were to triumph in their Isth­mian League section, taking the tide. They again entered the Wednesday League and also ran a Strollers XI.

There was little cheer for the first team, however. They did make it through to the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup, before losing out 1-0 against Guildford City, but there were first round defeats in the Amateur Cup, London and Surrey Charity Cups, and second round exits in the Surrey Senior and London Senior.

Wimbledon did get their hands on one trophy, winning the South London Charity Cup for the first time since the 1902-3 campaign. Guildford City were to end Wimbledon's FA Cup hopes the following season as well, again in the fourth qualifying round, but this time by a more resounding four goal margin.

And it required a stunning run in at the end of the season, earning eight points from a possible ten, to hoist Wimbledon clear of the danger zone in the League as they finished 11th.

A long run in the Surrey Senior Cup, however, only ended in the final, with a 2-1 defeat against Dulwich, while in the Amateur Cup, they progressed safely to the fifth round before losing out to the Northern Nomads, 2-0.

There was success once again in the Bruges Tournament, this time contested in Holland. Wimbledon finished winners again, to maintain their fine European record, with victories over sides from Luxembourg and Holland.

There was more silverware for the reserves to savour as well, as they again won their Isthmian League section and progressed to the London Intermediate Cup Final, before losing out to Hays Wharf, 5-2. George Armitage was still catching the eye for the first team and Charlton Athletic were suitably impressed to come in and sign him up, on amateur terms. He was to make 165 Football League appearances in a seven year spell at Charlton, that also saw him feature in the England Amateur side. Wimbledon soldiered on in their third Isthmian League season, slightly improving in finishing 10th.

The Surrey Senior Cup provided the high spot for the season as Wimbledon again made it through to the final, only to be pipped 1-0, this time by Summerstown. It was left to the reserves to show the way. For the third successive year they won their League tide in a competition now open to 14 clubs on the introduction of a Casuals sec­ond XI.

Under the captaincy of George Boase, they certainly gave Delfia Hollandie Combinatie a few surprises in the first round of the Bruges Tournament at Easter, before going down to the only goal. The first team's European successes con­tinued, however, as they beat Sparta (Rotterdam) 4-1, Ajax Sportsman (Leiden) 3-1 and Haarlemeche (Haarlem) 5-1 in the space of four days over Easter.

1922-25

The following two seasons, however, were to see the club's aspirations slump, particularly in League competition. First they came in fourth from the bottom, although with another four points they would have been fourth from the top, so tightly was the table packed; then the fol­lowing year they trailed in 12th.

If it hadn't been for Kingstonian, there would have been little for the first team to savour. It was the K's that Wimbledon twice defeated 1-0 to win the Surrey Charity Shield in successive seasons.

There was the usual successful Easter tour to lift spirits and the Reserves kept up their sterling work, with Isthmian League Reserve Section titles number four and five. And the Dons were honoured in being the first club in the country to entertain a touring South African XI. The visitors paraded virtually a full inter­national line-up, with players chosen from all over the Union. And Wimbledon had little answer to their prowess, going down 6-0.

 

1925-26

Armitage was still impressing for Charlton and he was back at Plough Lane in the '25-26 season, in an England shirt. Wimbledon were given the honour of staging the England v The Rest Amateur International Trial and a crowd topping 10,000 saw Armitage and company draw 1-1.

1926-27

Wimbledon were to show a dramatic improvement in form. Just one point separated them from a fine runners-up place in the Isthmian League as they finished a best ever third. And that 1926-27 campaign featured the club's biggest Isthmian win to date as they went chasing points in the end of season run in.

St. Albans City were to take the title, with Ilford runners-up. But in the penultimate game of the season Wimbledon slammed the second placed side 10-2 and were left to reflect on what might have been but for a dropped point the previous game against lowly Dulwich Hamlet.

But the Wimbledon defence had ironed out their problems, conceding 44 goals this time round, while scoring 60. Ilford had ended Wimbledon's Amateur Cup hopes with a 4-0 win in a replay, the sides earlier drawing the fourth round tie 1-1, while Leyland Motors drove them out of the FA Cup, 3-1.

There was continued success in the Sur­rey Charity Shield as a 2-1 win over Mitcham Wanderers earned Wimbledon a third successive title. Wimbledon's Surrey Charity Shield winners comprised: A. Mason, F. Sowter, F. J. Gregory, R. G. Rowe, E. Goodens (Capt.), G. Boase, G. White, C. Knight, J. Ander­son, W. W. Dowden and A. T. Wadey.

The reserves, however, were to lose their firm grip on their section, despite an amazing season's goal haul of 121, with Crewe leading the way on 25. There was the first dropped point in Europe as well, with one draw and two vic­tories, 4-0 against Aniedoord and 3-0 against Utrecht.

1927-28

Wimbledon were now looking a more consistent side. The following campaign they finished sixth, eight points adrift of the Champions, who were again, St. Albans City. Wimbledon, in fact, didn't lose against either St. Albans or runners-up, London Caledonians.

The Easter tour games led to their first defeat abroad since the Great War, although they were in no way disgraced. The Dutch Olympic trial team provided the opposition, but Wimbledon did well to hold them to just a 4-2 reverse.

1928-29

Nine victories and 10 draws helped Wimbledon into fourth place the next season as their consistency continued. Sixty-six goals in those 28 Isthmian games showed what they were capable of and there was a genuine belief around the club that Wimbledon had turned the comer and were back on the brink of success. The previous year had seen a Surrey Combination Cup triumph, with a 2-2 draw against Guildford City in the Final that led to the trophy being shared.

1929-30

In the season of 1929-30 Wimbledon were to claim a place near the pinnacle of the amateur game, progressing to the last four in the Amateur Cup and reaching the first round proper in the FA Cup. Guildford City were among the hurdles they had to overcome in the latter and this presented them with their best win of the season - the professionals of City sunk by five goals to one.

That earned Wimbledon a first round proper tie against Northfleet United, captained by Tom Clay, veteran of Leicester, Tottenham and England. It was against Clay and Co. that the Wimbledon run ended.

Wimbledon were going great guns in the Amateur Cup, progressing to the semi-finals against Bournemouth Gas Works, only to throw the game away in the closing stages. Six thousand supporters had turned out at Portsmouth's Fratton Park ground for that one, with Lavell scoring twice for the Gas Works in the closing minutes.

The London Senior Cup also saw Wimbledon into the last four. But again the semi­final was to prove their undoing as Ilford, eventual Amateur Cup winners, sent them packing 4-1 and that after Wimbledon had trounced both Dulwich Hamlet and Bromley 5-1.

Doc Dowden had slammed 50 goals that 40th anniversary season, 29 of them coming in Cup ties, while Wimbledon's FA Cup and Amateur Cup exploits had caught the interest of the National Press.

There was a story to be told about this growing club, nestling in South West London. It was a story of goals and of good times. And they were just around the corner. Those dark days of near extinction in the seasons immediately prior to the First World War must have seemed light years away to the young, dashing Dons of the 1930s.

Here we saw the emergence of a consistently successful side and as the goals rattled in, so the shelves in the trophy cabinet were to bow under the strain of all that silverware. Their inaugural season in the Isthmian League nine years before had finished with an embarrassing last place and subsequent re-election.

But the Wimbledon side emerging was one of great stamina and persistence, hence that amazing climax to the 1929-30 season, when, from near bottom, they played a game a day in the final week to finish a creditable sixth. That was on top of that FA Cup run that took them into the first round with goals galore 15-2 against Polytechnic, 3-0 against West Norwood, 6-2 against Tooting Town and 7-1 against Epsom, plus that 5-1 against the professionals of Guildford City.

Club captain F. J. Gregory epitomized the club's spirit. A towering personality at left back, Gregory had played for both Millwall and the England Amateur XI, while there were various representative honours also for W. W. Dowden, E. J. Ceasar, F. Sowter, R. A. Goodchild, J. O'Brien, C. P. Christie, F. Wade, C. E. Knight and H. M. Lloyd.

There was strength behind the scenes as well. Stanley Meadows, mastermind of the club's recovery back in 1913, was the new president, with B. C. Corke replacing him as secretary, following a nine year apprenticeship as assistant. George Wickes was doubling up as assis­tant secretary and press secretary.

Attendances regularly pitched between the five and eight thousand mark, while the club's reserves had won their Isthmian League section five years in succession, a credit to their manager, Ted Makepeace.   next



Honours

1921-22 Joined Isthmian League
1924-25 Surrey Charity Shield winners
1925-26 Surrey Charity Shield winners
1926-27 Surrey Charity Shield winners
1928-29 Surrey Combination Cup winners