1940 to 1949

1944-45

But 1944 saw the posts up again for a series of friendly and charity matches which took the Club into 1945 and the start of an extensive programme of refurbishment and refencing. The war years had again taken their toll, but Wimbledon were regrouping and preparing for a fresh assault on the amateur scene. But would they be such a dominant force again?

Wimbledon's unique spirit had come through unscathed, despite a first fifty years of trials and tribulations. Nomads early on, they had seen off the threat of almost certain extinction to come bouncing back. And back they came yet again after those six, wasted war years. 

It was not easy for anyone then, in those immediate post war days and Wimbledon looked to their loyal supporters and former players for the necessary lift. Inadequate fencing around the ground made it impossible to take gate money, so Wimbledon relied on half-time collections instead. And spare clothing ration coupons were called in so a new kit could be purchased.

Yet within two seasons after the War they were back in their second Amateur Cup Final, before a 47,000 crowd at Arsenal's Highbury ground, in a match broadcast live on BBC radio.

Before that, though, came a year of re­building. Ron Head, a repatriated Prisoner of War, reopened his account for the club in their first Isthmian League game in six years, away at Leytonstone. South African born Head had spent 18 months of the war years in a prison camp after being shot down over enemy territory. But despite his goal, a second-half Westwood hat-trick saw Leytonstone through 3-1 and that signaled the start of a losing run that included a 7-0 whitewash at Sutton United in the FA Cup's preliminary round.

Centre forward Head, with the club since 1937 and four other regulars in Smith, Lemmer, Rogerson and Meredith, all mis­sed that match, but it was a stronger Wimbledon side that secured their first point of the season the following Saturday, an Alec Fuce hat-trick seeing honours even in a 4-4 thriller at St. Albans. Two more hefty defeats followed, both away, until Wimbledon got the all clear from the Ministry of Labour for matches to resume at Plough Lane.

The first back home finished in a 3-3 draw against Clapton and more points followed with the opening win of the season, at home to Wycombe Wanderers on November 3. Wimbledon had gone in four goals up at half-time, but needed a last gasp penalty save by Mortimer to ensure the win after Wycombe had stormed back to 4-3.

1945-46

Although the club went into the New Year rock bottom of the Isthmian League, with just seven points from 16 games, they were soon to put six past Leytonstone in the opening game of 1946. A crowd of 2,800 saw Wimbledon put paid to Woking 5-2 in the Amateur Cup at Plough Lane, but Ilford were to end the club's hopes of glory with a last minute win­ner in the next round, in front of 4,300 disappointed Wimbledon faithfuls.

A 5-0 defeat by Southall ended their London Senior Cup progress, but Wimbledon were only beaten twice in their last eight League games to finish a more creditable. 10th out of 14. The season was to end on a high note. Four friendlies were arranged against the professionals of Guildford City and the re­serves of QPR, Tottenham and Crystal Palace. Wimbledon were to win three of them and certainly went into the new season with their confidence returning.

1946-47

W. W. Doc Dowden was now at the helm as first team coach-come-manager. Arthur Smith was running the reserves m their Isthmian section, with ex-first teamer Ted Turner forming a Strollers XI for friendly matches as the club's strength in depth grew. Nine players of Wimbledon's successful pre-war side were again available for selection, in Harry Stannard, Ron Head, Len Cannon, Jack Fuller, Alec Fuce, F. E. Lemmer, J. E. Fennell, J. Nash and G. King, while there were over 100 applications to attend the pre-season trial games.

Pat Edelston was one to catch the eye. He scored four as the Probables trounced the Possibles 10-2 in the trial match and was off the mark when the season proper began the following week, scoring twice in a 6-4 win over Kingstonian, in front of 3,500. He was to score 35 times throughout the season, excluding those trial goals and he, Head and Stannard contributed two apiece to go alongside Laker's five goal burst m an early season 11 goal thrashing of St. Albans.

Fine wins over Carshalton Athletic and Woking took Wimbledon into the second qualifying round of the FA Cup and a home tie against near neighbours and rivals Tooting and Mitcham. Over 8,000 spectators crammed into the Sandy Lane ground to see Tooting snatch an 88th minute winner in a game Dons dominated.

After climbing to joint leaders of the table, however, Wimbledon slipped to fifth, five points adrift of new leaders Dulwich. They were to ring out the old in some style, thrashing Clapton 7-1, to go into the New Year on a high and the start of a 12 game winning run. This took Wimbledon over five Amateur Cup hurdles, into the semi-finals and a tie against Bishop Auckland at Dulwich Hamlet.

A 19,500 crowd witnessed a thriller, with Harry Stannard and Walker each scoring twice in a 4-2 win. Leytonstone were the opposition at Highbury, with Stannard giving Wimbledon a 10th minute lead. Noble scrambled a 30th minute equaliser, with his half-hit shot eluding both 'keeper Haydock and Clark back covering on the line and a second by Smith before the interval saw Leytonstone 2-1 up at the break. 

That was to prove just enough for the win, despite a last minute header from Frank Lemmer that rattled the Leytonstone crossbar. Prior to that disappointment, Wimbledon had embarked on an Easter tour to Holland. They had lost their two opening games, and there was more drama after an evening reception hosted by the mayor of Dordrecht. Traveling through the town in two taxis, the players were stopped by local police, apparently arrested and taken to the local cells.

They were innocent victims, however. The cabs they were traveling in were not properly licensed and after bona fide taxis were summoned the party was allowed to continue on its way. There was a sombre note, too, with an Easter Sunday visit to the Airborne cemetery at Arnhem to pay tribute to those who died. Two goals from Sandy Jones gave them their only win of the tour, 2-0, over Quick FC of Nijmegen.

The season that promised so much was to fizzle out like a damp squib after that Amateur Cup reverse. The club had progressed to the semi-finals in both Surrey Senior and London Senior Cup competitions, but Walton & Hersham and Kingstonian, respectively, ended Wimbledon's hopes there. Those two defeats came in an end of sea­son run of 10 games in 15 days and, not surprisingly, Wimbledon tired as the campaign drew to a close, finishing a disappointing eighth.

That Amateur Cup final had plenty of re­wards, however. Along with the success came a handsome payday, with a £1,521 share of the gate receipts. That alone paid off the club's £1,500 bank overdraft, while there was a further £3,783 in attendance money from other games to be deposited.

1947-48

There were plenty of goals and good football to be enjoyed the next season, even though leading marksman Edelston had opted to sign for Sutton United. Wing half Norman Smith, too, was rarely available, as his Regiment, once based handily at Aldershot, had now moved to northern England.

Head was still among the goals, though, scoring twice in a 5-5 draw with Wycombe and again in a narrow 2-1 London Charity Cup quarter final defeat in front of a 7,000 Plough Lane gate against Dulwich. Dons came into the FA Cup at the first round proper stage and their biggest gate of the season, 9,823, witnessed a narrow only goal defeat at the hands of Mansfield Town, despite Haydock's penalty save. The Mansfield winner was a gem as skipper Davey beat three men in a mazey dribble before crossing for Cooling to tap home.

Harry Stannard's Christmas cracker in the December 20 friendly with Erith & Belvedere was even better. He dribbled the length of the field before calmly slotting the winner. That was the first of two Christmas friendlies and a Stannard hat-trick plus two from the on leave Norman Smith, duly dispatched Swindon Victoria 7-0 in the other.

There was to be no Christmas Cup to cheer, though. Woking pulled off a shock 1­-0 win in the Surrey Senior at Plough Lane and Sutton United repeated the dose seven days later in the London Senior. A treble disaster looked on the cards in the Amateur Cup competition when Bromley opened a three goal lead in their first round encounter.

There was just 17 minutes left when Lemmer began an astonishing recovery, scrambling the ball in after a corner. K. Lister added a belting 25 yard free kick following Head's clever dummy before Jack Wallis leveled the scores, heading home a C. Mason comer three minutes from time. Stannard was to produce his party piece again in extra time, beating three men to cap a tremendous comeback with the winner.

That attracted an 8,000 crowd for round two, but there was to be no repeat this time, Majoram scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win for Wealdstone. The highlight of the remaining League programme was surely the 11-3 win over Clapton. G. Brogdale, in only his fourth game for the club, added to his two goals the previous week with another four, while there were hat-tricks for Messrs. Stannard and Head, who else?

The Dons finished the season fifth, on 32 points from 26 games. The reserves, however, were runaway winners in their section, finishing six points clear of Dulwich Hamlet.

1948-49

Wimbledon's history now stretched back almost 60 years and for over 50 of them Frank Headicar had been beavering away for the club in a wide ranging number of roles. He had been secretary way back in the early days of the Wimbledon Old Centrals. Sadly, though, Mr. Headicar passed away early in the 48-49 season and a 7,500 crowd for Wimbledon's derby with Dul­wich Hamlet stood in silence for one minute in tribute.

Dulwich were to take the spoils 2-1 and Wimbledon, previously well placed, slipped to fourth in the table as they lost two of the next three games as well. There were cracking games on successive Saturdays against Wycombe Wanderers in the League. First Head grabbed four in a runaway 9-1 win at Plough Lane, then Wanderers gained their revenge seven days later at Loakes Park, with Birdseye scoring twice in a 5-1 win.

Although Dartford brought an end to Wimbledon's FA Cup hopes in front of a 9,250 Plough Lane crowd, Stannard slam­med another four to knock out Leyton in the London Charity Cup. Freddie Gauntlett repeated that haul in a 5-0 Boxing Day drubbing of a Fulham XI, with Stannard on a hat-trick in yet another five goal haul against Erith in a New Year's Day London Senior Cup clash.

A newspaper cartoonist on a local paper was to play a key role in Wimbledon's Amateur Cup game against Salisbury. He spotted the referee at the tail end of a bus queue, offered him a lift to the ground in a shared cab and he arrived in time to officiate over a narrow 2-1 Wimbledon win.

Bromley, however, ended that Cup run. Gauntlett gave Dons an early lead, but home side Bromley hit six in front of 10,640 spectators. Bromley repeated the drubbing, although by a more modest 4-0, in the Lon­don Senior Cup, but by then Wimbledon had progressed in the Surrey Senior com­petition, drawing 3-3 at Dulwich but winning the replay by a comfortable 3-0 ­Stannard, Gauntlett and Vic Bird the marksmen.

On the League front as well, Wimbledon were beginning to show improvement. Three wins on the bounce hoisted them to sixth place, just four points behind leaders Ilford and with four games in hand.

It was an in form Wimbledon side that took on Woking in the Surrey Senior Cup semi-final at a packed Champion Hill. But from being one goal up and coasting, Wimbledon were forced into extra time through a controversial Pink equaliser when "the band of God" intervened, Maradona style and Pink seemed to palm the ball into the net. Stannard and Gauntlett, however, weren't standing for that and they scored the extra time goals that took Wimbledon into a Se1hurst Park final against Tooting and Mitcham.

It was to prove a thrilling end to the sea­son as Wimbledon, now fourth in the table, closed the gap with a 4-1 win over Tufnell Park. Then came a visit to Romford, beaten Amateur Cup finalists just two days earlier. Stannard again produced the goods, turning sweetly to rifle in a powerful shot and Wimbledon took the vital points to go second - but not before some nasty scenes at the end.

The second-half had been littered with fouls and when Romford's Mackenzie, previously uncautioned, was sent off, the 5,000 crowd were outraged. Over 1,000 of them stayed behind after the final whistle, surging around the offi­cials' hut and it took several loud speaker appeals before they dispersed.

The Isthmian title all hinged on the final game at Champion Hill when a win for either side would secure the Championship. A draw suited neither, as Walthamstow, with their fixtures complete, were two points clear. Wimbledon, although in contention 1-0 down at the break were to concede another three in the second-half and had to be con­tent with third place in the table.

Honours were beckoning, however, in the Surrey Senior Cup final. A bumper 15,250 gate turned out at Selhurst Park to see the Dons overwhelm London Senior Cup holders Tooting 5-0, the inevitable Stannard (2), Wallis, Bird and J. Smith the marksmen in Wimbledon's best performance of the season. J. Haydock, H.D. Munday, K. Lister (captain), J. Woods, J. Smith, J. Wallis, H. Stannard, V. Bird and F. Gauntlett comprised the winning lineup in Wimbledon's first Surrey Cup triumph for 13 years.

  

1949-50

Wimbledon's Diamond Jubilee season opened with some sparkle, with a League double over Ilford and representative honours for Stannard, called up for the Isthmian League's game against a touring Nigerian XI.

Stannard was to slam a hat-trick against Hounslow in an FA Cup replay before a first qualifying round marathon against Kingstonian.

Crowds of 10,600, 7,800 and 4,300 saw three evenly balanced clashes - Wimbledon slumping disastrously in the third, throwing away a 3-1 lead to lose out 6-3. Frankie Lemmer opted to join bottom of the table Tufnell Park in the September, but was unable to prevent his old Wimbledon team-mates recording a 3-2 League success and runaway 8-2 London Charity Cup win, through hat-tricks from Wallis and Stannard and two goals from Vic Bird.

Eleven points from the next seven matches took Wimbledon into third place in the table, five points adrift of early leaders Leytonstone. It was Leytonstone who brought to an end Wimbledon's London Senior Cup hopes, with Redhill repeating the dose in the Surrey Senior, but there was better progress in the Amateur Cup.

Ron Head scored both goals in the 2-0 win over Kingstonian, while over 250 fans took to the road to see the club triumph over Sheffield at Hillsborough. One supporter even cycled there and back, returning in time for a Sunday lun­chtime pint, but despite goals from Jack Wallis and Charlie Smith, eventual winners Willington ended that Cup run, 4-2.

All Wimbledon's efforts were poured back into a serious assault on the League tide. Thirty-three-year-old Head had announced his decision to quit football, "for family reasons" earlier in the season, but he bowed out with a valuable goal in a 3-2 win over Tufnell Park that took Wimbledon up to third place, still four points adrift of Leytonstone.

Two from Stannard earned more points against Clapton in a midweek game, setting the scene for a possible Championship de­cider with the leaders on the Saturday.

It was that man Stannard again who put Dons en-route, reacting smartly when Bird's shot came back off the woodwork and although Stather leveled for Leytonstone, Bird swooped for a second just before half-time. And it was Stannard who put the issue beyond doubt, with a fine diving header from Jock Woods' cross 10 minutes after the break.

After doing all the hard work, however, Wimbledon lost the chance of going joint top with a 4-1 defeat at Kingstonian. Stannard, with two against Woking and another four in a 5-0 drubbing of Dulwich, gave Wimbledon some hope, but Leytonstone clinched the title with a victory over Kingstonian.

They could even afford the luxury of dropped points in their final game, with Wimbledon finishing on a high through Freddie Gauntlett's winner against Walthamstow.

The club's end of season dinner was a fine affair, as they celebrated their 60 years in some style. Players from way back in the 1890’s attended, including Horace Anstee, brother of Eddie, for 10 years the Old Centrals' skipper. And there was a tribute, too, to the late Mr. Gill-Knight, the club's previous landlord. He never worried about the rent, said president Stanley Meadows and purchased the South Stand from Clapton Orient personally.   next



Honours

1946-47 F.A. Amateur Cup runner-up
1948-49 Surrey Senior Cup winners
1949-50 Isthmian League runner-up
  London Charity Cup winners