THE HISTORY OF WIMBLEDON FOOTBALL CLUB
1963
1963-64

The Double Champions started their season with a 3-3 draw against the Rest of the League, but then won their first nine competitive matches, in sharp contrast to their usual lethargic start. In their opening game, they beat the 1962-3 Athenian League Champions Enfield 3-0 at Enfield, Hendon, Hitchin and Sutton all joining the Isthmian League.

They also added the South of the Thames Cup to their trophy room for the third successive year, beating Sutton United 5-0 and Kingstonian 2-1 to take permanent possession of the trophy in its final season.

For some years, there had been persistent rumours that certain amateur clubs were paying their players, in strict breach of the amateur code. Chairman Sydney Black appeared on the "Sportsview" TV programme, denying that this was the case at Wimbledon. "Wimbledon do not make any illegal pay­ments and I invite anyone to investigate this," he said. "I swear that none of our players are paid."

Also on the programme was Micky Stewart, the Surrey and England cricketer and amateur footballer. He had played for a number of amateur clubs, including Wimb­ledon and he stated that he had been offered money and goods by certain clubs.

Controversy off the park and injuries on it. Brian Martin, playing for Britain, broke his leg in an Olympic Games qualifier against Iceland, while at one stage Wimble­don played four different goalkeepers in successive matches, before Kelly regained full fitness to re-establish himself as first choice.

By virtue of their Amateur Cup Final appearance, Wimbledon guaranteed them­selves exemption to the FA Cup first Round Proper, where they were drawn away at Bexley United from the Southern League. Reynolds put them en route, before three goals in the last 12 minutes made it a flatter­ing 5-1.

The second round brought Bath City and manager Malcolm Allison, to Plough Lane and Wimbledon twice came from behind to grab a 2-2 draw and feature in the third round draw for the first time. Bath or Wimbledon were drawn at home to First Division strugglers Bolton Wander­ers, but Bath were to sink Dons in the replay, 4-0.

Wimbledon, however, bounced back quickly. At Hitchin, Reynolds grabbed yet another hat-trick for a 3-2 win and they moved into the New Year leading the Isthmian League on goal average.

The defence of the FA Amateur Cup started with a home tie against Athenian League Maidenhead United, but although Wimbledon won 4-0, they looked far from convincing. It was a similar story at Finchley in the London Senior Cup, Wimbledon eventually winning 2-1 at Summers Lane after the first match had had to be abandoned be­cause of fog.

Wimbledon had home advantage again in the Amateur Cup's round two tie against Windsor and Eton. They came from the Athenian League Second Division and were clearly underdogs. The Wimbledon Boro' News thought Wimbledon should win by six clear goals.

It soon became clear that this was not to be the case, however. Reynolds put Wimbledon ahead but it was no surprise when Windsor and Eton equalised seven minutes before the break. For the first 20 minutes of the second half, Wimbledon were on the rack as Windsor swept forward repeatedly, but, right against the run of play, Reynolds scored again and Wimbledon scraped home.

No joy, though, in the London Senior Cup. Wimbledon lost 3-1 at Kingstonian and Reynolds was sent off for violent play in the 83rd minute. As the game neared its conclusion, some of the crowd began streaming towards the area between the pitch and the dressing rooms. Police arrived to push the fans back onto the terracing, but a linesman was hit on the leg by a stone and had to be helped off.

The draw for the Amateur Cup was not kind. Wimbledon had to visit Enfield, where the home side had not lost to an amateur side for two years. Sixteen coach loads of fans made the trip from South London and given Enfield's home record, a 2-0 defeat was not too disappointing, although the performance was.

Meanwhile, the FA feared the position regarding alleged payments to amateur players had been allowed to drift too far. All amateur clubs were ordered to sign a legally-binding declaration stating that they conformed to all the regulations governing amateur clubs. Wimbledon were the first side to refuse to sign, although they were later joined by Tooting and others. Wimbledon argued that, for all they knew, supporters could be giving the players money, which no club official might be aware of.

On the park Wimbledon's run of bad form continued when, after a run of 12 straight home League victories, they crashed 5-0 at home to Sutton United. The League had developed into a two horse race, with Wimbledon and Hendon the two contenders still having to meet each other twice. By the date of their first meeting, on March 28, Hendon's free scoring attack had already smashed the Isthmian League goalscoring record with 107 goals in their first 30 League games. By contrast, Wimbledon had managed only 67.

Claremont Road resembled a ploughed field as the two sides came out for what many saw as the title decider. O'Rourke set Hendon on their way with a goal in the first minute and soon after Hamm was badly injured. He was effectively a passenger for the rest of the match and Hendon scored twice more.

The two teams met again a week later at Plough Lane. Heavy rain had turned Plough Lane as well into a sea of mud and Hendon scored in the 12th minute to take an ominous grip on proceedings. But Law equalised from the penalty spot to send the teams in level at half-time, before Reynolds put Wimbledon ahead on the hour. There were ugly scenes again. When Ardrey was injured, visiting supporters cheered and an iron bar was thrown onto the pitch. An official was then threatened, and police had to go behind the goal to control matters as Wimbledon edged it 2-1.

A useful 4-2 win at Kingstonian, in which Ian Cooke made his debut, was followed by a 1-0 win over the same club in the final home League match of the season, watched by 3,350. Hendon's form, meanwhile, had slipped, and with three away games to go, Wimbledon needed only one point to clinch the title. They duly scored five times in the first half to lead 5-1 at Woking and that was the final score. Wimbledon were Champions for the third successive year. Wimbledon then beat Corinthian Casuals 2-0 at Dulwich in the final match of the season, Cooke opening his Wimbledon account with the club's final, and 87th, League goal.

Champions they were and behind the scenes Wimbledon officials had been gearing up the club for a move that would shock football's amateur hierarchy.

They had decided the time was right to 'Join The Professionals' One vacancy had arisen in the Southern League, Division One, as a result of Clacton Town's intended resignation and Wimbledon applied.

It all hinged on a special meeting, called for May 11, which was open for all members to discuss the issue and then vote on it. There were over 200 present to hear club chairman Sydney Black's address and he left them in no doubt whatsoever over his intentions. He would walk out on the club if they decided to stay amateur.

The nine man management committee had already announced they would resign as well if the vote went against. Roy Law, club captain, chose his words carefully. The team would stay together, whether amateur or professional, he said. There was, in the end, no doubt. Of the200 plus present, just 24 voted against and the proposal to turn professional was carried.

Romford duly proposed Wimbledon for the vacant spot, with Guildford City the seconders. And at the Southern League's annual meeting of June 6, 1964, the Dons were duly voted into the League's First Divi­sion. Four days later, on June 10, 15 Wimbledon players signed profes­sional forms.

Yet another new age was dawning in the history of Wimbledon Football Club

The step up from amateur to professional status was a giant one. There were big changes to be made behind the scenes, affecting particularly the 242 members of the old amateur club set-up, who had made the decisions and who had been liable for any debts.

With the new found responsibility of pay­ing staff and players, the club had to form a limited company. This would generate instant capital and, at the same time, keep the liability for any overspending at a reasonable level.

Wimbledon opted to issue 4,000 shares at £5 each, thereby raising £20,000. That would become their share capital and that, as a limited company, would be their total liability for any debts. A full time secretary was appointed, with John Young joining from a position at FA headquarters.

The members were duly called together for the crucial vote, but there was not really a choice in the matter. A vote against the move into the profes­sional world of limited companies and paid players would mean no football at Plough Lane, for a season at least.

Even so, some amateur diehards stayed away and some voted against. The majority of 139-6, however, was easily sufficient. The council then gave permission for the ground to be transferred from the amateur club to the new limited company, which was duly registered on July 7, 1964 as Wimbledon Football Club Limited; company No. 811820.

All the members were allocated one share each, with the directors being chairman Sydney Black, Edwin Fenton and Stanley Jasper. Black was to make a £49,000 covenant to the club, payable at £7,000 a season for its first seven years in the professional ranks. By then, he must have thought, it would have been big enough and strong enough to make its own way.

Finances were now even more critical, and at the club's annual meeting it was announced that a £2,000 Supporters Club donation, plus a further £3,500 from the Development Fund had contributed to a heal­thy profit from the previous campaign.