THE HISTORY OF WIMBLEDON FOOTBALL CLUB
1982
1982-83

Yet who would have thought that when they returned from a summer tour of Finland they would be the bookies' 5-1 favourites for the Fourth Division Championship and promotion to Division Three for a third time?

This time, however, it was to prove third time lucky as the Wimbledon success story steamrollered towards quite an incredible climax.

To describe the seven years leading up to the Centenary celebrations of 1989 as simply "magnificent" barely does Wimbledon justice. For most clubs, promotion just once during that period would have been a great achievement. But not for Wimbledon. This is a club with a real will to win; a determination to succeed when all seems stacked against them.

It was that same determination to climb out of the Football League basement that began a quite incredible journey just seven short seasons ago...a journey that was to lead to the very top.

But there was an early set back as they prepared for the 1982-83 season back in Division Four. Joseph, at the end of a successful 18 month spell at the club was transferred to Brentford for £40,000. But if that was a blow to Bassett's pre-season plotting, then there were plenty of bonuses.

Galliers returned from Crystal Palace for a cut price £15,000, influential Reading and Fulham defender Gary Peters signed as cap­tain and Chris Dibble and Tony Tagg joined from Millwall. Galliers was in no doubt about the club's chances. "I wouldn't have come back if I didn't think Wimbledon were capable of going anywhere," he said.

Wimbledon, in fact, were going in just the one direction: Upwards. Towering striker Stewart Evans at 6ft 4ins, was certainly doing his bit, with plenty of early goals including a first half hat trick against Torquay. And when Wimbledon put six past Aldershot on October 9 they soared top of the table, with five wins and four draws from an unbeaten start to their League programme.

Bassett was a demanding manager, driving his team on to greater efforts and they produced the necessary with clear cut wins over York City and Rochdale before a rocky five match spell around November.

Bassett, in fact, had missed that Aldershot drubbing, favouring instead a spying mission to lowly Bristol City. And it was City who ended Wimbledon's run as the League's last unbeaten side.

Bassett had been named Manager of the Month, but could do little as Wimbledon lost their grip, losing four League games out of five and being knocked out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle. He and the Wimbledon faithful, had nothing to fear, however, for Dons were to be beaten only twice more all season.

They secured promotion at Crewe with four games in hand and ended the season in front of the TV cameras, beating Bury 3-1 in the final game. Cork, sidelined for 18 months, was back after his bad leg break, scoring a hat-trick late on in the season against Chester.

But it was Leslie and Evans, on 23 and 24 League goals respectively, who led the rout as the freescoring Dons rattled in 96 League goals.

And remember that 'Champagne for Goals' title seasons earlier? Well, Wimbledon did it again, this time winning £25,000 from London's Capital Radio as the first London based club to top 80 goals. That hefty cash prize was clinched with a 3-2 win at home to Crewe, with Cork scor­ing the second and Wimbledon's 400th League goal.

A memorable night indeed, that evening of April 19. For even before the goals rattled in, the club were able to hand over to Merton Council a cheque for £100,000, at last buying out the £8,000 pre-emption clause on their Plough Lane ground.

But amidst all this euphoria, the money worries continued. Despite the goals and the glory, the gates stayed in the gutter.

Crowds barely touching a couple of thousand were common place. There was a blanket collection to help pay for the purchase of new signing Steve Hatter.

Bassett talked of axing his reserves and of keeping his fringe first teamers match fit by lending them out to non-league sides The financial restraints were always there "Deep down the future of Wimbledon Football Club Worries me” said Bassett. "This team can't give any more in terms of enthusiasm or effort. But I'm no miracle worker.