THE HISTORY OF WIMBLEDON FOOTBALL CLUB
1986
1986-7

There were now fixtures against the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and Everton to consider and motivation certainly wasn't a problem. Rainy midweek matches at the likes of Darlington and Crewe were still all too fresh in the memory of most, player and spectator alike.

But few were giving Wimbledon any real chance of making a mark and that's like the proverbial red rag to a bull, as far as this club is concerned. Consequently, by the first week of September there they were, on top of the First Division with the rest of the Football League trailing in their wake.

A goal from Thorn had been their only return from the season's opener, a 3-1 defeat at Manchester City. The Dons had dominated much of this game however, and, after Thorn had put the Dons in front, City scored with their only three shots on target.

But four successive wins had seen Wimbledon surge up the table. Gage, Fashanu and Hodges set the wheels in motion in a 3-2 victory over Aston Villa...a 6,372 gate attracted to Plough Lane for their first ever home Division One game.

Single goal wins followed, with Cork, Wise and Hodges the marksmen against Leicester City, Charlton Athletic and Watford respectively. For one week Wimbledon ruled the land, setting the scene for a season that saw League doubles over Manchester United and Chelsea and incredible wins at Liverpool, West Ham and Spurs.

The club, by now, had more than its fair share of knockers for the way they played the game.

Their direct approach had the purists holding their heads in horror. But the Wimbledon way worked wonders. Why attempt in four passes what you can achieve in one, anyway? Why dwell on fancy footwork out on the wing when the good early cross is guaranteed to catch defender and 'keeper, napping?

There was plenty of bite and fight, but there always has been with Wimbledon sides. It was a formula that had worked at all levels and one that was working just as well again up among soccer's elite.

Small wonder, then, that the Wimbledon way also earned them their best run yet in the FA Cup, taking them beyond a fifth round tie against Everton.

The BBC cameras were there for that one and Wimbledon didn't freeze on the day either, clinching a win in some certain style and going into the quarter-final draw for the first time in their history, courtesy of goals from Hodges, Sayer and Fashanu.

Out of the hat came Tottenham Hotspur, but it was a Waddle and Hoddle double act that won the day, with Wimbledon knocked out in front of a 16,000 packed Plough Lane gate and the TV cameras there again, although this time from ITV.

The season was far from over and home wins against Coventry, Forest and Chelsea took Wimbledon to a very creditable sixth position. Just to put that in perspective, but for the Heysel Stadium disaster, that placing would have been sufficient to bring European football to SWI9.

This, though, signaled the end of the 'Harry' Bassett reign at Plough Lane. He was enticed away to manage Watford, taking most of the backroom boys with him, as well as Hodges and Morris, while Winterburn, Player of the Year for four seasons in succession, moved to the Arsenal.