Creating history takes time.
Before I write my articles for The Indy, I like to do a bit of research. On trawling the net for information on Milton Keynes, it’s fair to say that there’s very little in the way of positive press.
Designated a new town in 1967, the area – designed to help relieve housing congestion in London – incorporated the existing towns of Wolverton, Stony Stratford and Bletchley, as well as 15 villages and farmland in between.
The site is located equidistant from Birmingham, London, Leicester, Oxford and Cambridge and the plan was to learn from the mistakes of earlier new towns such as Welwyn Garden City and Stevenage, situated a concrete cow’s throw away in Hertfordshire. Modernist designs, grid roads, intensive planting, lakes and a vast everything-under-one-roof shopping centre were supposed to combine the perfect place to live and work. All sounds lovely but where’s the soul, man?
Despite the obvious faults of Milton Keynes as somewhere to inhabit, other football clubs showed interest in the metropolis’ ‘potential’ long before Wimbledon’s identity was stolen and supplanted 56 miles from its birthplace in 2003.
In 1973, Charlton Athletic’s owners, the Gilksten family, submitted plans to Greenwich Council to build a community sports complex at The Valley, and host a public market at the stadium on weekdays. The council refused so the powers that be reacted by proposing a move to ‘a progressive Midlands borough’ i.e. Milton Keynes. Suffice to say, the outraged supporters voiced their disapproval and the Gilkstens backed down.
Six years later Wimbledon chairman Ron Noades was frustrated with the supposed restraints of the Dons’ Plough Lane home and, tempted by the land earmarked for stadium development adjacent to Milton Keynes Central Station, purchased the town’s existing football club, Milton Keynes City, with a merger on his mind. He quickly got bored of the idea and sold up to Sam Hamman. We all know what happened a few years later…
With a stadium saga that would kick even the Albion’s titanic slog for Falmer well into touch, Luton Town’s never-ending search for a new home nearly bore fruit in the early 1980s. Just 20 miles up the M1, the site previously coveted by Ron Noades was being lined up for ‘MK Hatters’. After promotion to the First Division in 1983, the cramped Kenilworth Road was deemed even more unsuitable for top flight football. A season-long fans’ protest soon extinguished the ridiculous idea.
Arsenal moved across the River Thames to Islington, from their original home in Woolwich, in 1913. No-one talks about it anymore and generation after generation of Gooners only know them as a north London club.
It could take that long for MK Dons to be ‘accepted’ and ‘respected’ in their own right.