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The Midweek Moan: You can move a club miles from Wimbledon but you can’t take its soul

An AFC Wimbledon fan wears a face mask outside the stadium:mk ahead of the FA Cup game with MK Dons. Photo credit: Nick Potts/PA wire An AFC Wimbledon fan wears a face mask outside the stadium:mk ahead of the FA Cup game with MK Dons. Photo credit: Nick Potts/PA wire

Wednesday, December 5, 2012
1:01 PM

Welcome to London24’s weekly column taking a frustrated look at the world of sport and having a good old rant to get it off our chests. This week, the MK Dons and other sporting changes that don’t cut the mustard...

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"I prefer going to grounds like Anfield, Hillsborough or Brunton Park than the likes of stadium:mk, which is still half-built and an out-of-town soulless bowl"

Tom Moore

Sunday’s FA Cup second round game between AFC Wimbledon and Milton Keynes Dons was dubbed by some football fans as a battle between good and evil, such was the history of the two sides, borne from the relocation and subsequent demise of the old Wimbledon FC.

As the record books now show, the Buckinghamshire Dons prevailed, but the controversial first ever meeting between the two rivals in the five-year-old stadium:mk just brought to light another off-shoot of modern sporting developments – a lack of character.

No amount of modern stadium architecture can account for that special feature.

I prefer going to grounds like Anfield, Hillsborough or Brunton Park than the likes of stadium:mk, which is still half-built and an out-of-town soulless bowl.

Wimbledon AFC fans celebrate their team's first goal of the game, without the aid of music, as Milton Keynes Dons Steven Williams looks on dejected. Photo credit: Tony Marshall/EMPICSWimbledon AFC fans celebrate their team's first goal of the game, without the aid of music, as Milton Keynes Dons Steven Williams looks on dejected. Photo credit: Tony Marshall/EMPICS

That ground is by no means alone with the Darlington Arena – opened nine years ago in the north-east - suffering the same problem.

It’s bizarre finding yourself in a 25,000 capacity ground with only 3,000 fans in attendance.

And it’s the worst feeling when you can see the ground from the train and then it travels for another few minutes to pull into the station, meaning a long walk for all concerned.

Give me a cramped, run-down stadium with history any day of the week.

The half built interior of stadium:mk during the MK Dons v AFC Wimbledon FA Cup clash. Picture: Nick Potts/PA WireThe half built interior of stadium:mk during the MK Dons v AFC Wimbledon FA Cup clash. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire

It’s the same at Wembley – the arch just doesn’t have the same impact of the old twin towers.

Arsenal could have fallen foul to a similar problem when it came to moving from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium. However, with some work they were able to recreate the history of their old home with pictures and statues of former players.

It’s not just football though. Formula 1 is the same with many of the newer tracks lacking the prestige and character of the older, more traditional circuits. The facilities at Monza might not be the greatest but the place is steeped in history, while Silverstone has thankfully kept its character despite a redesign. But when they did the same to Hockenheim they took away its allure.

I associate the German circuit with the old format of blasting through the forest at 200 miles an hour. In 2008, I had a brilliant view at the hairpin, from a wooden terrace, of Lewis Hamilton putting all his rivals to shame in a brilliant comeback drive from fifth to first in dry conditions over 20 breathless laps.

But, I digress. Back in Milton Keynes last weekend for AFC Wimbledon’s last-gasp 2-1 defeat there was another modern football irritant – after-goal music.

When the hosts scored their goals against AFC Wimbledon, and despite the press box being in amongst the home supporters, all I could hear was the tannoy blasting out pop-rock song Chelsea Dagger by The Fratellis.

The first time I went to stadium:mk in 2008 the same song was played and it was all I could hear from the away end. I’d rather hear ecstatic fans than some song that was good the first couple of times, but now old and stale.

The same applies for musical instruments in football crowds. I don’t want to hear a beat of a drum or a bell being rung for 90 minutes either. Anfield doesn’t need a drum to create an atmosphere – why should other clubs need one?

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