Most of Wimbledon’s long lifetime has been spent as an amateur club and the early years were in a minor capacity. Wimbledon were formed in 1889 as Wimbledon Old Centrals, by the old boys of Old Central School in Camp Road. They played their first football on different pitches on Wimbledon Common and used the Fox and Grapes and The Swan public houses as their changing rooms. Their first honours came with the Clapham League title in 1896. In 1901 Wimbledon moved to a private and enclosed ground at Pepys Road while in 1905 the ‘Old Centrals’ was formally dropped from their name.
The 1907/1908 season saw Wimbledon play at Grand Drive near Raynes Park Station, only to move to Merton Hall Road one year later. Wimbledon Nomads would have been an apt name for them for they vacated this venue shortly after in favour of the Malden Wanderers Cricket Ground in Burlington Road by the commencement of the 1909/10 season. The ground was conveniently located, there were spectators’ facilities and for the first time Wimbledon played on a proper, flat pitch. Alas, the many ground changes had made it difficult for Wimbledon to attract regular support and by the end of 1909/10 the club, completely lacking the support of the local council, were on the brink of folding. Thus a suspending of activities was announced for an undefined period.
Meanwhile a new local team was emerging by the name of Wimbledon Borough FC, a club created from, surprise, council workers, playing their matches at a site that is now the greyhound and speedway stadium. After a couple of years of inactivity Wimbledon re-emerged and had talks with the council team. The latter disbanded, amalgamated with Wimbledon and with the influence that now could be exerted a suitable and more permanent site was found in Plough Lane in 1912. When the Taylor report effectively condemned the cosy confines of Plough Lane to the scrapheap, Wimbledon were forced to move in with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park in 1991.
The Dons, the nickname being derived from the club’s name, kicked off in blue and white stripes with navy blue shorts but by the time they had become a very dominant non-league force in the 1930’s they sported all-blue shirts.When The Dons replaced Workington in the fourth division in 1977 they celebrated their new status with an all-white strip with blue trimmings.
The first of the yellow trims would follow soon after. In the mid-Nineties Wimbledon switched from royal blue to navy blue. The most memorable event in the club’s lifespan also coincides with one of the most memorable and stylish kits. In 1987-88 the team reached the FA Cup Final to meet the mighty Liverpool who were seeking a treble. Against all the odds Lawrie Sanchez scored the winning goal in a game that saw the first ever missed penalty in a Wembley Cup Final. The Dons’ shirts that season were blue with a very distinctive yellow yoke or shoulder-panel, call it what you will. A very rare design (see however Bradford City 1911), which brought major silverware to Plough Lane for the first and only time.
Wimbledon’s colours have been inspired by the ‘gold and azure’ from the borough council’s arms, also the club’s badge. The double-headed eagle in the arms of Wimbledon allude to the Roman period and Julius Caesar whose association, more or less mythical, with Wimbledon is indicated by ‘Ceasar’s Camp’ and ‘Caesar’s Well’. The golden rose signifies the Crown connections with Wimbledon; the manor of Wimbledon formerly belonged to the Crown. The golden fret is from the arms of the late Lord Spencer, the former Lord of the Manor of Wimbledon. The gold and blue border is taken from the arms of the De Warenne family, who for a long time bore the title of Earls of Surrey, and is intended to mark the connection of County and Borough.
Wimbledon controversially moved out of their territory disenfranchising a large contingent of its core support. Milton Keynes saw its first-ever football-league match on Saturday 28 september 2003 when the one and only real Wimbledon entertained Burnley at the National Hockey Stadium in front of 5,639 faithful. The move to Milton Keynes coincided with the unveiling of a single eagle’s head as the use of the Wimbledon arms for the past thirty years had in fact been unlawful. The yellow letters MK have been wonderfully incorporated in the eagle’s collar. Very refined, unlike Vinny Jones and the Crazy Gang.