FA Cup-winning Wimbledon boss Bobby Gould described AFC Wimbledon’s return to Plough Lane as a “humongous achievement”.
The Dons’ near 30-year exile from Plough Lane ended on Tuesday night when they hosted Doncaster at the Sky Bet League One club’s newly-completed home stadium.
The home side were denied victory after a late equaliser from Rovers, while fans were kept away due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the scale of the achievement was not diminished.
“It’s been an unbelievable rollercoaster, it is a humongous achievement,” Gould, who managed Wimbledon to FA Cup success in 1988, told the PA news agency.
“I think people should look around and say what a marvellous job the people behind the scenes have done.
“Looking at the pictures, seeing the blue and yellow seats, the wonderful ground, it’s just phenomenal.”
On May 28 2002, the FA accepted the decision of a three-man independent panel to approve Wimbledon’s relocation to Milton Keynes, angering fans who reacted by forming AFC Wimbledon.
The new club has since risen to League One where it currently sits above MK Dons, and a move back to Plough Lane – close to the historic home of the original Wimbledon – is another step in the right direction for the fans.
“I had the privilege of playing at the old Plough Lane when I played for Arsenal Reserves against Wimbledon… so it’s got fond memories for me,” said Gould.
“AFC Wimbledon have gone in one direction, and that is forward. And that can never ever now be taken away from them.
“Plough Lane is back there in the history books now.”
A number of former players such as Jason Euell took to Twitter to congratulate the Dons on their return, while the current side fittingly ran out to ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’.
Graham Stacey, 46, is a board member at the Dons Trust, the democratic supporters’ organisation that owns AFC Wimbledon football club.
“It’s been done by the fans and for the fans,” he told PA. “I’m so proud to have been a small part of that and I’m so proud of my fellow members and fans who have done this.
“They say ‘a dream come true’ but I don’t even know if that does it justice because so many things became reality tonight.
“We’re master of our own destiny, and I don’t know how many football fans can say that.”