Ahead of Rovers and AFC Wimbledon’s first ever meeting on Saturday, we’ll look at the brilliant rise of the away side since their formation in 2002 over a three part series.
On Saturday September 16th, Blackburn Rovers will welcome AFC Wimbledon to Ewood Park for the very first time, fifteen years after our visitors were formed.
In this three part series of articles, I will cover each season with a timeline & write about every season of both clubs from 2002-2017 & how we got to this point of meeting for the very first time.
The first part of this three-part series was released yesterday and can be found by clicking here, with the third part released tomorrow before our encounter.
Today’s article will cover from the 2007/08 season until the end of the 2011/12 season.
Pre-season started earlier than usual for Rovers as they chose to enter the Intertoto Cup, Rovers soundly defeated FK Vetra & MyPa 47 to progress & enter the UEFA Cup but they were knocked out in the 1st round by AEK Larissa managed by former Rover Giorgios Donis. In the Premier League however, Rovers produced a much better showing finishing 7th but, despite nineteen goals from summer signing Roque Santa Cruz, they failed to qualify for Europe for the third successive season.
It was a case of third time lucky for AFC Wimbledon, under new boss Terry Brown. The Dons overcame Staines Town 2-1 in the Isthmian League Premier League play off final to secure a third promotion in just six seasons as a club.
Paul Ince was named as the new manager of Rovers, replacing Mark Hughes who departed for Manchester City. The season started well enough though as Andre Ooijer snatched a last minute winner in a dramatic 3-2 success away at Everton. The opening day result however wasn’t a sign of things to come as Paul Ince was sacked after a shocking 3-0 loss away at Wigan just before Christmas & replaced by Sam Allardyce, despite reaching the quarter-finals of the League Cup.
Under Big Sam, Rovers climbed away from the relegation zone & finished fifteenth as well reaching the FA Cup fifth round. This season was also the final season of one of Rovers’ recent all time greats, after eight wonderful years of magical moments, Tugay decided to retire from football leaving his status as a Rovers legend secure. Possibly the greatest player to grace Ewood Park, he certainly is in my lifetime.
A second successive promotion under manager Terry Brown & a fourth in seven seasons for AFC Wimbledon was achieved as they were crowned Champions of the Football Conference South.
Rovers performed a lot better the following season with Big Sam signing Michel Salgado as one of the summer recruits, as changes were made to the squad. Despite an early exit in the FA Cup, Rovers managed to secure a top 10 finish & reach the Semi-Final of the League Cup. Aston Villa prevailed over two legs with the second leg of the Semi-Final proving to be a classic as Villa triumphed 6-4 (7-4 aggregate after Villa won the first leg 1-0) but not before Rovers gave them an almighty scare & pushed them all the way until the end.
Wimbledon finished their first season in the National Conference with an eighth place finish, they also reached the FA Cup first round and the third round of the FA Trophy. They were runners-up in the London Senior Cup & the quarterfinals of the Surrey Senior Cup with Danny Kedwell netting 21 goals as their top scorer for the season.
This season was the year the decline of Rovers started. The team started brightly enough, once again beating Everton on the opening day of the season for the second time in three seasons, this time 1-0 at Ewood Park.
A mixed bag of results followed from a 2-1 derby success at Blackpool to defeats against the likes of Stoke & Birmingham. In the days leading up to the home fixture with Aston Villa, the club announced that Venky’s had taken over control from the Walkers Trust, despite a 2-0 success over Villa in their first game as owners in the months (well 7 years to be exact) that followed was nothing short of chaotic.
A humbling 7-1 reverse at Old Trafford & a 2-1 defeat away at Bolton sandwiched in between a 3-0 win over Wolves was enough to sack Sam Allardyce and replace him with a rookie who had no experience and no business being Rovers manager, the infamous Steve Kean.
John Williams left his position as Chairman a few months later, as a downturn in results caused Rovers to being pulled into a relegation dogfight heading into the final game of the season. Rovers travelled to Wolves knowing both teams could go down into the Championship, fortunately first half goals from Brett Emerton, Jason Roberts & Junior Hoilett proved vital as a 3-2 win was enough to secure Rovers Premier League status.
In their first season as a professional club, AFC Wimbledon made history with promotion to the Football League, after a dramatic 4-3 penalty shootout success over Luton Town after the match finished goalless after extra time. Wimbledon also reached the second round of both the FA Cup & the FA Trophy with Danny Kedwell once again topping their goalscoring charts with 25 goals.
This was a season to forget for Rovers fans, despite the signings of Scott Dann & Yakubu the team never got into any sort of form with the “manager” Steve Kean becoming more & more hated by supporters with every passing week, with good reason I might add.
The first league win of the season came at the fifth attempt in a thrilling 4-3 win at home to Arsenal with the Yak scoring a brace on his debut. The next three points didn’t come until the beginning of December when Rovers won a six goal thriller against Swansea 4-2 with Yakubu netting all four goals for the home side.
Rovers unexpectedly gained four points from six away from home over Christmas with a 1-1 draw with Liverpool & a fantastic 3-2 victory over Manchester United. Instead of an upturn in results, Rovers only collected five more wins after the new year & relegation to the Championship was confirmed with a 0-1 defeat to Wigan Athletic at Ewood, the highlight of that game was a chicken draped in a Rovers flag being onto the pitch, and seeing Ali Al-Habsi chasing the chicken around the net.
While Rovers dropped into the second tier, AFC Wimbledon entered the Football League for the very first time, while not troubling at the top they were in no relegation trouble either, picking up some notable results along the way including a league double over former Premier League side Bradford City & finishing a respectable fifteenth while exiting early in all the Cup competitions.
Thanks for reading, and make sure you see the third part on Saturday!