AFC Wimbledon are finally coming as they gear up for momentous return to Plough Lane this evening (Tuesday, November 3) after nearly three decades away.

But the club's first home match back in Merton against Doncaster Rovers will be bittersweet, with fans locked out of the stadium due to coronavirus regulations.

Effectively homeless since their inception, the game will mark the end of a 29-year-old absence from the Dons spiritual home, and a long and improbable journey back home to Merton.

Wimbledon Times:

Stephen Alambritis, the Labour leader of Merton Council, said AFC Wimbledon’s return to the borough is a righting of an historic wrong.

“Something went wrong back in those early days, but we as a council watched in awe as this club gathered itself and came back. It’s been a delight to work with them.” 

Formed in 2002, AFC Wimbledon is a phoenix entity established by supports of Wimbledon FC in response to the decision to move their club to Milton Keynes.

The club's path to League One since then is near miraculous, achieving a total of six promotions, including EFL status in 2011 and a Leage Two Play-Off Final win.

But despite achieving on the pitch success, the second goal of coming home to Plough Lane has taken far longer.

Wimbledon Times:

The Dons have spent time at Crystal Palace's home, Selhurst Park, and until recently have played their football in Kingston's Kingsmeadow stadium.

The club then launched their bid to return to Plough Lane in 2012, but it took over two years before they could even submit a planning application.

The old Plough Lane is now a housing estate, so the Dons decided to redevelop the Greyhound Stadium but ran into financial difficulty last year.

The club announced they needed £11m by January to complete the build, and fans rallied, raising over £5.4m.

Wimbledon Times:

The club began the current season groundsharing with Queens Park Rangers, but on November 3, the club will play their first match back at Plough Lane.

“Not many clubs can say that they are masters of their own destiny,” says Graham Stacey, a board member of ownership group the Dons Trust. 

“People have driven us, it’s been relentless and the work they’ve done is amazing. Every time we’ve asked the fans for something they’ve come good. Whether it’s campaigning, or pooling their resources and skills.”

The newly constructed Plough Lane will hold 9,300 fans when Covid-19 restrictions allow it, with the option to upgrade this to 20,000.

But for now fans will have to make do with a live broadcast on the club's Youtube channel from 6pm tonight, as well as having cardboard cut-outs inside the stadium.

Wimbledon Times:

On the eve of the big day, AFC Wimbledon's Trust Chair, Mark Davis, said he wanted to pay tribute to everyone who's played a part in the return to Plough Lane.

"Tomorrow marks a landmark day in the history of AFC Wimbledon, when our first team will turn out for the first home match in Merton following a diaspora one day short of 29-and-a-half years.

"It will be a strange experience, in some ways, with our fans not able to attend. But it will be a major event for AFC Wimbledon and the Dons Trust nonetheless.

"As Chair of the Trust, and someone who’s been closely involved in the stadium project over the past few years, I want to pay tribute to everyone who’s played a part in that return. It might sound like a gushing Oscar ceremony speech, but it needs to be done.

"My only difficulty is that, despite gradually gathering together a list of names on a scrap of paper over the past few months, I will inevitably miss some deserving people out – especially those who were involved in the project before I was."

And so a story involving protest, injustice, homelessness, despair, revival, promotion, financial worries and persistence finally ends amid a global pandemic.