November 30, 2012 by mapperleystag1
As the footballing community prepares for the showdown between the MK Dons and AFC Wimbledon on Sunday, it seems an appropriate moment to revisit the original Crazy Gang and dispel a few myths which have become increasingly popular in recent years.
The stories of Wimbledon F.C. and their true heirs, AFC Wimbledon, are extraordinary ones. Both clubs enjoyed meteoric rises through the leagues, with the former reaching the old First Division in 1986, four seasons after promotion from the Fourth Division and having spent only nine years in the Football League. Amazingly, the achievements of the old Dons have been thoroughly overshadowed by the new Dons’ exploits, who rose from the ashes of the demise and relocation of their predecessors in 2002, becoming a Football League club in just nine seasons after their formation. Because of this, it is hard to imagine that many outside of Milton Keynes will not be rooting for AFC Wimbledon come Sunday lunchtime in their highly anticipated grudge match against the Franchise F.C.
The good will and positive attention that AFC Wimbledon have deservedly received over the past decade has had the unwanted consequence of leading to a revisionist assessment of the old Wimbledon and their style of football. In recent years, many football pundits, managers and fans have unfortunately, in an attempt to show their support for the phoenix club, rewritten the history of the original Crazy Gang to suit their agendas, portraying them as innocent eccentrics whose approach should be emulated in today’s game, in the process completely disregarding previous more truthful accounts.
Despite what we have been told recently, the Crazy Gang were not innocent, lovable eccentrics who should be admired, especially in an age so far detached from the 1980s and early 1990s in terms of finance and attitudes to the game. Whilst the oft-cited initiation ceremonies that new players received could be potentially construed as harmless fun (although that in itself is difficult to justify, as there appears little that is harmless or fun in burning someone’s clothes, letting down their car tyres or filling their boots with shaving cream), the real nastiness occurred on the pitch. Who can ever forget the infamous incident between Vinnie Jones and Paul Gascoigne, where the Wimbledon hardcase grabbed the stunned Geordie’s testicles? Equally, I strongly urge readers to rewatch the frankly heinous tackle by Jones on Gary Stevens (available on YouTube), which left the Spurs player with an injury he never fully recovered from. Indeed, there are “special” compilation videos uploaded that offer a more comprehensive overview of Jones’ vicious fouls than this article is able to do. However, it would be wrong to single out Jones for special attention. The whole Wimbledon side and the tactics that they employed throughout this period were based solely around intimidation and enabling their players to demonstrate their physical advantages over opponents, through a constant aerial bombardment that the likes of Pulis and Allardyce have been searching for over the course of their managerial careers, something that has remained elusive, despite their best efforts.
The examples outlined above, however, do not fit into the current revisionism of the Crazy Gang, which favours a misty-eyed, romanticised narrative, giving undue precedence to their victory in the 1988 FA Cup Final and their league finishes, neglecting or even glorifying the more unsavoury aspects that were never too far from the surface during their games. This has been emphasised by comments by Nigel Reo-Coker and Mick McCarthy in recent years, both of whom have attempted to invoke or praised a Crazy Gang spirit within their squads, which is seen as desirable or something to aspire to. What seems to have been forgotten though is that the style of football and brutal tactics of the Crazy Gang were widely condemned at the time, summarised succinctly by Gary Lineker’s comment that the best way to watch Wimbledon was on Ceefax,. Nowadays, the pale imitators of this style, Stoke City and West Ham United, are roundly criticised for their approach whilst the original masters are perversely spoken about in dulcet tones by commentators. Ahead of their match on Sunday, AFC Wimbledon should continue to forge their own history without harking back to the good old days of the Crazy Gang. As this article suggests, those days were not as good as many wish to believe.