AFC Wimbledon finished 5th in the Premier League in 2031/32, marking an 11-year journey from League One strugglers to one of the best teams in England. So I thought it’d be interesting to take a look back at the club’s rise.
Interestingly, we’ve still yet to win a single trophy as AFC Wimbledon manager, despite leading the club to 12 successive record league finishes. But the club history looks very interesting, rising from Isthmian D1 winners in 2005 to the 5th-best team in England 28 years later!
A rapid but steady rise
It’s clear that we took our time to progressively improve in every league we’ve been in. We finished in the League One playoffs in our first season then clinched promotion in 2nd place 12 months later. We had 2 mid-table Championship finishes before finishing just outside the playoffs and then securing promotion in our 4th season in the second tier.
A similar story has followed in the Premier League, finishing 17th in our first season in the big time, then a steady rise with finishes in 13th, 11th, 8th and most recently 5th.
Crazy Gang heroes
The key player in our rise through the leagues was probably striker Daniel Jebbison, who remains our all-time record goalscorer with 103 league goals. He struggled to break into Sheffield United’s team, only making 43 league appearances before being sold to Reading for £3.7m in 2031, where he scored 13 in 37 in the Championship last season.
Our star academy products Alphonso Cadogan and Chris Passant have been just as crucial. Cadogan made his debut in 2024 and has become the club’s record appearances maker, currently on 280 league games. While Passant, now 24, has scored 63 goals in 210 league games and remains club captain despite falling down the pecking order in our exciting strikeforce.
However, none of those players are recognised as heroes by the AFC Wimbledon fans. One who is, quite surprisingly, beloved by the fans is Ricky-Jade Jones, who’s listed as favoured personnel alongside me. Jones scored 49 in 114 from 2024 to 2028 and was instrumental in our efforts to reach the Premier League for the first time. But the striker retired aged 29, 3 years after leaving us for Fleetwood, where he only managed 12 league appearances.
Surprisingly, the only other player from our 11 years at the club to have made it onto the favoured list is goalkeeper Andrés Araújo. The keeper has become critical to our time in the Premier League with an average rating over 7.15 in all of his 3 seasons and 49 clean sheets in 114 league games.
Loans have been critical to our success, bringing in the likes of Jebbison and his striker partner Jamie Donley and midfielder Alfie Devine from our feeder club deal with Spurs. Donley scored 67 in 139 games for us and has gone on to be a regular starter for Spurs, scoring 39 in 107 over the last 6 seasons. While Devine scored 6 in 110 games for us, is now a key player for Villa since joining them for £24.5m in 2029, and has 3 caps for England.
Buying to sell
But probably the key factor in our rise has been our ability to pinpoint talented young players who we could later sell for a profit. That includes our own academy products, such as Jakub Stepien who joined Sheffield United for £8.5m in 2025 before being sold on to Charlton for just £250k in 2029. Other examples of this are Cody Thorn and Antoine Vidal, who were both signed on free transfers and then sold to Leeds for £8.5m and Wolves for £7m respectively.
We also more than doubled our money on the likes of Sílvio José and Franjo Rosanda, before two massive deals saw then-record appearances holder Luca Stanga join Villa for £10m and winger Alexander Hutchinson move to Forest for £10.25m in the summer of 2029. In the last three seasons our policy has kicked on by bringing in £165m in sales, including the club-record £23.5m that saw right-back Miroslav Avramovic move to Juventus.
In total, we’ve signed 117 players for a total of £197m and sold 104 for a total of £162m. And in my 532 games at the club, we’ve won 238, drawn 119 and lost 175 with a 44% win percentage.
Looking to the future
We still remain somewhat of a selling club because as soon as we establish a player, they attract interest from the best clubs in Europe and we can’t compete. Case in point is centre-back Gian Guerrero, who’s been begging for a move for over a year but no team is meeting the price tag we’ve placed on him. However, getting into Europe has given us a Continental reputation – and the club is now worth a whopping £1.84 billion!
So the future is certainly bright at AFC Wimbledon as the Crazy Gang squad is packed with exciting youngsters, many of which are just coming into their prime. The likes of the best young player in the world Valentin Schumann-Blaschke, Rodolfo Díaz, Araújo, Carlos Alves, Rik Martin and club-record signing Felipe Santos are now considered Premier League standard players with more potential still to realise.
It’ll be interesting to see how we get on in Europe, and whether we can cope with that to record a 13th successive record-high league finish – which would mean Champions League football at a minimum.
Join us on Wednesday to discover if the Crazy Gang can continue to improve!