In 1969 a group of enthusiasts from the Prospect Youth Club, attached to St Matthias’s Church inWorcester Park, decided to form a football team. How little did they know what they had started. From this small bunch of youngsters, Old Wimbledonians Football Club has grown to be one of the largest and best-organised Sunday League Club in the region.
After a year of playing friendlies, 1970 saw the team officially registered with the FA for the first time and soon they joined the newly formed Leatherhead and District Sunday Football League calling themselves Prospect Youth F.C. In the early days home games were played at Cheam Recreation Ground.
Club members included several Old Wimbledonians, some of whom were playing rugby at the Old Wimbledonians ground in Chessington on Saturdays as well as football for Prospect on Sundays. This link was used as a lever to gain permission to use the Old Wimbledonian ground in Clayton Road, Chessington for football.
In 1976 Prospect Youth F.C came to Chessington and the name of the club was altered to Prospect (O.W.) F.C. This was later changed to Old Wimbledonians (Prospect) F.C and finally, when Rugby and Football Clubs both moved to the Atkinson Morley Ground in West Wimbledon, to Old Wimbledonians F.C (OWFC). This complemented the already established rugby and cricket clubs, OWRFC and OWCC.
Over the years the club prospered with perhaps more success on the social front than on the field. In the early years, with only one team and then two, the annual dinner attracted upwards of 150 people at prestigious hostelries in the Wimbledon and surrounding areas.
The club so prospered that in the late 1970’s it was found possible to run two sides in the Leatherhead and District League. Support was sufficient to run three European tours. The proud boast was that during this period the club was ‘unbeaten in Europe’. For a period of time annual overseas tours were undertaken in conjunction with Old Tiffinians FC, a benefit to both clubs. This close link with Tiffs was complemented by the fact that many players turned out on Saturdays for Tiffs and then on Sundays for the O.W’s and for many years a Boxing Day friendly was played against Old Tiffinians.
With the move to Wimbledon in 1980, playing at the Atkinson Morley Ground off Copse Hill, the club continued to expand with the formation of a 3rd Team. The only problem initially was that our home ground only had one football pitch and the 3rd team had to play home games at the Wimbledon Common Extensions. For one season there was even a return to the Old Wimbledonian ground in Chessington to make up the shortfall of pitches.
The club continued to develop and mature first by asking its members to approve a club constitution and then introducing a club kit based on the Wimbledon College colours of Yellow, Maroon and Bottle Green. At this time the club also decided to finally break with the Leatherhead & District Sunday Football League and move to the more demanding and highly regarded at the time Morden & District Sunday Football League.
With the local authority looking to close the Atkinson Morley Hospital and hence the loss of our rented pitches there, the Old Wimbledonians Association in conjunction with Donhead Prep School bought our current ground in Coombe Lane and subsequently finally sold the Chessington Ground. As well as bringing the Cricket Club back together with the winter sports clubs on one site, it also meant that the Football Club, after forceful and persuasive negotiations, finally had two pitches. Two pitches meant that once again expansion could be thought of.
The Football Club, with permission from the Civil Service, the previous owners, actually started using the Coombe Lane Ground long before the sale was finalised and so managed to claim an area for the first team pitch which we have kept to the present day.
Expansion led to a fourth side being created. Unlike the other three sides this new side, called the Strollers, was initially not a league side but a Vets/Friendly side but still playing around 20 games a season in a mixture of pure friendlies whilst also taking part in the Millennium Friendly League. The 2003/2004 season saw the Strollers finally join the other 3 teams in the Morden & District Sunday League being founder members of the newly created Vets Division.
The club continues to thrive in an environment where many sports clubs, let alone football teams have folded. This was exemplified by the formation of a Saturday side for the 2014/2015 season playing initially in the Kingston & District Saturday Football League. After winning the premier division the side was moved to the demanding Surrey South Eastern Combination Football League for the 2017/2018 season.
2015/2016 saw the three Sunday sides move from the ailing Morden & District League to rejoin the flourishing Leatherhead & District League, whilst the Strollers moved to the purely vets league of the Farnham & District Sunday Vets League.
It is no accident that the club has grown and prospered. It is due to the hard work of all its committee members down the years. From the early years of formation in the 1970’s with the likes of Chris Davis, Roger Meloy, Mike Rogers, Dave Clare, to the years of establishment and then growth in the 1980’s with the likes of Clem Dolan, Pat Walsh, Denis Garvey, Brian McCarthy and Stef Milewczyk.
The club is nothing without its members who continue to enjoy their football in their green and yellow and maroon kits! Win or lose we’ll be back in green and yellow and maroon!