David Mentiply looks at the return of a prodigal son.
‘Jason Euell is starting for AFC Wimbledon today. This is like Henry returning to Arsenal.’
These were the words of one Wimbledon supporter on Twitter yesterday. But whereas Thierry Henry celebrated his return to London with a goal against Leeds United in the FA cup third-round, Euell had to make do with sixty minutes against mid-table Morecambe of League Two.
Euell’s ‘return’ to AFC Wimbledon – on loan terms from his current club Charlton – is a happy reminder that some footballers see their employment as more than a simple business relationship. Euell clearly feels a bond, or even a sense of duty, towards his “former” club for who he made a total of 177 appearances, scoring 47 goals.
The quotation marks represent, of course, the fact that Wimbledon FC ceased to exist back in 2004. The controversial forced relocation to Milton Keynes and decision to rename the club MK Dons was opposed by the vast majority of supporters, hastening the creation of AFC Wimbledon. Through the Dons Trust, AFC Wimbledon is run and owned by its supporters.
The Trust board is made up of elected supporters who represent all 1,800 members’ wishes. Since its formation, the club have been promoted five times. They have also set an all-time record in English senior football – playing 78 consecutive league matches without a single defeat.
It’s the off-the-field story that impresses people like Euell: ‘It’s the fans you remember and for what they have done from where they started to get to where they are now has just been unreal and for me to be a part of that is going to be even more special.’
Euell has been bowled over by the way Wimbledon supporters greeted the news of his return. This response surely has much to do with footballing reasons. After all, Euell is a former Jamaica international with Premiership experience and a nose for goal. What can’t be overlooked, however, is the way Euell has spoken of the club. He understands the passion the supporters have and their long hard struggle to ensure Wimbledon remained as a club that served the local community. Euell has kept tabs on AFC Wimbledon over the years and even visited Kingsmeadow Stadium for the club’s launch whilst he was a multimillion-pound player in the Premier League.
The Dons might not immortalise Euell by erecting a bronze statue outside their ground à la Arsenal and Henry, but he is a very popular man. If only there were more Jason Euells in today’s game.
You can follow the great man on twitter at @jasoneuell