BY RICHARD CAWLEY
AFC Wimbledon fans have raised more than £1,500 to buy Wally Downes a parting gift – 15 times their original target.
The 58-year-old parted company with the Dons last month after admitting breaching FA betting rules.
But more than 100 supporters have paid in to a crowdfunding appeal and Downes is due to pick up his leaving present at The Alexandra pub on November 23 at 6pm – after the League One club’s home game against Gillingham.
Downes replaced Neal Ardley as boss in December 2018 and they took 21 points from their final 12 matches to clinch survival on the final day of the last campaign.
Graham Stacey, one of the fans to organise the fundraising, said: “We’ve had a few comments that we haven’t done this for other people and that we shouldn’t reward him for the way he left. But this isn’t us putting two fingers up to the club. Wally did something amazing for us. We wanted to say goodbye and thank you – and we haven’t had that chance up until now.
“Initially we went for raising £100 to get him a plaque – and it snowballed from there. We had got to that total within 20 minutes of it going live
“I think Wally is getting some friends and former players to come to the drinks. It should be quite a night.
“What he did was special. Most people had given up that we could stay up. But he galvanised us and it was refreshing to watch us play on the front foot – especially when it was under such a popular player from our Plough Lane days.
“I think as fans we are happy if we see the team give it a go. He made sure that happened and the end result – with us staying up – you couldn’t ask any more.
“It didn’t work out so well this season, for one reason or another, but nothing will take away from what he did last season. I can’t imagine that will be repeated. It was the right man, right place and right time.”
Downes was initially suspended by Wimbledon on September 25 when the FA issued a charge in respect of eight bets placed on matches between November 2013 and July 2019. The FA banned him for four weeks – with a £3,000.