Gale: The fans want West Ham to really attack the FA Cup

Tony Gale


Tony Gale will be a particularly interested spectator when West Ham United travel to AFC Wimbledon in the Emirates FA Cup fourth round on Saturday evening.

Aside from being a Hammers legend, Gale is also chairman of non-league club Walton Casuals, who faced the Dons in the Combined Counties League Premier League – the ninth tier of English football – as recently as the 2003/04 season.

Fifteen years on and AFC Wimbledon are now an established Football League side awaiting the arrival of Premier League opposition for a tie which will be broadcast live all over the world.

This tie at AFC Wimbledon is one we can win and hopefully we can go on and really attack the FA Cup this season, because that is what the fans want

Tony Gale

“It’s not so long ago that AFC Wimbledon were playing against the club I am chairman of, Walton Casuals, in the Combined Counties League, so I’ve seen them rise at close quarters and the way the people have worked at that club and it’s a great story,” said Gale, referring to the Dons’ sensational six promotions since the club was formed in 2002.

Work is now underway for AFC, who currently play home matches at the Cherry Red Records Stadium in Kingston-upon-Thames, to return to their spiritual home in the London Borough of Merton, where Gale recalls playing at the old Plough Lane in the 1980s.

“They are going back to their roots,” he recalled. “Plough Lane was a brilliant place to play and we had a few tear-ups there!

“They had a Crazy Gang and the way they played made it difficult for other teams, with the likes of Vinnie Jones and John Fashanu. I never enjoyed marking Fash, as he was awkward, but those were good days!”

Twenty years on from those battles, West Ham will take on a Wimbledon team managed by an influential member of that Crazy Gang in former midfielder and ex-Hammers coach Wally Downes.

“I saw Wally a couple of weeks ago when I was out having lunch and I am pleased he has come back and got this job because he is a good football man,” said Gale. “He has gone back home to Wimbledon and I wish him well there.

“I was sad to see [Downes’ predecessor] Neal Ardley go, as he was a real Wimbledon man like Wally, but Wally has come in and he’s got a bit more of an old-school mentality than Neal, which could serve them well.”

While he clearly has a soft spot for AFC Wimbledon, Gale’s loyalties lie very much with West Ham when it comes to Saturday’s tie and he is hoping his old club can go all the way to Wembley and lift the FA Cup for the fourth time in their history.

“This tie at AFC Wimbledon is one we can win and hopefully we can go on and really attack the FA Cup this season, because that is what the fans want,” he said.

“If you’re a West Ham fan, it’s a game you’d like to go to and stand on the terrace and cheer your team on to victory!”