1. HistoryAlthough the club had been known for its players' oftentimes outlandish behaviour since the early 1980s, the team became more widely recognised for it following their promotion to the First Division in 1986.
Practical jokes and initiations for new players were commonplace; these ranged from players being stripped and forced to walk home naked to belongings being set on fire to players being tied to the roof of a car at the training ground and driven at high speeds along the A3 among a multitude of others, with long-serving midfielder Vinnie Jones saying "you either grew a backbone quickly or dissolved as a man", in reference to the club's boisterous culture.
As the now top-flight team received more attention for their antics from the media, they also became subject to criticism from many pundits and fellow players, who accused the team of taking a "simplified, overly aggressive, and intimidating" approach to football in comparison to the other teams in the league.
This newfound scrutiny created a close bond and tenacious camaraderie among the players, who adopted an "us vs them" mentality on the field as more and more opposing teams feared the side and their reputation.
Players such as Vinnie Jones and John Fashanu were often accused of showing little regard for their opponents and deliberately making dangerous, risky tackles. Both received significant attention after both Gary Stevens and Gary Mabbutt of Tottenham Hotspur were injured in separate incidents following challenges from Jones and Fashanu respectively; Stevens never fully recovered from the injuries suffered as a result of Jones' tackle and retired four years later.
As the team saw a sustained degree of success in the First Division, their most famous moment came in 1988, when they upset league champions Liverpool to win the FA Cup. The "Crazy Gang" nickname was coined at the final whistle, when BBC commentator John Motson declared that "The Crazy Gang have beaten the Culture Club". The name then caught on nationally, frequently appearing in newspaper reports, and was often used in TV and radio coverage of the club. The team finished seventh in the league that season, having finished sixth a year earlier on their debut in the top flight.
Despite many key members of the original group leaving in the aftermath of the FA Cup final victory, the media and the club itself continued to use the nickname, with Wimbledon chairman Sam Hammam adopting it for marketing purposes and having it embroidered on the team's shirts for a period of time in the 1990s.
The club continued to achieve respectable finishes in the top flight throughout the 1990s, and were founding members of the Premier League in 1992. They finished in the top 10 of the league a total of seven times, peaking at sixth place in 1987 and again in 1994, and reached the semi-finals of both the FA Cup and the League Cup in the 1996–97 season.
Their final serious attempt at winning silverware came in the 1998–99 season, when they again reached the semi-finals of the League Cup. Wimbledon were relegated from the Premier League in 2000 after 14 years in the top flight, by which time the name had become inappropriate as a description of its latest generation of players, although the club still continued to use it for some years to promote itself commercially.
In 2002, the original club was relocated to Milton Keynes and later became known as M.K. Dons; supporters of the club were strongly opposed to moving the club so far away from Wimbledon, and formed AFC Wimbledon in the aftermath of the announcement.
As of the 2023–24 season, MK Dons play in EFL League Two having been relegated the previous season, whilst AFC Wimbledon also play in EFL League Two, having been relegated in the 2021-22 season
2. Tactic AnalysisIt certainly wasn’t football for the purists. Wimbledon typified the long ball and were happy to scrap with anybody and use dirty tricks to gain a competitive edge. It may not have been pretty, but it was effective.
Their first season in division one saw Wimbledon finish 6th, which remains their best ever finish in the top division. The following year, they finished 7th but made it to the FA Cup Final. They would face Liverpool in the final who had just been crowned league champions and were strongly fancied to complete the double.
But the Crazy Gang had other ideas. They got stuck into Liverpool, realising this chance may never come around again. And eight minutes before half time, a Dennis Wise free kick was headed home by Lawrie Sanchez.
The second half saw a Peter Beardsley goal ruled out for Liverpool and the first ever penalty save in an FA Cup Final as Wimbledon goalkeeper Dave Beasant denied Irish international John Aldridge.
3. How to create the tactic on Football ManagerWe won't be bothering with all that tiki-taka, gegenpressing nonsense. Instead, we'll embrace a "four-four-fucking-two" approach, focusing on direct football, robust challenges, and early crosses.
In possession: fairly wide attacking width, overlap left and right, more direct passing and slightly higher tempo, hit early crosses, shoots on target (* I chose this instructions to create more chances but removed it later), mixed crosses, be more disciplined (with a low tier team it is better) , run at defence.
In transition: counter press, counter, long kicks, distribute to target forward (Goalkeeper often played long ball to the target forward, Fashanu, who could then distribute to other teammates. Then other teammates according to the situation decided what to do).
Out of possession: mid-block, lower defense, much more often pressing, get stuck in (of course!, Crazy gang members were famous for their hard tackles!), drop off more, trap outside, stop crosses.
Now, roles and tasks.
The formation was a 4-4-2, all players were marking much tighter and of course tackling hard, so I gave those two instructions to all my players.
Goalkeeper: simple goalkeeper on defend
Full-back right: defend: cross aim target forward, run wide with the ball, stay wider, tackle harder, mark tighter
Full-back left: cross aim target forward, run wide with the ball, stay wider, tackle harder, mark tighter
Central defenders: both on defend with same instructions: pass it shorter, take fewer risks, close down less, tackle harder, mark tighter
Right wing-attack: cross aim target forward, tackle harder, mark tighter
Left wing-attack: shoot more often, cross aim target forward, tackle harder, mark tighter
Right central midfielder- support: take more risks, cross aim target forward, dribble more, run wide with the ball, shoot more often, get further forward, move into channels, tackle harder, mark tighter
Left central midfielder-defend: pass it shorter, take fewer risks, dribble less, tackle harder, mark tighter.
Target forward-attack: take more risks, run wide with the ball, shoot less often, roam from position, move into channels, tackle harder, mark tighter
Deep-lying forward- support: dribble more, shoot less often, tackle harder, mark tighter
I tested this tactic with Wimbledon, a team which according to the bookmakers should finish 20th in Sky Bet League two, but I managed to finish 9th, without making any player transfer, so the squad I started the season with on July 2022 is the same I have now at the end of the season 2022-2023.
It’s a defensive tactic, which emphasizes direct play, long balls played to look for the target forward (Fashanu in that Wimbledon, the Iraqi player Al Ahmadi in my save), an aggressive defensive phase but with a low defensive line and a mid-block, even if our team presses the opponent, it does not press high in the other half of the field but in our half.
I did not test this tactic with stronger team so I do not know if it works with them or not, if you want you could give it a try.
Hope it works for you too
A hug from your Arrigo Sacchi