Legendary Wimbledon manager Allen Batsford has revealed the club’s elevation to the professional ranks in 1976 may have been more by luck than judgement.

The 76-year-old took the side into Division Four, having won three successive Southern League championship titles to earn election to the Football League.

He helped spark a sequence of events that would see the Crazy Gang scale the heights of the Premiership and an historic FA Cup triumph in 1988.

Now AFC Wimbledon, founded from scratch following the club’s controversial move to Milton Keynes, are dreaming of a similar fairy tale under boss Terry Brown.

Batsford took the reigns at Plough Lane in 1974 with the club on its knees, and reckons the turnaround would not have been possible without a significant contribution from his former club, Walton & Hersham.

Asked to name his greatest ever Dons side, the Addlestone-based pensioner includes five former Swans – Billy Edwards, Dave Donaldson, Dave Bassett, Keiron Sommers and Roger Connell – all of whom he brought to the club during a frantic first summer in charge.

“When I came to Wimbledon in the July, they had absolutely nothing. I accepted the job, but hadn’t really researched it properly,” he said.

“I agreed to do it before the chairman told me he had had a big clearout. There was no money and no players.

“There were just six players at the time, so I had to bring in people I knew.

“I brought in five from Walton & Hersham and I was fortunate the two sets of players gelled.”

Batsford had won the FA Amateur Cup – plus a host of league titles and county cups – in nine seasons at Stompond Lane, so it was perhaps no surprise the Dons became a force to be reckoned with.

Under him, they became the first non-League team to beat a top-flight team at their home ground in the FA Cup, when they defeated First Divison Burnley 1-0 at Turfmoor.

Batsford, who revealed there was no real desire to turn pro in the first place, quit after six months in the Football League, although he admits that may have been a hasty decision.

“We didn’t have an ambition to get into the Football League. We took each game as it came and, because we worked at it, we won the Southern League championship three years running,” he added.

“We got elected on the strength of that and on various cup results against Leeds United, Burnley and Middlesbrough. I was unsure about going into the league. The club wasn’t really ready for it.”

Batsford is a regular at Kingsmeadow Stadium as a guest of the club and was at Plough Lane last week to mark the opening of a Barratt-built housing scheme on the iconic site he once called home.

“If we’d had the same support as they do now when I first came to the club, the likes of Ron Noades and Sam Hammam would never have got their noses in,” he said.

“Unfortunately, we were stone broke at the time. AFC is far better organised than Wimbledon ever was, but our football and the league we were playing in was far superior to the level they play now.

“It is a shame what has happened. It was sad certain people got involved with the club.”