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After several years away, AFC Wimbledon are heading back to the FA Women's Premier League in style as they clinched the London & South East League Premier Division title on Sunday when they beat Carshalton Athletic.
The Dons have held a commanding lead at the top for most of the season and, speaking after the Carshalton game, manager Chris Lyons has paid a glowing tribute to the people who have contributed to the club's success, on and off the pitch:
"This league win is a culmination of two seasons of very hard work from everyone concerned with the First Team. The backing we have from Chairman Dennis Lowndes, and vice chairman, John Parker is superb, and they have definitely made today much easier to achieve. The support from Mike Richardson is remarkable, someone who is genuinely liked and respected for the push and support he gives everyone at AFC Wimbledon. We've also worked very hard off the pitch to make sure the infrastructure is that of a Women's Premier League Club, so our thanks go to Vicki Lowndes, John Ivers, Tony Edgcombe and Sutton FC, for playing their part in that.
"For me, we can't forget where we were at the end of the 2013-14 season, as it helps to put today [Sunday] in perspective. We've rebuilt the whole set up, with players who we knew could win promotion, and coaching staff of equally high abilities and dedication. This season has been about finishing last season's build, and finally bringing home promotion. We know we now have a squad of players who can compete at the next level, and by adding a couple of new faces we will push the club further next season. My coaching staff have been superb, and as I've said to my staff and players many times, I've enjoyed this season immensely. I've had to challenge my own views and decisions, but always had the understanding and backing of my staff, players, and committee.
"Neal Ardley and his First Team have helped us as a group and me personally; and we're also very grateful for the help and support of Mark Robinson in the Academy. In fact we're very grateful to everyone at the main club for helping to integrate us, even in the smallest of ways, and shows the underlying class at AFC Wimbledon.
"Whilst today's game wasn't a close game of football, we're very grateful for Carshalton turning up today. Even though they had to play a weakened team, they could so easily of not come at all, and that would have made the day very disappointing for everyone. So our thanks go to Paul Williams and his team for their sporting behaviour.
"We're starting to make a big dent in the statement we made of rebuilding this club, and today shows that. For me, the result at the end of the day was far bigger than this game's result, even though we have continued our unbeaten run once again. We're currently unbeaten in league action since 26th October 2014, and with two more league games remaining, we intend to continue this run for as long as we can.
"Whilst we've won this league convincingly, it's certainly not because the league is weak. If you look at the respective County Cup Final fixtures, four teams from this league are represented in those games, and I think that speaks for itself. We've won this league by building a Premier League team, building a professional set-up, and letting the football take care of itself."
Lyons has been assisted by Dave Ward and Jess Trimnell is club captain, while Kelly-Jade Whelan and Emma Keady have led the club's goalscoring charts.
"Everyone at AFC Wimbledon can be very proud of how they played their part in continuing this club's success," he added. "We'll prepare for Sunday's game as we always do, but for now, enjoy and soak up the feeling of becoming LSER league Champions."
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