Statement on the development squadAFC Wimbledon has decided to withdraw from the Suburban League for 2012/13.
The club will instead aim to bridge the gap between academy and senior level by working with a group of young players who will have the opportunity to prove themselves as they aim for the first-team. AFC Wimbledon has therefore chosen to retain five of last season’s senior Academy graduates with Dan Sweeney, Emmanuel Akhokia, Emmanuel Akiotu, Harry Wise and William Bor all invited to train weekly with the first-team and be involved in regular development games alongside first-team players.
Last season AFC Wimbledon started laying the foundations for the EPPP (Elite Player Performance Programme) system, which has implications for the way that clubs structure their U16-U21 age groups. To fit in with this “Professional Development Phase”, we created a development squad under the management of Marcus Gayle with the aim of providing a pathway for Senior Academy graduates into the first team reckoning. Frankie Merrifield and Jim Fenlon, who have both earned professional contracts, benefited from this approach and we hope that more youngsters can follow in their footsteps.
AFC Wimbledon Youth and Community Director, Nigel Higgs, said: “When we assessed the combined effects of Marcus accepting an offer to manage Staines Town FC, the current lack of an U21 League for 2012-13 as planned under EPPP, and the desire to test our developing players at a higher level, we felt that the best course of action was to withdraw our development squad from the Suburban League. “
Though the new EPPP has not yet introduced its plans for an U21 league, AFC Wimbledon aims to be involved in such a set-up in the near future.
With insufficient game time available for a larger squad, the other development players from last season have been released. AFC Wimbledon thanks all those players for all their efforts and wishes them every success in their future careers.
AFC Wimbledon has been awarded Category Three Academy status under the new EPPP. We hope this will be the first step in moving towards a bright future for youth development at the club.