Big decisions for Wimbledon manager ahead of cup tie
Neal Ardley admits he faces a selection dilemma over whether to pitch winger Toby Ajala straight in for his debut at Milton Keynes on Sunday.
The 21-year-old, who joined on loan from Bristol City last week, has been given permission to play in the second round FA Cup tie, but only if he is chosen in the starting 11.
Out of the other loan signings, Steven Gregory and Yado Mambo are both cleared to play, but Neal Ardley was still today waiting to hear if Jonathan Meades, Jake Reeves and Neil Sullivan will be made eligible by their respective clubs.
“I have had discussions with Derek McInnes (Bristol City manager) about Toby and he has said that as long as he starts the game, then he can play. I therefore have a decision to make on that and we will have to wait and see on the others. We are in dialogue with the other clubs and we are waiting on that. We will take a larger squad and prepare them so that everyone knows their jobs if they are involved. We had a few knocks from last week too so there are many permutations. Hopefully, by Sunday morning we can pick our strongest side.”
Wimbledon will have their final training session ahead of the FA Cup tie tomorrow. Neal admitted it has been a relief to get back to preparing the team after a hectic week in the media spotlight – including Tuesday’s press call at the training ground that was attended by around 30 journalists.
Though the attention has been far from a surprise for the Dons boss, it emphasised the importance of Sunday’s match with an FA Cup third round place up for grabs.
“It was everything I expected really,” he said. “It is a unique story, there has been nothing like it in any country in the world and never will be, and it has grabbed global attention around the world. I think the players know what the match means to the fans, but they know that we have to work really hard on the pitch. We have to work hard on a game plan, it is not going to be about any one individual, and we have to try and do the best that we can. If they come off the pitch having done everything they can for each other, then I will have no complaints.
“It is not so much the fact that there are 40 places between the two teams as I have watched video footage of them and they are a very good team. I know our fans will not want to hear that. The way that they play, they will keep coming at us until one player switches off and that will be the moment. We have to work extremely hard, be on our A game, and hopefully have that slice of luck as it is the FA Cup.”
Visit Dons Player to view the full video interview with Neal Ardley. Subscribers to our premium site can also watch interviews with Toby Ajala, Dave Beasant and Luke Moore.
Neal Ardley is pictured alongside Neil Cox and Simon Bassey with the FA Cup at the Cherry Red Records Stadium yesterday (picture by Paul Willatts).