An in-depth interview with Chris Hussey
For those supporters who may have missed it in Saturday’s Burton Albion programme, we today publish an interview with Chris Hussey on the official website.
Chris, who originally joined AFC Wimbledon as a raw teenager after being released by Woking, recently returned to boost the club’s League 2 survival battle after a three-year spell at Coventry City.
Now aged 24, Chris is determined to recapture the form that made him such a hot property as a player, but he says it will take time for him to regain full match fitness.
Having been shown the door by Woking for indiscipline as a teenager, there is more than a hint of irony about Chris Hussey’s offer to help Wimbledon’s young players.
However, the left-back, now back with the Dons, is a far different character from the 16-year-old who was bombed out of Woking and then emphatically made a resounding success of his second chance after joining AFC Wimbledon first time around.
Chris, now aged 24, has grown up a lot since those days and after a three-year spell at Coventry City, where he played over 50 games, the left-back is eager to help AFC Wimbledon avoid the dreaded League 2 drop – and avoid a second relegation on his CV.
“We got relegated at Coventry and I have already said to the boys here how bad that felt,” said Chris. “Though I was a part of a squad relegated from the Championship and this is League 2, I have told the lads that it would be the same feeling. I have come here to help the club out of this situation.
“Jim Fenlon is a young player who’s done really well, but he can learn a lot. I have no problem with helping youngsters like him improve. Players such as Jason Goodliffe did that for me when I was first starting out at Wimbledon. Hopefully, the experiences I have gained at a higher level can help the current squad.
“I got thrown out at Woking for my bad behaviour. I was a bit naughty, but I was just 16 and I did not really know what direction I was heading in. I have grown-up now, though!
Many aspects of the set-up at AFC Wimbledon are very different from the days when Chris first joined the club in 2007. Although the training facilities were not as good as they are now, and the club was only part-time, Chris flourished, and three years later he was bought by Coventry City after a successful loan spell.
He recalls his first training sessions with the Dons’ reserves at Kingston University’s Playing Fields in Tolworth, where he was coached by Simon Bassey and the late John Morris. Wimbledon were still in the Ryman League when Chris first joined, but after establishing himself in the first-team he played a crucial role in helping the club all the way to the Conference National under Terry Brown.
“I had my first training sessions at Tolworth under the floodlights,” he added. “There are major differences now with the whole set-up here and we were only part-time then. Simon Bassey was a big influence in helping me come through, and I thoroughly enjoyed my first time at the club. It was brilliant in those days because it was a winning environment. It was great to be a part of a club aiming to move up through the leagues.
"Jason Goodliffe was looking after me and we other good experienced players like Jake Leberl. There was a lot of stick flying around with me being a young lad, but you have to bite your lip, and that was what I did. After my first full season and helping the club win the Conference South title I realised that I had something. I didn’t go on holiday that summer (2009) and I worked hard. I then played just 12 games in the Conference National during the next season and got my move to Coventry.”
Chris, who was brought up in Shepherds Bush and first started playing football competitively for Ealing Shamrock, always maintained a strong belief that he could make it as a professional footballer. Even when he was released by Brentford and Woking as a teenager, Chris kept his steely determination to make the grade – and avoid being forced to do more manual jobs.
“I was helping my Dad a bit with carpet-fitting, but I always knew that I would be a footballer,” Chris added. “That may sound arrogant, but I thought I could do it. Coming to Wimbledon was the start of my journey, and I am glad that I showed the drive to succeed.”
Being released by Coventry City has certainly not dimmed Chris’s faith in his own ability.
“I did really well in the first season after I joined Coventry and I think I did OK when the club were relegated from the Championship,” he added. “Chris Coleman was the manager who came and got me, and he gave me opportunities. Even at the beginning of this season I was still playing, as Richard Shaw had a lot of faith in me, but different managers have different ideas, and I wasn’t getting a game for the current manager (Mark Robins). Steve Harrison, the former assistant manager at Coventry, was a big influence during my time there - he was a left-back during his playing days and he knew what he was talking about.”
Chris believes he is capable of much more than what he has so far shown in a Wimbledon shirt since returning to the club.
“I had not played for a while before I came back here, and I’m not yet back at the level where I should be,” Chris said. “But I think I will be back to my best once I get my match fitness up. After the Wycombe game when I came on for the second-half I was tired. That shows that you can do all the training in the world, but nothing compares to getting match fitness up. I should have done better against Port Vale too. But I am getting there now and hopefully I can help the team continue their recent improvement. Hopefully we can build on the good start to the year. It’s great for me to come home and hopefully I can help this club stay in the league.”
Those are undoubtedly sentiments shared by everyone at AFC Wimbledon. If Chris Hussey can recapture the marauding full-back form that persuaded Coventry City to invest in his talents, then it can only help the club maintain its Football League status.