Dons boss eager to create a flourishing youth system
Neal Ardley today met with AFC Wimbledon’s new crop of professional footballers and spoke passionately about youth development at the club.
all have the potential to develop into fine League 2 players. A new development squad, guided by a coach with sole responsibility for that section, will aim to bridge the gap between Under-18s and senior level.Chace Jacquart and Youssouf Bamba, Charlie Fayers, Tom BeereDuring an in-depth interview for Dons Player, the Wimbledon manager said that
Neal met with the above quartet, who have all committed to professional contracts, to provide guidance on what they can expect next season. The picture above shows (left to right) Youssouf Bamba, Chace Jacquart, Neal Ardley, Mark Robinson, Charlie Fayers and Tom Beere.
Afterwards Neal spoke about his commitment to developing the club’s youth policy and his hopes for AFC Wimbledon’s latest professional recruits.
“It is vital as a club that we do this,” he said. “I am standing here now as a product of Wimbledon’s youth system after joining at the age of 11. I would not have had the career I had if it was not for the opportunity that I was given by Wimbledon. Developing young players is the future, especially for clubs with financial restrictions. Producing our own is going to be crucial. We are in a very tough league and we have to make sure that we give players the right coaching and the right environment to develop. Then when they are ready hopefully they can come into a first-team that is strong enough for us to reap the rewards of what we have put in place.
“We know a lot about these four players because we have watched them play in county cup games and in the youth team. We have had numerous discussions with Mark Robinson (Academy Manager) and it is important that this communication is there. It is important that we are not giving players a chance for the sake of it and just to make the numbers up. We have not got the finances to do that.
“From my experiences of working with young players I know that between the age of 18 and 21 these players have got huge potential to grow and fill-out, become more dynamic and turn into men. We need to slowly, but surely, give them that opportunity. Technically, they are all very good players, but there is a physical development that needs to be made with a few of them. We need to speed that up while giving them a chance to become the players we know they can. They are all very talented players, but the key word is ‘potential’ and we have to give it our best to unlock that potential.”
Neal also spoke about specific plans to maximise the chances of Wimbledon’s youngest professionals making the grade.
“A couple of weeks ago we offered professional contracts to these lads and it was a big day for them when they got told that they would be given a chance by the club,” Neal said. “Since then they have gone away and they don’t quite know where that leaves them and what is involved. Today was therefore important for Mark Robinson and I to meet up with them and let them know what is expected from them during the summer period. Of course, that involves what sort of shape they need to come back in, which is not super-fit, but fit enough so that they do not get injured.
“The meeting was also to provide guidance on pre-season and the season ahead. They will be initially joining in with the first-team for the first three or four weeks of pre-season and will play in the first couple of games. Then their programmes will branch off slightly. Over the course of the season we will be looking to put set targets in place for each player with a new development coach monitoring the progress made. As a club we need to make sure that we are getting it right and that there is plan for every player so that they reach their targets by the end of the season. We can then assess their development and that is based around what they need to do so that they are closer to the first-team.
“Our academy have been playing catch-up for a long time because the club has gone up the leagues so quickly. They have done a wonderful job, but we want to bring the club together and make sure that our academy turns out to be one of the most successful because of the opportunities that we can give to young players.”
Dons Player subscribers can now watch the full video interview with Neal Ardley, which includes an update on the Wimbledon manager’s summer transfer plans. In the next two days we will feature interviews with all four of Wimbledon's latest professional recruits on our premium site.