Ryan Sweeney takes step-up in his stride
A recent call-up for the match at Oxford United offered plenty of encouragement for Ryan Sweeney to complete his rise at AFC Wimbledon and he says that mixing it with the likes of Bayo Akinfenwa in training has continued his football education.
Ryan, who joined Wimbledon at eight years of age, has stepped up from academy football this season by making appearances at development level and training with the first-team, culminating in making the bench at the Kassam Stadium.
Speaking during an interview for Dons Player, the towering 17-year-old defender said it was a proud day when he saw his name on the first-team squad list and he talked passionately about making the grade at AFC Wimbledon.
“I only found out on the Friday morning and it was a bit of a shock because I did not expect it,” said Ryan. “Senior players told me to enjoy the experience and I relished it. The likes of Adam Barrett and Alan Bennett have done it all before and it was a great experience to be involved. The manager has spoken to me about my aggression because League 2 football is direct and centre-backs have to be physical, win their headers, and be able to dominate.
“I’m learning a lot this season. It’s really good playing against players like Bayo Akinfenwa because he’s a big, physical lad. I’ve really enjoyed it since stepping up this season. It’s a bit different training with the first-team because it’s a faster tempo. Neil Cox and Alan Reeves are always talking to me about defensive work, including positioning when dealing with crosses. It’s all really helping me.”
Ryan, whose elder brother Dan also came through the ranks before being released at the age of 18, says that AFC Wimbledon means everything to him and he’s determined to impress Neal Ardley in the coming months.
“The manager has shown that he’s willing to put young players in if he has to,” added Ryan. “Ben Harrison did fantastically well earlier this season and he was outstanding against Burton. Tom Beere and George Oakley have also stepped up and done good jobs. It has been a great year for the academy because players have been coming through and long may that continue.
“I joined Wimbledon at the age of eight when Tony Wilson was manager of the youth team and we progressed with a really strong squad. We won a national cup competition as Under-13s and there are still five or six of us here now. We’re all willing to fight for the club and run through brick walls for it. The club means everything to me and I just have to keep working hard on my game to try and play in the first-team.”
Ryan Sweeney is in the squad for today’s development match at Kenilworth Road (1.00 pm kick-off) and a full report will appear on the official website shortly after this game.