Academy products rewarded by the club
AFC Wimbledon has offered professional contracts for season 2014/15 to four teenagers who came through the club’s academy system.
Will Nightingale, Tom Beere, Chace Jacquart and George Oakley (pictured left to right in the above photograph) will be aiming for first-team opportunities next season. Will and George have signed their first pro contracts with AFC Wimbledon, while Chace and Tom will be second year professionals after impressing enough this season to be kept on.
The decision to offer a professional deal to Will, who first joined AFC Wimbledon as a nine-year-old, is reward for the 18-year-old’s perseverance after he shrugged off a catalogue of injury problems. Will required special dispensation from the Football League to be retained as a third-year scholar last summer with his injury record used as a mitigating factor. And just this season, Will’s progress – he was on the bench for the first-team against Torquay United – was interrupted when he needed an operation on his heel.
Dons Player subscribers can now watch video interviews with AFC Wimbledon’s young professionals, ahead of tonight’s London Senior Cup Final, a match all four are expected to be involved in.
Speaking to Rob Cornell, towering centre-back Will said: “I was a part of successful youth teams here and we won Surrey Youth Cup Finals and league titles, but the last three or four years have been very frustrating for me due to injuries. I thought it was touch and go whether I would be offered a professional contract with all the injuries I've had. But I thought I did quite well when I played this season and it’s a big opportunity for me.
“Mark Robinson helped me a lot to come through and now I have to try and improve again. Shaun North has tried to calm me down a bit because I can go flying into tackles a bit! I just have to control my aggression. Neal Ardley wants me to believe in myself and I’ve just got to think that I can make it. It’s a great opportunity for me.”
George Oakley has struck over 20 goals this season for the Under-21s and the Under-18s, including scoring five times against Milton Keynes, and he joined AFC Wimbledon when he was just 12 after playing against the Dons for Tooting & Mitcham.
“I know all about the history of AFC Wimbledon and I’ve read about it so many times,” said 18-year-old George. “I love the club and it’s like home now! Hopefully, I can get a chance for the first-team next season and show what I can do. I think my game has come on in leaps and bounds this season, but I need to improve more to get a first-team chance. I was speechless really when I was offered a professional contract and it’s a big opportunity for me.”
Nineteen-year-old Tom Beere is delighted to get another chance to stake a first-team claim – and he wants to reward AFC Wimbledon’s faith in him after he was turned down by Millwall as a youngster.
“I was at Fisher Athletic until I was 15, but then I went on trial at Millwall,” said Tom. “When they were offering scholarships they decided not to offer me one. After that my Dad sent a letter to AFC Wimbledon and I came to an open trial at the club. Thankfully, I got a scholarship here and I’ve enjoyed being at the club ever since.
“This season has been difficult for me at times. I felt I was in decent form earlier this season, but then I suffered an injury that kept me out for three months. You worry that the knee injury may have slowed you down. Thankfully, they decided to keep me. It’s a privilege to play for this football club and it’s a dream to have a chance to be a professional footballer.”
Chace Jacquart, aged 18, has also been offered another professional contract after an encouraging first season for the Under-21s.
The midfielder was brought to the club as a 15-year-old by Mark Robinson after impressing during a game against the Dons for Hampton & Richmond.
Chace said: “I wasn’t sure what was going to happen for me at the end of this season and you just hope that you will get another professional contract. Mark did not care about my size, he just wanted me to get on the ball and play. Mark is big on learning good habits and the technical side of the game. He got me ready to push on. The first-team management want me to take more charge of games and to move the ball quicker.”