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Neal hails youth progress

7 November 2014

Wimbledon manager highlights positive signs for future

Neal Ardley believes AFC Wimbledon are moving in the right direction as a club after a week that suggested more youngsters can progress through the ranks to the first-team.

Under-18s Danny Gallagher (pictured) and Ryan Sweeney stepped up to help a Wimbledon development team to victory at Milton Keynes on Monday and then there was a victory in the FA Youth Cup for the young Dons.

With academy products Tom Beere, Ben Harrison and George Oakley having all made the step-up to first-team level this season, Neal is hoping that more young players can follow in their footsteps.

Speaking to Dons Player, Neal Ardley said: “I reflected on the two years since I came here and the performance put a smile on my face. Two years ago as a club we were not even in a position to contemplate going there and putting in a performance like that, particularly as they had four or five fringe first-team players.

“We had Under-18s in there and a few young first-team players and I thought we were outstanding. It showed that we’ve come a long way. First-team results are the most important thing, but the club is moving in the right direction and that makes me proud.

“We’ve all been working hard together. It was a tough week for Alan Reeves (Senior Professional Development Phase Coach) and Mark Robinson (Academy Head of Coaching) because they had to look at their squads to get the best out of the situation. Danny Gallagher and Ryan Sweeney played for the development squad and they were excellent. Mark then had to make sure that some of the younger boys were kept for the FA Youth Cup match and they were excellent too.

“Sometimes opportunities arise that give players a chance to show what they can do. We came through a tough week. In two weeks we have a similar situation with another FA Youth Cup game and a development match. Between us all we will try and field two teams that will make us proud.”

AFC Wimbledon Under-18s have the incentive of a home FA Youth Cup third round tie at home to Burnley if they can win at Gillingham in the next round.

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