Academy product on signing professional forms
Seventeen-year-old Ben Harrison has this afternoon been rewarded for his progress through the ranks with a professional contract at AFC Wimbledon.
Harrison, who started his career with Wimbledon Under-11s, moved up to the first-team this season and has made four first-team appearances already.
Neal Ardley said: “We felt it was a no-brainer to offer Ben his first professional contract because he has more than warranted it. We met with Ben and his father earlier in the week and they’re both ecstatic about how it has gone this season. Ben has now put pen to paper and we’re delighted to secure his signature. It shows our commitment to youth is growing and hopefully there will be more to come through the production line. We will be working on that in the coming years.”
Harrison, who is travelling with the first-team to Newport this afternoon, spoke of his delight to the official website before boarding the team coach.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Harrison. “I could not be happier because this club has been brilliant to me. I’ve been here since the age of 10 and I hope I can repay the club’s faith in me. It’s weird being the youngster in the squad this season, but the banter has been brilliant and it has been great to be involved in the first-team.”
Harrison (second from right above) is pictured with Academy Manager Jeremy Sauer (far right), Neal Ardley (far left) and Mark Robinson.
Academy Head of Coaching Mark Robinson said: “It’s quite emotional for me because I’ve coached him since the age of 10. I’ve seen a huge transformation in Ben during that time and it’s been great to watch him running out for the first-team this season. Ben’s progress sums up exactly what the academy is trying to achieve with our ‘home-grown and hungry’ philosophy. Ben’s attitude is great and we’ve even had to stop him coming down and doing the odd jobs that the rest of the Under-18s do!”
Academy Manager Jeremy Sauer said: “One of the big factors in Ben pushing into the first-team has been the introduction of Alan Reeves as U-21 manager this season. He knows the club very well and the type of personality it takes to play at first-team level here. Alan has rejected trialists on the basis that he knows there are better boys coming through from our U-18s. In Ben’s case, Alan took to him very early on and was influential in persuading the manager to look no further than Ben for a left- back. The U-21s is a bridge between academy and first team and in this case that has worked perfectly.
“With Ben breaking into the first-team we feel that the door has been opened. Fans are becoming a lot more aware of the academy and we’re riding on the crest of a wave now. We feel that there are other youngsters who can follow in Ben’s footsteps.”
Dons Player subscribers can watch a video interview with Neal Ardley and the thoughts of Mark Robinson and Jeremy Sauer will appear on our premium channel later.