Neal Ardley on Dons versus Plymouth clash
Neal Ardley said that AFC Wimbledon could be without Christian Toonga on Saturday as the Dons are still awaiting international clearance for the 17-year-old midfielder to be eligible.
Tom Beere (knee) is also likely to miss the home opener against Plymouth Argyle, but Ade Azeez returned to full training today after shaking off a foot injury.
Speaking during an interview for Dons Player, Neal said that he had hoped that ex-Cardiff City midfielder Toonga (pictured left above) would be available after his impressive pre-season.
“It is very surprising that Christian is an English player with an English club, but we cannot get international clearance for him even though he left a club in Wales last season. Until we get that clearance he will not be eligible to play. Christian certainly warrants being in with a shout after the way that he performed in pre-season. Tom Beere jarred his knee at home and that is quite sore. Ade Azeez joined in training today and we will monitor how he is doing.”
AFC Wimbledon submitted paperwork to the FA but as Christian is Under 18 obtaining clearance is a more complex process and the paperwork is now with FIFA.
Plymouth manager Derek Adams has attempted to mould a squad into his own style by making summer changes at a club that reached the play-offs last season. Former Dons loanee Craig Tanner is among the players Wimbledon will have to contain on Saturday after he joined on loan yesterday. While Neal is wary of Plymouth’s threat, he says the Dons will look to impose their own game on the visitors.
“We have completed a lot of work on shape and patterns of play with bigger blocks of 11 v 11 type stuff than we have ever done,” added Neal. “We want to make sure that the players understand the roles. I do not think we are there yet, I will be honest. I still think there are a few areas that we are not quite getting right, but we will have flexibility within our shape as well. The fact we are unbeaten in pre-season and we have not been opened up regularly is a positive sign.
“Preparations have gone great. We had a good open training session on Tuesday and got some stuff out of it. We did a little bit more intensive work today so we are happy. We have not been beaten in games in pre-season, but I do not feel we have controlled games and played as well as we can.
“Last season I felt that we controlled a lot of games, particularly in the last five or six matches, but never won them. But in pre-season we have not done that. Maybe we have stronger players in the right areas and that is why we haven’t lost.
“Plymouth have come through pre-season unbeaten. A new manager has come in with new signings and he has made some very good ones. I think going forward they are going to be a threat and a real handful, but we have got to cause them enough problems to make that less frequent during the game.
“Craig Tanner will play a slightly different role for them than he did with us if he does get in. It may well suit him more. I think he is a talented boy, even though he did not have the best of times with his goalscoring here. In football you are always wary of players coming back to a club and the first thing they do is score, but we will be wary of all their players.”
The full six-minute update from Neal Ardley is now on Dons Player and an in-depth interview with Lyle Taylor will follow tomorrow.