Young defender relishes a battle
Jake Goodman has helped Wimbledon to four victories in five games since arriving on loan from Millwall and he says that a previous spell at Staines Town toughened him up for the rigours of League 2 football.
For those supporters who may have missed it, we republish the exclusive interview with Jake that featured in Saturday’s match day programme against Exeter City.
Jake Goodman prides himself on being an old-fashioned no-nonsense defender and he certainly hasn’t shirked a challenge since joining the Dons. Thrust straight in for his Wimbledon debut in the FA Cup tie at Wycombe Wanderers after almost a year without playing first-team football, Jake helped Wimbledon to victory at Adams Park and a week later he scored his first Football League goal at York City.
Premier League League. With Jake’s loan spell running out on 6 January, it means the 21-year-old could play in the FA Cup tie against Liverpool – a prospect far removed from running out at Wheatsheaf Park in the Ryman
However, Jake says his stint at Staines was the making of him. It offered Jake a valuable stepping stone in his footballing education because he’s something of a late developer as a defender. A boyhood Millwall fan, Jake was initially turned down by his beloved Lions after a trial, but he was converted into a centre-back by Millwall coach Larry McAvoy at the age of 16.
“I had a trial with Millwall when I was a midfielder, but they did not take me and I was obviously very disappointed with that,” said Jake. But Larry, who was also my coach at Haberdashers College, moved me back to centre-back. Millwall asked me to come back again and I was buzzing to get another chance. It’s the club I supported as a boy and my father is a big Millwall fan. I was very happy to get taken on after initially being knocked back.
“Neil Harris (now Under-21s coach at Millwall) is one of my heroes and he’s a very good coach too. He puts on good training sessions and I played with him before he retired. He was horrible to play against!
“My first loan spell was at Staines Town. I played 26 games there as a second-year scholar. It was brilliant. Kenny Jacket called me up on the Friday and told me that I would be playing for Staines Town the next day. He said the reason was that he wanted me to get beaten-up playing against men in the Ryman Premier League. I played really well and I certainly didn’t get beaten-up!
“I aim to be a proper defender because that’s what you need to be in this league. If I want to progress then I’ll have to use the ball a bit more, but it is all about me getting experience of playing league football at the moment and I’m grateful that AFC Wimbledon have given me a chance.”
During 2012/13 and 2013/14, Jake had loan spells with Luton Town and Aldershot Town respectively. He made 25 appearances for The Shots before returning to Millwall in January and overall it was an experience that Jake says helped his development as a defender. However, he was part of an Aldershot side on the receiving end of an FA Cup upset as Southern Leaguers Shortwood United were knocked out by Andy Scott’s men. It was a defeat that made victory for Wimbledon at Wycombe even sweeter for Jake and the prospect of facing Liverpool in the FA Cup third round will be far removed from taking on Shortwood.
“As paid professionals it was hard to take for all of us when we got beat against Shortwood,” added Jake. “But we deserved to lose as we went in with the wrong attitude. It impacted upon our season because we’d had a good start to the campaign and managed to get the 10 points back that the club were deducted. Our confidence was shot after we lost that game to a club well below us.
“It was brilliant to play a part in the win against Wycombe on my debut. It had been almost a year since I played first-team football at Aldershot. My legs were a bit tired near the end, but the adrenaline got me through it. The Wimbledon fans showed great support and I wanted to make a good impression on them as it was the first time they had seen me play. To play against Liverpool would be a great experience for me as a young player.
Jake scored his first Football League goal in great style to help Wimbledon earn victory at York City and his father Steve’s phone almost went into meltdown with the news.
“I watched the goal back loads afterwards,” Jake recalled. “My Dad was watching my younger brother Max (a scholar at Millwall) play, but he said his phone was going mental. He was gutted that he missed it because he had watched me at the Wycombe game. Everyone was buzzing in the changing room after York because we really wanted to get back to winning ways in the league.”
Jake had heard good things about AFC Wimbledon from former Don Scott Fitzgerald, who is now Academy Director at Millwall. And the towering defender would like to stay on longer if he is not part of the first-team plans at his Championship club.
“Scott has been brilliant with me. He is a good coach and he has really helped by getting me out on loan to clubs. Scott said that Wimbledon is a good club. It’s brilliant that the club has risen again to the Football League after being reborn.
“While on loan at Luton and Aldershot I played all the games over Christmas. It’s tough playing so many games, but as a footballer I enjoy it. There are always people watching you and I want to do well at Wimbledon. But at the moment I’m just concentrating on playing and it’s been a great experience to be playing league football here.
“I’ve learned a lot from working with Scott at Millwall. Hopefully, I can learn a lot more from experienced defenders like Adam Barrett and Alan Bennett while I’m here. The manager wants me to be physical, strong, and to win my headers. I want to continue to do that job and learn from the other professionals at the club.
“Football has changed in recent years because it’s quicker now and played at a higher tempo. If you switch off for one second then you can concede a goal and that’s cost you the game. It’s been brilliant for me here so far. My loan is up after the Liverpool game on 6 January. I want to play as many games as possible and if I cannot get in at Millwall then hopefully it will be extended.”
If Jake continues his promising start at AFC Wimbledon then maybe Neal Ardley will be contacting one of his former clubs to keep him with the Dons for a longer spell.