Defender praises coaching staff for his rise
Will Nightingale has battled against the odds to complete his rise through the ranks – and now he aims to repay Wimbledon’s coaching staff for showing so much faith in him.
The towering 19-year-old defender described making his first-team debut against Carlisle as a “privilege” and he would love to be involved against Accrington Stanley tomorrow.
Nightingale was dogged by injuries during his academy years with the Dons and the club had to gain Football League approval for Will to extend his scholarship into a third year.
“It was good because I have been at the club since I was nine years of age. That’s a long time and I have worked my way through the age groups. To finally make my first-team debut was a privilege, but obviously it was hard to look back on it as a positive because of the result. But we will look to the next game and try and improve from that. Speaking to Dons Player about making his first-team debut, Nightingale said:
““Neal Ardley has been helping every day in training because centre back is a new position for me. The manager has just been giving me tips with positioning and he’s just trying to make sure I’m confident and ready for the first team. I just have to approach first-team matches in the same way I prepare for Under-21 matches.”
Coming through his injury nightmare – he was effectively out for two years due to knee problems - has strengthened Nightingale’s resolve to make a first-team breakthrough.
“In the first year at Under-18 level I didn’t play many games and the second year was the same as well,” he added. “I had quite a few injuries and obviously Mark Robinson (Under-18s manager) showed a lot of faith in me at youth level. He kept pushing for me to be kept on and get a third year scholarship.
“I was able to show what I could do in that extra year and then managed to get a pro contract. I therefore owe a big thanks to Mark. Obviously, Neal Ardley has had to trust Mark as well and now I just want to prove them right and repay the favour.”
However, Nightingale is refusing to rest on his laurels after making his first-team bow – and he says the hard work starts now.
“I have seen a lot of players come and go,” he added. “I know I have not made it by any means at all. I am only just on the fringes of the first-team and playing Under 21 football. I’m doing well, but my aim is to be established in the first-team. Obviously, I am still young so I have still got time, but I have still got to keep working hard and keep striving to achieve really.
"The main thing is for me to keep fit playing games. I have played the last six on the bounce now and it doesn't feel like I'm anywhere near getting a problem. My ambition is to just keep playing well for the Under-21s and if I get a chance for the first-team I've just got to show what I can do. Then hopefully I can establish myself as a first-team player. I'm still only 19, but that's the aim."
Dons Player subscribers can watch the full seven-minute interview with Will, along with interviews with Craig Tanner and Neal Ardley.