Academy product strives to earn another chance
Egli Kaja told Dons Player that making his first-team debut has given him “massive confidence” to earn more opportunities from Neal Ardley after he completed a rise through the ranks that started seven years ago.
The 18-year-old, who joined AFC Wimbledon’s academy at Under-12 level after spells with Middlesbrough, Kingstonian and Chelsea, was very proud to come on as a late substitute at Kenilworth Road yesterday.
“I was really excited when ‘Coxy’ told me that I would be coming on,” Kaja told Dons Player. “I thought that I could make an impact upon the game. Unfortunately, we were unable to get back into it and I guess we have to try and bounce back. Making my debut gives me great confidence to keep working hard and keep pushing the first-team players. Hopefully, I can get another chance. It has boosted my confidence massively. It was unfortunate that we lost, but personally I am really happy that I made my debut.
“I used to live in Middlesbrough, but then we moved to London when I was 10. I was at K’s for six or seven months and trialled at Chelsea, but that did not work out. Then I joined the Dons. We all support each other (in trying to get first-team opportunities). I thought that Ryan Sweeney was going to come on today and we were all supporting him. The manager puts a lot of faith in us and he would not put us on if he did not trust us. We are not scared and we just have to a job when we come on.”
Kaja, who qualifies to play international football for Albania, said that he has worked hard on his strength and conditioning to cope with making the step-up to senior level.
“The manager has told me that physicality is very important in League 2,” he added. “I have been doing my gym work and Jason Moriarty has got me on a programme. I just have to keep that going. I have got a lot of time to develop my strength and I think at the moment I’m doing okay. It was different playing in the first-team compared to Under-21 football. There was a lot more of a buzz. The experienced players help you a lot and I just have to keep working hard in training to get another chance.”
Interviews with Egli Kaja and Neal Ardley are both on Dons Player, along with extended highlights from yesterday’s Luton match.
Picture credit: Stuart Butcher, Pro Sports Images.