Academy product aims to make the breakthrough
Singing an initiation song was a fun part of the first-team experience for Egli Kaja at Mansfield, but the attacking midfielder is deadly serious about completing a rise that started when he joined AFC Wimbledon as a 12-year-old.
Kaja (pictured above) relished his call-up from Neal Ardley, but he is determined that it will be just the start for him after emerging through the academy ranks with Wimbledon.
It was really different compared to being involved with the Under-18s and Under-21s. “It was a really good experience going away with the first team. I had waited a long time for it as I joined the club at Under-13s. It was really good to be involved at Mansfield. On Friday night I had to sing my initiation song (Hold On We’re Going Home by Drake). It was funny and everyone had a laugh and a joke. Speaking during an interview for Dons Player ahead of this afternoon’s Final Third Development League match at AFC Bournemouth, Kaja said:
“The management have spoken to me about when I am in the final third. If I beat a man I have to get a shot off or a cross in. I need to focus on what I do in the final third and that will get me closer to the first-team.”
Kaja, who is eligible to represent Albania, was part of the AFC Wimbledon squad that won the London Senior Cup in 2014. Since then Will Nightingale, Ryan Sweeney, Tom Beere and Ben Harrison have all made their first-team debuts and now Kaja is aiming to add his name to the growing list of academy products that have graduated to Neal Ardley’s squad.
“I cannot wait to play against them (Bournemouth),” added Kaja. “These bigger fixtures come up every now and then and these are the ones that the management look at. If you are playing well against teams from Championship and Premier League clubs you might be ready for a chance.
“I was really glad when the others got their chance and I wanted an opportunity as well. I have pushed for it and worked hard and it was good to get a chance to be in the first-team squad.”
The interview with Egli featured on Dons Player yesterday, along with an update on the Under-21s from Alan Reeves.