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Neal inspires young Dons

11 September 2015

An important night for the academy

Neal Ardley and Will Nightingale last night offered words of inspiration for the next generation of AFC Wimbledon players at an academy induction evening.

Dons players from Under-9s to Under-16s – around 90 in total – and their parents packed into the club to hear all about the academy’s vision for bringing players through the youth system.

   .Academy Talent To introduce the evening, academy staff member Sian Wyley put together a video and this can be viewed on our official You Tube channel by clicking on

Nightingale, who is expected to be involved in the first-team squad at Yeovil Town tomorrow, answered questions from young Dons about the sacrifices he had to make to progress right through the academy.

The evening also covered a wide range of subjects about the club with Chief Executive Erik Samuelson, Commercial Director Ivor Heller, Head of Education Stuart Page, and new Academy Lead Therapist Toby Evans delivering speeches.

Neal Ardley said: “As an ex-academy manager myself I know that a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to make sure Jeremy, Mark and the team are spelling out what is required for the season ahead. Sometimes you may be changing little bits with your coaching methods or maybe some house rules, but it is about giving the message to players and parents about the season ahead.

 “There is lots to be positive about here. If I was a parent of a young talented footballer Wimbledon would be a place where I would want to send my son. There is a massive pathway here to get into the first-team. The academy players here may have friends at clubs like Chelsea and Fulham, but I would put my money on which ones are going to get into the first-team.”

Academy Manager Jeremy Sauer said it was an important event to drive home the club’s philosophy for developing players.

“Every year we stage this event shortly after the Under-9s to Under-16s have started the season,” said Jeremy. “The aim is to try and get across the key messages for the season ahead so that everyone is on the same page. It means that parents and players know what is expected of them for the season.

“It covered a wide range of subjects, but a big part of it was about the mentality that is required for success. Having Will there was fantastic and he answered questions from young players about the sacrifices he had to make to become a professional footballer.

“Neal also delivered a great speech and Mark Robinson (Academy Head of Coaching) highlighted the five players who earned professional contracts last season after coming through the academy. Though they have not yet made it, Mark talked about the mentality required to get so far. It was our opportunity to get everyone under one roof and talk about what we are trying to achieve and our vision for the academy.”


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