Team news ahead of tonight's FA Youth Cup tie
Goalkeeper Jack Wingate has been handed an opportunity to face Chelsea tonight in the FA Youth Cup with regular number one Will Mannion ruled out through illness.
Wingate (pictured), who was previously with Reading as a schoolboy, has shown his ability between the sticks this season when Mannion has been required for Under-21 duty and manager Mark Robinson has no qualms about pitching him in tonight.
“It’s a big blow for the player and the team because everyone knows what a talent Will is,” said Mark. “In situations like this though it gives someone else a chance. I’ve spoken to Jack about it and he is really excited by the task ahead.”
George Marchant, who played so well in the victory at Watford, misses out due to a knee injury, but fellow defender Reece Batchelor is back in the squad, along with striker Jayden Antwi.
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Tonight’s Wimbledon squad has quite a few players in it who grew up as Chelsea fans, but Mark Robinson has no doubt where their loyalties lie now, particularly with several having progressed through the Dons academy over a number of years.
“Everyone has a team they support as a kid and you cannot change that,” said Mark. “But there’s no doubting their loyalty to this club. Reece Williams-Bowers has been here since he was eight and turned down other clubs to stay here. Seanan McKillop will be the first to admit he’s a Chelsea fan and had Chelsea wallpaper growing up as a kid, but he’s been playing for us since we were playing Sunday League football. It’s a difficult task tonight. Our players have to show passion and desire, but they have to take the emotion out of it as well. I’m confident they will do that.
“I was explaining to someone after we beat Newcastle that a lot of the squad had come through from Sunday League football and the response was that all players started at grass roots level at some point. That is true, but I think what people forget is these are our lads.
“When we were playing Sunday League football before the club got promoted and secured academy three status some of these lads were playing for us then. Rather than go through the released list of other clubs we made the decision to stick with the boys and try to develop them. It’s a bit different from someone who gets cherry-picked by Chelsea, Palace or Fulham at the age of seven because he’s one of the best players in the South of England.
“It’s a very different story and we need to remember that. At the end of the day our job is about producing footballers who are good enough to go into our first-team. That’s the bigger picture, but we need to remember where we’ve come from. Our players have developed with us and they have done fantastic so far. Let’s hope it continues.”
AFC Wimbledon squad for tonight: Jack Wingate, Emmanuel Mensah, Toby Sibbick, Paul Kalambayi, David Omperon, Seanan McKillop, Jason Stripp, Alfie Egan, Neset Bellikli, Toyosi Olusanya, Dan Ano, Reece Williams-Bowers, Jayden Antwi, Reece Batchelor, Nathan Wood, Giordano Zabotti.