Experienced defender says that League 1 holds no fears
Darius Charles says he’s determined to repay the faith shown in him by AFC Wimbledon after committing his future to the club.
A 12-match loan stint with the Dons provided a platform for Darius to reignite his career after missing over a year due to a broken leg.
Of course, it ended with Darius helping the Dons to Wembley success – a glorious way for the 28-year-old to show that he’s well and truly over his injury problems.
And he believes there will be even better to come from him in a Dons shirt with a full pre-season under his belt.
“It means everything to me to stay here,” said Darius. “I was out for a long time and I came to AFC Wimbledon not looking to do anything other than get fit and make an impression. I was warmly received and it’s nice to come somewhere and be appreciated. The manager played a massive part in my decision because he believed in what I could do. He brought me to the club after I had a long lay-off through injury. A lot of clubs would have been wary of playing me in that situation, but the manager here showed a lot of faith.
“I was out for a long time and it was a bit of a crash course for me really coming straight into the team for the last three months of the season. It was always going to be difficult. At first I had to try and get fit, then get match-fit, and try to find my feet. I was not 100 per cent, but going into next season I have a chance to get fitter and stronger. With a full pre-season, it will give me a chance to become a better player here.
“It was a great feeling to help this club to new heights. I already had a play-off winners’ medal, but this sits nicely alongside it and it is up there with the best moments of my career. Some players do not get to experience such moments in their careers and it was a tribute to the whole squad of players who contributed to the success.”
The full 2016/17 fixture list is out on Wednesday and Darius does not see any reason why AFC Wimbledon should fear taking on the best in League 1 next season.
“Talk of us exceeding expectations last season came from outside the club, but when you are part of a dressing room you know what you can do,” added Darius. “Did we exceed expectations? I would say that on our day we knew we could beat any team in the league. We also had great team spirit and it helped us achieve that amazing feat. Any team that does well has to have that as a group.
“That will stand us in good stead for League 1. It’s a case of us working hard as a squad and striving for the same goal. I don’t think there’s that much difference between League 1 and League 2 as we’ve seen teams go up and do well in recent seasons.
“There will be four or five teams, including Bolton, Charlton and Sheffield United, who will be able to attract players from a higher level or talented players from the same level. However, Burton Albion are a great example to us of a smaller club who really worked hard and fully deserved the success that they had.
"Players in our squad will have played against bigger clubs in their careers and it’s 11 versus 11 on the pitch. We shouldn’t really make a fuss of going to venues like Bramall Lane and we must believe we can do well at these places.”
The 2016/17 fixture list will be revealed on the official website at 9.00 am on Wednesday. The whole fixture list will be published on a static HTML page on the website (replacing the normal home page).