By Chris Slavin
Seventeen-year-old Anthony Hartigan has signed a new contract at AFC Wimbledon after an impressive start to 2017/18.
The midfielder, who progressed through our academy and starred in last season’s FA Youth Cup run, has made two first-team appearances during this campaign.
Speaking to our iFollow channel, Neal talked in glowing terms about Anthony’s talents and about providing more opportunities for home-grown players.
“We offered Anthony a new deal and he has signed a longer term contract, which we are delighted with,” said Neal. “The academy have been really positive about Anthony for a couple of years now and it’s hard until you get to see someone day in and day out. We have witnessed that and we have been delighted with him, as we have been with some of the other young lads.
“It is another sign that we are producing some really good players. Joe Bursik joined Stoke City and Will Mannion and Dan Agyei also joined higher level clubs. We’ve had some really good players move on and they would probably have been in and around our first-team now.
“We want to try and keep some of the good ones and develop them into our team, certainly with Will, Alfie, Anthony and Egli. Over the next few years we want to start getting these players into the team. Obviously, it is a two-way thing. They have to produce and make sure they are up to the level, but Anthony has delighted us all and I thought he had another really good game last week.
On the young midfielder’s progression and what he needs to work on, Neal added: “Anthony can do a lot of everything. You talk about what the manager needs from midfielders, defenders or young players; he needs to trust them. He does not show any signs of doing stuff that he will cost the team on a Saturday. There is always that balance of giving them the time and not losing games because of youthfulness or naivety. Anthony has done brilliantly; he always wants to learn, even to criticise himself, which is not usually the case with young lads.
“He has everything there if he can keep pushing on and we work hard on getting the strength and power into his body. He is only 17 and hopefully we have got a really talented player on our hands. We are delighted to sign him and hopefully there will be others to follow suit, sooner rather than later.”
An in-depth interview with the manager, as he looks ahead to Doncaster on Saturday, is now on iFollow, and a full preview of the game will be on the official website tomorrow.