By Rob Cornell
Young Player of the year Will Nightingale is relishing competition for places, partly due to the return of a former winner of the title.
Will and new signing Deji Oshilaja will be looking to stake a claim alongside Paul Robinson in the Dons central defence against Scunthorpe on August 5, in the absence of the injured Darius Charles, with games at Aldershot Town tonight and Ebbsfleet tomorrow.
"I think it's brilliant to be honest," said Will in an interview to our premium iFollow channel. "You never know when you're going to be short of players. The more competition for places – the better, because if everyone looks at themselves and strives to be the best they can be and it pushes other players on to think they've got be better as well.
"If everyone tries to be the best they can be, then whoever is the best should play and the ones that aren't should strive to improve and try to be that little bit better.
"Deji has come in and been brilliant and we all know what he's been like from when he was here before and he won the young player of the year award as well," added Will.
"You want to have players you're going to be comfortable with and players you know who are going to' go to war', so to speak, when you cross that white line. I don't want to be playing with someone who is not up to it, so it's brilliant to be as strong as possible really.
Having graduated through the AFC Wimbledon Academy himself, Will is very impressed with the latest players to have earned pro contracts with the Dons and how they have performed in the build-up.
"The coaching staff and the players have said how well they really have done. It's good because we want the young boys to be stepping up. In a way, I'm still classed as a young boy, so I'm still like kind of partly with them," added Will who turns 22 next week.
"I think they've done brilliant and I think they've all got good careers ahead of them, if they keep doing what they have been. Anthony (Hartigan) is only 17, which is crazy to think, but he's just looked comfortable and settled right in. Toby (Sibbick) has been really solid and Egli (Kaja) has done really well too against Burton."
"I think the trip away to Celtic Manor was a great trip for all the boys to get to know each other, because we do have a few new faces in the squad this year. We all got time to spend with each other and have a bit of a laugh, as well as work hard in training.
" There's no 'bad eggs' or tension between anyone, so everyone is getting along and if anyone is slacking in training a bit we are all on to each other as we all want the same thing to achieve as much as we can. We're all going to help each other out, but also give each other a kick up the backside if it's needed.
"I think the sky is the limit really. I think we all know what we want to do and we're quietly confident, but words are just words and we've got to go and show that and prove that, but we all know what we want to do and it's looking good though."
Neal Ardley highlighted the Dons need to sharpen up on second balls and set-pieces after Tuesday's defeat to Wycombe and these are areas Will is very aware of going into the next two friendlies.
"Wycombe were good at what they do and everyone knows how they play, different to Watford and Burton in our first two pre-season games. I think that's how we ended up getting caught out with the two goals which is annoying as it is quite sloppy to lose a game to two quite silly errors really.
"It doesn't take a lot to cut it out and we've got to be on our game and know we can't let things like that happen as it can cost us and if that was a league game it's going to affect us a lot more. If we learn now in pre-season and put it right – then we'll take that."
The full, eight-minute interview with AFC Wimbledon defender Will Nightingale and an in-depth preview with coach Simon Bassey are available to our iFollow subscribers.
Pic credit: Graham Hunt (Pro Sports Images)