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Jimmy follows in the footsteps of his French idols

Comoros international aims to make his mark with the Dons

27 November 2017

By Chris Slavin

For those who may have missed it in Saturday's matchday programme, we interviewed Jimmy Abdou about settling in at AFC Wimbledon, his international career, and his early days adjusting to life in England.

It's certainly been a colourful career so far for the experienced midfielder and the full interview is reproduced in full below.

Jimmy Abdou feels proud to have followed in the footsteps of his midfield inspiration, Claude Makélélé, by carving out a career in English football, but he had to come through a tough start at Plymouth to make the grade.

Signed by Ian Holloway for Argyle after he left French club Sedan, then in Ligue 1, the Dons midfielder was determined to make his mark. The exploits of fellow countrymen Makélélé, Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry provided Jimmy with plenty of motivation to become a success in this country, but it was something of a reality check for him when he started life in South Devon.

"The first impression for me when I came here was the big difference in how the game is played," said Jimmy when we spoke to him last week. "The intensity and pace of the games were a lot different. In my first friendly game at Plymouth I didn't get a touch for quite a while! I had to get used to pressing and working hard to win the ball. I said to my friends that I had to get fitter to make it in England. That's what I worked on when I first came here.

"When I look back now, I've been in English football for 11 years and I'm really proud to have played here for so long. I see so many French players come here and struggle to find consistency and to carve out a career. It's not easy, because the style of football is different, and the culture too, but I've worked hard in every year I've been here to do my best.

"When my contract finished at Sedan, I had no concrete solution and I was waiting for a club to come in for me. The only offer I had was at Plymouth, but I'd always wanted to play football in England. It felt like the right time. When I was growing up, quite a few French players were at Arsenal. My role model was Claude Makélélé at Chelsea. Quite a few French players had come to England when I was growing up, and I wanted to discover it for myself. I watched Makélélé a lot – he inspired me when I was younger – and I watched Vieira too. I had a few days on trial at Plymouth, and Ian Holloway decided to sign me. I was only at Plymouth for one season before I joined Millwall."

Jimmy Abdou's bright start at AFC Wimbledon has been interrupted by international call-ups, but representing Comoros has not prevented him from achieving success during his career, and he doesn't believe it will be any different now. Playing for the remote island in the Indian Ocean can entail long-haul flights, but Jimmy is hugely proud to play for his parents' homeland, and he takes the journeys in his stride.

"The manager of Comoros called me back in 2010 to ask me to play international football, and I've always enjoyed it. I'm really proud to play for the country where my parents were born, and I still have family there now. I wouldn't complain that the travel is tough because it's part of football now, and a lot of players do it. Our last match, a friendly against Madagascar, we played in France because most of the players in the two teams are based in Europe. When we play a home game in Comoros, it can be a little bit tougher! The flight can take around 13 hours, sometimes with stops in Ethiopia or Turkey on the way. I'm one of the oldest players in the team now, and back in 2010 the national side was only really starting to be built. It's a good standard now, with most of the players playing in the second division in France."

After signing on loan from Millwall in July, Jimmy scored on his competitive Dons debut in the 1–1 draw at Scunthorpe United. Despite going away to play international football on two occasions, Jimmy has been a regular in the squad when available, and he really feels part of it at AFC Wimbledon.

"I got a great welcome from the club when I first arrived, and it was nice to be presented on the pitch, before the Watford friendly. I know a little about what happened in the past with this club, and it's an incredible story. I will do my best to help this club move forward. You want to do your best for the club, even more so because it's run by the fans. They give their all for the club, and as players we have to do our best on the pitch for them.

"I didn't play much last season, even though I played in the play-off final. The main reason for coming here was to enjoy my football and play games. I know that AFC Wimbledon got promoted last year and we've got good players here. We've not done as well as we'd have liked so far this season, but I'm still confident. I will do my best to help the team.

"Robbo and Liam are good lads and they were good team-mates when I was at Millwall. We all know each other well, and I'm happy to be in the same squad as them. We've got good competition in midfield, with Tom Soares and Anthony Hartigan also competing for places with me and Liam, and we've got competition throughout the squad."

Brought up in the south of France, Jimmy came through the ranks at his hometown club Martigues before joining Sedan, for whom he played in Ligue 1 as a young footballer making his way in the game. Playing in promoted teams has been a feature of his career so far, and big success came at Millwall in 2010 when he helped the club into the Championship at Wembley. That came a season after play-off final heartbreak when Millwall were beaten by Scunthorpe United at the same venue. Though Jimmy also experienced relegation with Millwall in 2012, he helped them back into the Championship in May this year, and he was voted by the fans as Millwall's Player of the Year twice, in 2012 and 2015.

"Kenny Jackett was a big influence in my career. He coached me for about five or six years, and I learned a lot from him. If you ask any player who has lost in a play-off final, they'll tell you it's hard to come back the next season, but we did so well to get back to Wembley and win. It was a big thing for Millwall that we went back the next season and won, so I'm proud of that. It wasn't easy to play for so long at Millwall – I had to work hard to stay on top of my game. After I joined, it took me a few months to settle down at a new club and to adapt, but I did well in the end and the fans there seemed to like me.

"Playing football was what I always wanted to do. I joined my local club Martigues when I was seven, and came through the youth ranks there. I signed for Sedan when I was 19, but I had to be patient to get a chance in the first team. I was playing in the reserves for six months, but then I got my opportunity. I played a few games when Sedan got promoted and then I played about 20 games in the top flight. It was a great experience to play at that level when I was so young, but then my contract came to an end and there didn't appear to be a solution. I decided to move to England with my girlfriend, who is now my wife. It just seemed like the right time to give it a go in this country when Plymouth offered me an opportunity."

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