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Jon defied family tradition to make his mark with Wimbledon

Interview with Dons full-back after his welcome return

14 November 2017

By Chris Slavin

In Sunday's match day programme, Jon Meades talked about bouncing back from serious injury and said that he has no regrets about turning his back on the medical profession.

For those who may have missed it, the full article is reproduced below.

Several serious injuries have tested his determination to become a successful footballer, but Jon Meades is certainly not regretting the decision to choose a completely different career path to his family. Jon's father David and three other family members are all in the medical profession, but it was only ever going to be football for the AFC Wimbledon left-back.

"My dad is a GP and my twin brother, younger brother and older sister are all doctors, so I'm outnumbered a bit! When they're all talking together at the dinner table I don't have a clue what's going on, to be honest. People may think that my dad would have pushed me into the medical profession, but he recognised what I wanted to do with my life and he let me get on with it.

!My family have been very supportive of me in my career. That has helped me to stay positive during the tough times, particularly when I've been out injured. My twin brother Adam was playing at Cardiff City's academy with me until he was 13 or 14, before they let him go. He's come to a lot of the games to watch me in recent years, but he's now moved to Australia."

Having been out since April with an ankle injury that required an operation, Jon was somewhat thrown into the deep end on his return against Lincoln City when he was asked to fill an unfamiliar right-midfield slot as a substitute when Lyle Taylor came off injured. But Jon was delighted just to be back playing again. And despite suffering past injuries that would have ended the careers of other players, he will not be changing his style.

"I've been unfortunate with injuries in the past, but unless I get to the stage where I can't even walk, I'll keep going. This is a tough sport, and I put my body on the line. Sometimes you go into tackles that you come out of on the wrong end, but you can't fundamentally change the way you play, especially as a defender. There have been tough times, and it's not easy sitting out watching the other lads play, but injuries are part and parcel of football.

"When I was at Oxford United I had a really bad injury in pre-season. I went in for a tackle and suffered an ankle ligament injury. It was the type that some players struggle to come back from, but I stayed positive, and managed to come back from it.

"Now, I'm really enjoying being a part of the first-team squad again. It had been a frustrating time for me since the Bradford away game last season, when I broke down with an ankle injury. I didn't know that I was going to be in the squad for Lincoln until Thursday or Friday, but the manager had said he was happy with my performance against Luton.

"I didn't expect I'd be playing such a big part against Lincoln. After 20 minutes, Lyle went down and the manager said to me, 'Can you do a job for us at right midfield?' It was interesting! I'd played there when I came on at Wembley, in the play-off final, and I really enjoyed it then, getting up and down the wing. I think I've played in every position apart from up front and goalkeeper. I'm quite lucky in that I'm comfortable with both feet. I have my preferred position, but I'm happy to do a job for the team."

Since joining AFC Wimbledon for a second spell in June 2015, Jon has been a regular at left-back when fit, and he's played a big part in the club's progress. The prospect of running out at a new stadium in Plough Lane in League One is something he would never have believed possible when he first came here on loan back in November 2012.

"If anyone had said to me before the Fleetwood game that in about four years' time we'd be playing in League One and with a chance of moving to a new stadium in Plough Lane, I would not have believed them. It would be a momentous day for the club to play back there for the first time, but it would mean a lot to me as well. Kingsmeadow has been a good little home for the club, but I think it's time for the club to go back to Plough Lane.

"It's hard to describe how much it's all changed here since I first walked through the door. There are a lot of little things that people don't really notice which have altered the whole dynamics for players at the club. The management and coaching staff have put things in place to make it a better environment for the players. That includes better changing rooms, training pitches, improved travel before away games and GPS systems for monitoring players' fitness. More players are also coming up through the youth ranks. It's just completely different from when I first joined.

"The manager has played a massive part in my career. He brought me here as one of his first signings, and I like to think I've repaid the faith he's shown in me by helping the club to stay up. The manager gave me an opportunity to prove myself in League Two. I owe a lot to him and the club for that.

"There have been ups and downs since I came back here for a second spell, but I've loved every minute of my time here. In the last year or so it's been tough for me due to injuries, but the first season was unbelievable. To have played over 40 games and helped the club to promotion at Wembley – that was the best season of my career. After I'd come off against Dagenham & Redbridge, I knew I'd torn ligaments, and I was told I'd be out for between six and ten weeks. The final was in five and a half weeks' time, and I said to Dougy, 'Whatever I do, I am going to be back for it.' I was in every day getting the injury iced and working on the rehab. It was still a little bit sore when the final came around, but I took a few painkillers and it was like the injury was never there. When I came on it was 0–0, and to be on the pitch when the two goals went in was just amazing."

Jon, who started his career with Cardiff City, and then had spells at AFC Bournemouth and Oxford United, is happy now to be playing for a club that he believes can keep progressing, despite a difficult start to this season.

"We've had a sticky patch, but hopefully the result on Saturday against Lincoln can help take us forward. We showed that we're all in it together. We've played good football at times this season, and we've often lost just by the odd goal. It's not like we've been massively outplayed or anything. But everyone has to chip in to score goals, including the defenders. And we've not been scoring from set-pieces like we did last season.

"The FA Cup is such a big competition, and it can really raise the spirits around a club if you have a good cup run. Look at what Lincoln did last season: they got to the quarter-finals, and they were a non-league club then. To try to emulate something like that would be great. I know we've got a tough match against Charlton in the next round, but there was nothing between the two sides in the recent league game, and we're at home for this one. The Liverpool game does still get mentioned by a few of the lads in the squad. They've told me what a great occasion it was, and it would be great to be involved in something like that. I watched the game on TV as I was at Oxford back then. Steven Gerrard was the difference, and the boys almost got a result. It shows that on any given day in the competition you have a chance of upsetting the big teams.

"This club can progress higher – there's no reason why it shouldn't. If you look at what Burton have achieved, it shows what can be done. If you can create a great atmosphere around the club, not just among the players and the coaching staff, but the supporters too, then you can keep progressing. In football, you get spells when things aren't going well, but there's a lot of talent in our squad and I believe we can turn it around. In the first half of our promotion season it wasn't going that well, but then we got some momentum going. Everyone talks about things changing after the Newport and Stevenage games, but personally I just think it was down to the small margins going for us. Things started to go in our favour and we capitalised on that. It may be tough to do something like that this season, but maybe next season, or the one after, we can get into the Championship."

Our supporters will certainly not be complaining if Jon is running out at Plough Lane in the future as part of a Wimbledon side playing in the Championship!


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