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EFL Award winner Anthony’s rapid rise exceeds expectations

Interview with young Wimbledon midfielder who has made great strides this season

16 April 2018

Home-grown talent Anthony Hartigan last night scooped the League One LFE Apprentice of the Year award after a breakthrough season for the Chessington-raised midfielder.

For those supporters who missed it, we caught with up with Anthony for an interview about his nomination that was published in the Charlton programme and this is reproduced in full below.

Anthony's bright start to 2017/18 was interrupted by injury, but it's still been a defining season for the 18-year-old midfielder, who made 16 first-team appearances.

The first of those came against Brentford in the Carabao Cup and Anthony recalled that his parents kept it a secret that he would be in the starting line-up!

"When the manager read the team out I had a bit of a weird feeling in my stomach," said Anthony. "I was in a bit of shock and I thought, 'this is the time that I'm going to make my debut for AFC Wimbledon'. It was my first professional appearance, but my Mum and Dad knew a couple of days before. The gaffer told my Dad on the phone that I was going to be making my debut.

"In pre-season I think people thought I was just going to be training with the first-team and then playing for the Under-23s. I've sort of skipped playing for the Under-23s and been in the first-team squad quite a lot this season. I thank the manager for giving me so many opportunities and the staff for their work with me.

"I've played a lot of games for someone my age. I've been put into pressure situations and that shows that the manager trusts me. I don't think anyone expected me to do as well as I have done this season. I have mixed emotions about this season as there have been a lot of ups and downs. I've made mistakes and that's probably the best thing for me in terms of learning."

Anthony, who started light training recently after recuperating from a knee operation, joined our academy at the age of 14 and he said that AFC Wimbledon's remarkable story is an inspiration to him.

"We get told by the academy staff about the history of the club. I think that's a good thing because it makes you have that bit of respect and pride when you play for the club. The club has gone through bad times, but now we are trying to progress. It is drilled into you here and it is a great story, I don't think it will ever happen again, and it's not possible really.

"I was playing Sunday League football for Chessington & Hook, but then I went on trial at Wimbledon and I got signed when I was 14. I had attended a development centre for Norwich City at Tooting & Mitcham. One of the coaches there liked me, but I was a very young player at the time. I also went to a development centre run by Brentford, but Wimbledon is local to me and that helps. I've never lived anywhere else apart from Chessington."

The Apprentice of the Year award recognises outstanding young professionals who excel both on and off the pitch, with educational progress one of the factors considered.

Anthony, who attended a Careers Fair hosted by our academy with young footballers from clubs around London also present, is keen to keep his options open in case his current career doesn't work out.

"I finished a lot of my college work two months ago. As part of our scholarship, we do a B-Tech Level 3 in Sport. This covers a lot of things, including how to prepare for games and how the body works. It all helps when you move up to first-team football. I still have to finish my NVQ, which is also included in the scholarship. Football does end at some point, even if you have a long career in the game. It would be good to have other ideas about what to do after the game. If I'm lucky enough to have a career in football, I still have to be prepared to do something else. You have to take yourself out of your comfort zone by expressing yourself and extending the knowledge you have."

Anthony has certainly expressed himself with his assured performances in the centre of the park this season and now he has another reason to celebrate! Congratulations to Anthony from all at AFC Wimbledon.

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