Anthony Wordsworth talked enthusiastically about making a success of his Wimbledon return and he hopes that his 'lucky stones' will bring more positive energy for the club this season!
The former Wimbledon academy player gave an extensive interview for the match day programme and it is reproduced in full below for those that missed it.
Anthony Wordsworth is hoping his favourite tune will make the cut as a pre-match inspiration to his team-mates this season – and it's certainly a song title that will resonate with older Wimbledon supporters. Anthony's number-one pick is "Underdog" by Kasabian, and it's a particularly apt choice for an experienced midfielder with a past Wimbledon link. A former Dons academy player, Anthony watched Neal Ardley and the rest upsetting the odds in the top flight, and he is now hoping that our manager's class of 2018/19 will be a surprise package in League One this season.
"My song choice for the lads would be 'Underdog' by Kasabian, as it gets me up for it every time," Anthony told us when we spoke to him last week. "I think it would be the perfect song for the boys before a game." Whether Anthony gets his way remains to be seen, but his knowledge about what AFC Wimbledon means to the club's fans cannot be questioned.
"Ivor came in and talked to us about the history of the club, what it means to play for Wimbledon, and that the fans want 100 per effort. That's absolutely what we will give. I already knew quite a lot about the club, but some of the lads didn't. Everyone here is on the same page, and we all want to give our best for Wimbledon.
"I was at Wimbledon's academy from the age of about seven. Players I remember watching include Neal Ardley, Michael Hughes and Jason Euell. I remember a few games at Selhurst Park, but the thing I remember most was going into the bar after matches and getting photos taken with the players. I still have a few of the photos from back then, including ones with the manager and Efan Ekoku. It was great to go into the bar afterwards and talk to the players.
"There were a few boys I came down with from Camden to play at Wimbledon, and Jem Karacan was in the same academy team as me. I remember our academy coach telling us what was going to happen to the club and that we had to move on. So I left Wimbledon and went to Charlton."
As well as offering an inspirational pre-match song to the squad, Anthony's "lucky stones" have already worked their magic this season. Now referred to as "John Stones" by his team-mates, Anthony carries a different set of stones with him every day and everywhere he goes, including to Fleetwood on the opening day the season. Following the victory up in Lancashire, Anthony posted a picture (taken by Mitch Pinnock) on Twitter with the following message: "Just as we planned ... clean sheet and a winner in the exact spot I laid the stones. Boys and away support superb."
It's not a ritual that Anthony will be giving up any time soon. "It's just a way of life, I bring them everywhere. I carry them around in my pocket, providing good energy for the boys! The boys have been calling me 'John Stones'! Tom King kept a clean sheet at Fleetwood, and Joe Pigott scored close to the spot where I laid the stones, so it worked!"
Anthony was certainly a lucky charm at Portsmouth, his first start for Wimbledon coinciding with a first victory for the club in the EFL Cup since returning to the Football League in 2011. The attacking midfielder's performance earned praise from the manager, and he's been given a clear indication of what's required from him in 2018/19.
"I think everyone understands what their role is here – and you can see that from the opening performances. I know what the manager wants from me: I've been brought to the club to improve the number of goals scored from midfield. At the moment, I'm just working on my fitness to make sure I can get into the box and get back into midfield for the whole of the 90 minutes. When I signed here, I was a little bit behind with my fitness as I didn't have a club for a spell during the summer. I'm still playing catch-up with my fitness, so I need to raise the levels and be ready to go.
"I was impressed with the team when I was watching from the bench in the first couple of games. The way we've moved the ball around has been brilliant, and we've been well organised. It helps when everyone gets on well from day to day at the training ground. That can only breed a winning mentality – and long may that continue!"
Anthony first made his name at Colchester United, making his debut in the EFL Cup as an 18-year-old, and he went on to help the Essex club to promotion to the Championship in 2013. Looking at him now, at 6 feet 3 inches tall, it's hard to believe that his size was a factor in him being turned down by Charlton Athletic as a teenager.
"I didn't really start growing until I was 21! I think Charlton thought I was too small and light, but they were also in the Premier League at the time. I went to Colchester, and luckily enough I broke into the first team at the age of 18. It meant that I was away from home for the first time, staying in digs, but I loved it. I could also go home when I wanted because it wasn't too far.
"Joe Dunne, the Cambridge United manager, was a big help during my youth-team days, but my main influence then was Aidy Boothroyd. When he first came in I hadn't played many games, but he said to me, 'You're going to play every game." That gave me real confidence. He saw something in me, and I think I repaid him because I scored 14 goals in my first full season. I was playing wide left when I first started playing for Colchester, but when I went to Ipswich I tried to change my game a bit and become an all-round midfielder. I learned to pick and choose my runs a bit more.
"I think it's having consistency that's key to getting promotion. When I was watching Colchester before I got into the team, the likes of Jamie Cureton and Chris Iwelumo were scoring regularly. Every time Colchester got a set-piece. you knew there was a goal coming.
"It was a great experience to a part of the Colchester squad that got promoted to the Championship. I was still young then, and it would be nice to be a part of a promotion-winning team again. Hopefully that will happen here with the new squad we have."
Raised in Camden, Anthony first played football for Haverstock School, and his first club was Westward Boys, in East London. Having first joined Wimbledon as a seven-year-old, his career has effectively come full circle, and the prospect of playing at the club's spiritual home in Plough Lane is something he relishes.
"I knew Liam Trotter from outside football before I joined Wimbledon, and I asked him for advice about coming here. He said good things about the club, and I also talked to Joe Pigott, who spoke highly about his time here so far. With the new signings coming in at the club and fitting in well, it's all looking positive.
"I've heard stories from the fans about Plough Lane, and I've seen the images of how the new ground might look. When we get to the new stadium I think the club can go to the next level, and it would be nice to be a part of that when it happens. I don't know how long it's going to take, but from what I've seen so far it looks like it is going to be unbelievable!"
Based on his encouraging display on his full debut at Fratton Park, it's certainly possible that Anthony and his lucky stones will be gracing the Plough Lane turf in the future.