We caught up with our Academy Player of the Year Tom Scott on Saturday for a Facebook Live chat before the win against Bristol Rovers and he provided an interesting insight into life for a young Don aiming to come through the ranks.
Unfortunately, he's has had to miss the majority of this season with a back injury, but the left-back is now making good progress and he was given encouragement on the road to recovery by travelling with the first-team squad for the recent win at Bradford.
Tom is pictured above with AFC Wimbledon Academy Sports Science and Medicine Manager Jenna Richards, who has helped him on the road to recovery.
Below is Tom's full interview with Rob Cornell, as it featured on our official Facebook page.
Q – What's happened to you? Why have you been out of the side?
Tom – "I've had a stress fracture in two bones in my lower back. We haven't got a time-scale on it, but I've been out for about five and a half months now, so it's been a really frustrating time for me, but the club have been brilliant. They've been helping me out with the under-18s squad, the under-23s and the first team staff. They've all been positive with me and kept me in and around it. I'm getting back now and enjoying what I'm doing. It's a slow process, but I've just got to keep going and keep being positive and keep working hard and hopefully I'll be back on the pitch soon."
Q – The good thing is the club believe in you and you're going to get that time back aren't you?
Tom – "I am going to get the time back and I'm very thankful to the club for that. I was sort of scared as to what my future would be. When I first got the injury I was a bit upset, but the club have been brilliant with me as they've offered me an extension – so the time that I've been out for, I get that back next season. Thanks to the gaffer (Neal Ardley) and the under-18s staff they've given me the extra-time, so hopefully I can keep developing, push on and towards the end of next season - who knows?"
Q – You went away with the first-team recently to Bradford City, how did you find that experience?
Tom – "It was a brilliant experience, to go away with the first team to Bradford. Obviously, I wasn't playing, but just being around the first team and getting that experience. I'll know more about what they do for games and if I do get the chance I can prepare myself properly and know what to do in the situation."
Q – Tom Soares has been giving you a lift in from your home in Berkshire these days?
Tom – "Tom Soares helps me out all the time. He does load of favours for me, like giving me a lift in. He's one of the main people at the club I look up to and he's just been a brilliant influence for me. He's like a role model, another one of my role models and if I've got questions I'll ask him and I'll ask a couple of others. He's just been a massive help to me. I can't thank him enough."
Q – You've been in that first-team dressing room; they got a great result and produced a professional performance at Bradford. What have they got to do to get a result?
Tom – "They've just got to keep producing like the performance against Bradford. They had an amazing run in January, the start of February obviously wasn't that great, but I believe they've got the quality to stay up and even get as high as mid-table. The quality is here, they've just got to keep doing what they are doing and believe in the gaffer's plans and stick to what he says. When I was in the changing room at Bradford, the gaffer said: 'If you stick to my game plan, we'll win this game'. That's exactly what they did and won 4-0. I watch them in training and games all the time and just stick to what he says and we'll be absolutely fine."
Q: You've just come from the under-18s game at Tooting and Mitcham, how did they get on?
Tom: "We won 2-1 and Leyton Orient offered us a bit of a different test to what we're used to. They play direct and in our half and it was a bit of a challenge as we had some younger lads playing. We've had a few injuries and players like Osaze Urhoghide, Ethan Nelson-Roberts and Ossama Ashley are up with the under-21s at the moment. That's good to push them on, as the younger lads are getting game time. All in all getting the win was a positive, but there were also other things in the performance that Mark Robinson (Coach) wasn't too happy with. They've got to look at that and build on from there, but some of them are only young lads and they've got a lot of time. It's looking positive."
Q – There was a match-winning goal from Tino Carpene, he's on fire at the moment!
Tom – "Tino is doing really well. He's scored seven goals in four appearances recently. Around the training ground, he's got a buzz about him and you can see in the way he's walking around and cracking jokes! One thing I also noticed about him was that he got all his college work done and now he's just focusing on his football. That's what we're saying to all the younger lads now – you've got to be focusing on your college work as much as possible. If you get that out the way, you can focus fully on your football and that's what Tino has been doing."
Q – Atmosphere is really important - it's really important what the fans generate for them, isn't it?
Tom – "We're always told as under-18s that the fans are the most important part of football. Without the fans, football wouldn't be what it is. We're told to be the best we can and give 100 per-cent on the pitch and do everything for the fans. At the Bradford game, there weren't too many Wimbledon fans, but they were louder than the Bradford fans. A couple of hundred were louder than around 19,000 and we got the result that day, so more of the same please."
Q – Ryan Sweeney is in the Bristol Rovers squad. Like you, he was brought up in football by Jeremy Sauer and Mark Robinson at our Academy. He's starting to climb up in the world at Stoke City, isn't he?
Tom – "He's doing really well, but I only spoke to Ryan a couple of times because I joined just before he left. He was a brilliant lad as I had a couple of questions when I was coming into the club and he answered them and he had a lot of time for me and a lot of people. He's got a lot of ability and is another Academy product. We listen to our coaches and we do what they say and work hard and be the best you can be and that is where it gets you."
Q – What's next for you for the rest of this season?
Tom – "I've just got to keep working hard at what I've been doing. Jenna Richards has been absolutely brilliant with me. I'm doing three days a week now, so one day a week of training for half an hour, one day of running for half an hour, then on the third day just a little bit of intensity – getting a jog, doing a warm-up to get the heart rate up and getting used to that third day a week. From now on, it's just about taking that next step and if I'm feeling good – keep doing more every week until I'm back in full training. Who knows from there? Maybe get some games towards the end of the season. For me now, it's just building up. It's like a pre-season for me – getting myself ready for next season. I know what I've got to do, but I've just got to be the best I can be and have no regrets with it."