By Rob Cornell
Neal Ardley is pleased with the progress of his new-look squad, as they prepare to face Premier League Brighton in their final home pre-season friendly tomorrow.
"It's going really good in terms of both team bonding and where we want the squad to be ahead of the new season," said Neal, in an update from the training ground for our premium iFollow Dons channel.
"Obviously, in an ideal world you'd have as many signings in by day one as you could," said Neal. "It's never ideal joining up with a squad two and half weeks into it, but Jason Moriarty has worked hard with the boys. They've played a bit of catch-up and the new players are going to be in and around and kicking on, so from a fitness perspective it's all looking good. From a team bonding perspective, it's really, really good. We've got some real good characters with a bit about them! The boys have taken to them really well."
Anthony Wordsworth is one of seven new recruits to come through the door during the summer and he is pictured in the gym on the day he signed for Wimbledon.
The Dons packed plenty into their stay in South Wales this week, so much so that the 'initiation' songs of the new signings had to be put on hold for those long away trips during the season.
"It's funny! Really strange! The boys didn't end up doing it," said Neal. "They wanted to save them for the season. I think with the Friday nights before games they want to start 'drip-feeding' the rest of the boys the songs. It was all go from the first minute of the tour and we never got around to fitting the boys in, so watch this space!"
Tom King, Tennai Watson and Mitch Pinnock have all figured in Wimbledon's first three games. On Saturday, supporters may well get their first look at the other four additions Neal has made so far, along with the return of Apprentice of the Year Anthony Hartigan.
"I'd like to think the remaining new signings who haven't played yet will be involved," added Neal. "Scott Wagstaff, James Hanson, Terell Thomas and Anthony Wordsworth are all in line for some minutes. Jason has put down how many minutes he'd want them to have or where he thinks they are. It's too early for those players to have 90 minutes. There may be one or two though.
"We're going with an 18-man squad tomorrow, which means there will be a few that get the full game in. Anthony Hartigan is back in. He's been back training at the same time as Scott, James and Anthony Wordsworth. They've all been working hard and are 'ready to rumble!'
Neal has plenty of admiration for the achievements of not only the Seagulls as a club over the years, but also for their manager Chris Hughton.
"I've got the upmost respect for Chris Hughton and the fantastic job that he's done at every club he's been at," said Neal." It's no surprise they are doing well under his guidance. I think they've added some real quality to the squad by doing quite a lot of business early on. If they are up for the minutes and their fitness levels are good, then obviously it's going to be by far our hardest test."
The full interview with Neal is on our iFollow channel.