By Rob Cornell
New Dons keeper Tom King believes he's at the right stage of his career to grasp his big opportunity at AFC Wimbledon after making a loan switch from Millwall.
Wimbledon's management put together an extensive list of potential goalkeeping targets following George Long's departure and Tom was delighted to be selected as the man to fill the vacancy.
"To feel wanted is something that not only every footballer, but every person wants in general," said Tom, in an interview to our iFollow Dons premium channel. "I was actually privileged to some of the names on that list and to still come ahead of some of them is a big compliment to me, which I can only take in my stride as I aim to fulfil my potential.
"It's vital for me to be playing games at this age now. We looked at the end of last season and said that the start of last season, when I wasn't playing any games first team or otherwise, wasn't good enough. I made a bold point that I wanted to go and do a whole pre-season with a team and really integrate myself in with the lads and play a full season.
"Being on loan at Stevenage last season brought my game along a lot. Men's football is incomparable really. You can play loads of under-23 games, but when you step into the men's game it's a completely different kettle of fish. The physicality and the pace and tempo improves dramatically, so you've got to bring yourself up to that level or get left behind."
Click on the video link below to watch a clip of Tom's full interview, which featured on iFollow on the day that he signed.
Tom, who was on the bench when Millwall won the League One play-off final in 2017, did not have far to turn for advice about the move. Former Dons hero Tom Elliott was close at hand to offer words of encouragement. Wimbledon's new keeper is also excited at the prospect of linking-up with another tall striker, James Hanson, who also joined up for the start of pre-season training this week.
"Every keeper has a base level of shot stopping and I feel mine is really high," said Tom. "Simon Bassey, 'Bayzo', and the manager have seen that in me to bring me to the club. My kicking is a big element to my game as I'm a pretty big long distance kicker. With the new signing of James Hanson as well, hopefully that can win us some games.
"I spoke with Tom Elliott a lot over the summer. Tom is a good guy and he was very complimentary about the club as a whole; from the staff, right the way up to the manager. That was a big factor for sure, but Tom is definitely a real top guy and he's fitted into that system at Millwall, as I'm sure he did here."
At 6 ft 3 inches, the keeper is relishing the battle for the number one jersey at Wimbledon. The opportunity to work with goalkeeping coach Ashley Bayes, who has developed a growing reputation in the game, was also a deciding factor ahead of the temporary move.
"Neal said that the two other keepers (Joe McDonnell and Nik Tzanev) are going to drive me as much as I'm going to drive them," said Tom. "I think they are aware that I am coming into the building now.
"Hopefully that drives them on even more and to see them pushing on is going to push me on even further, which can only be good for my game and for them too. For the club to have three good goalkeepers is a bonus.
"It was vital for me that I was going to go somewhere where I would enjoy my work every day. I spoke to 'Bayzo' a couple of times on the phone and each time I've come away with either a smile or a good laugh, so he seems like a great guy.
"Every transfer window I'm seeing a goalkeeper moving up the levels from Wimbledon, so it's not just something in the water, it's something to do with 'Bayzo's' coaching. I'm looking forward to getting started and hopefully all the things I've heard about him are true.
"I heard a lot of great things about George Long. He had a great season last year and hopefully I can replicate that and, if not, even push us on even further, maybe towards the play-offs at the end of the season."