By Chris Slavin
Liam Trotter's contribution to the Dons midfield has been going from strength-to-strength in the second half of the season.
Since the start of the year, he's chipped in with three goals and deservedly collected the sponsor's man-of-the-match award after Saturday's 2-1 victory over Oxford United.
For those supporters who may have missed it, we featured an extensive interview with Liam in the programme for Oxford and this is republished in full below.
At the age of 29, Liam Trotter says that he has never felt fitter in his whole career, and the experienced midfielder is determined to help keep AFC Wimbledon in League One.
Since joining the Dons last summer, Liam has been a virtual ever-present, putting the niggling injuries that dogged him at Bolton Wanderers fully behind him.
“I’m the fittest I’ve ever felt in my career,” said Liam. “It’s partly down to knowing my body, but also the way the club staff have looked after me. I’ve not had any impact injuries since I joined. Jason Moriarty and the coaching staff keep everyone fit – they place a big emphasis on that – and it plays a big part. I’m in a good place at the moment. I’m improving every season, and I’m feeling positive. Though I’m older now, I’m looking after myself better – you learn to do that.
“The toughest part of my career has been when I’ve had injuries. At Bolton, the injuries came at times when I was just finding my form or had just got back into the team. I always seemed to pick up niggling hamstring and groin injuries. When that happens, it really puts you back, both physically and mentally.”
Since the beginning of this year, Liam has started to contribute goals and assists to the AFC Wimbledon cause. His most prolific season was the 2010/11 campaign, when he struck eight goals in the Championship for Millwall, but he believes that he is a more complete midfielder now.
“My role in the team here varies from game to game. Football has changed over the years, and the positions have changed. Back in my Millwall days I played in a 4–4–2, and the aim was for me to get into the box as much as possible so that I could contribute goals and assists. At Bolton, I had a more defensive midfield role with a lot more passing from deep. This season it’s been a mixture of both. There have been games when the manager has asked me to play in more of a No.10 role, with the aim of creating and scoring goals, but in the match at Peterborough I played more defensively. I just try to do the best that I can wherever I’m asked to play. I’ve learned more about the game at every club I have been at, and you also learn from the negative aspects.”
It was tough last summer for Liam as he found himself without a club after leaving Bolton Wanderers, a club he had just helped to achieve promotion to the Championship. Though Liam accepted a trial with his old club Scunthorpe United, he turned down the chance to go on tour with The Iron – and then Neal Ardley came calling. Despite interest from other clubs, the offer to play for AFC Wimbledon really appealed to Liam, and he’s eager to end his first season here by keeping the Dons in this division.
“It was difficult because I had the uncertainty of not knowing where I was going to be starting the new season. That’s part of football, though, and I had to work hard to keep myself fit so that I was in good shape to join another club. I spoke to the manager here, who talked about where he wanted me to play in the team, and his vision for the club. I also talked with Callum Kennedy, who is a good friend, and he gave me positive feedback. It felt like the right fit and the best decision I could make. A couple of other clubs were interested in signing me. I’d been at Scunthorpe on trial, and they asked me to go to Austria on tour with them, but the option came up to come here and it felt like the best choice.
“When you look at where this club has come from in the last 15 years, it’s testimony to the hard work put in by previous coaches and players, plus the current team and management. Obviously, the fans have played a massive part in taking the club up to League One after starting all over again. Everyone wants the club to go further, but first we have to ensure that we’re not a League Two team again. We all want to push on during the rest of this season, to stay up and try to get to a higher level in the future. No-one wants to get relegated, and we don’t want to be in that bottom four at the end of this season.
“There have been a lot of ups and downs this season already. We had a decent cup run and got to play Spurs at Wembley, but it’s disappointing where we find ourselves in the league. We’ve had a lot of near misses when we’ve played well and not got the right results. But we’re still very positive that we can stay in this division. We’ve shown glimpses this season of what we can do, and if we can hit a bit of consistency I feel we have enough to stay up.”
Liam was a relatively late starter in football. He was not snapped up by a professional academy as a young boy, and it was not after he left school that he was signed by Ipswich Town, where he was part of an FA Youth Cup winning team in 2005. With promotions at Scunthorpe and Bolton on his CV and plenty of seasons spent playing in the Championship, Liam is certainly not regretting his decision to quit college.
“It was always football for me. When I left school I started a BTech in Sports Science at West Suffolk College, but I was also playing football for Bury Town. I started college to see where that would take me, but my main aim was to play football. After my first couple of weeks at college, Ipswich Town spotted me and I ended up signing for them. When I joined Ipswich, the academy coaches were Bryan Klug and Steve Greaves, and they played a big part in my development. I was probably a bit behind the other lads, who’d been with the academy for years, but they did a lot to help me. Kenny Jackett at Millwall also helped me a lot. He put me in the team and kept me in the side when I was a young lad.
“I’ve enjoyed all of my career so far. In the first season after Millwall got promoted into the Championship, we almost got into the play-offs” – the Lions finished ninth in 2010/11 – “and after that we managed to survive relegation for a few seasons. Bolton are a really big club too, and I enjoyed my time there, particularly helping them to promotion. The highlight of my career was probably the first promotion at Scunthorpe. I was only a young lad then, and I really enjoyed it.”
Everyone connected with the club will be hoping that there are more highs in Liam’s career here at AFC Wimbledon, starting with a strong finish to this season and League One survival.