By Rob Cornell
Deji Oshilaja believes that being welcomed back into the Wimbledon "family" by supporters was a major influence on him playing his best football and he's determined to push the team forward next season.
The defender (pictured above with Maureen Batsford), who received a hat-trick of end of season awards with the Radio WDON, Players' Player and the Supporters' Player of the Year accolades, praised the support he received from supporters for helping him to settle in again so effectively.
"As soon as I walked through the door they were welcoming," said Deji in an interview with our official YouTube channel. "They were shaking my hand and hugging me and I felt it was kind of like a family. That helps any player to feel loved and I believe I've played my best football since then. The backing of the supporters definitely helps, especially as I'd been here before, so I didn't really have any added pressure or anything like that.
"I believe we've done well to stay in this league. We enjoy it now, put it behind us, and then get ready to go forward and push on for next season. For me personally, it's been a good season. I've enjoyed it so much. To stay up is very pleasing, but at the same time now we want to kick on. We look forward to next season, get a rest now, and then we can build on for next season and see how we go from there.
"You should aim to progress every season. I think, as you can see with the club's history, we've done that by getting so many promotions in such a short space of time – that's what this club does. It's testament to the players to stay in the league this year because there were some top teams in there."
To view Deji’s full end of season interview, click on the link below.
Deji joined the Dons permanently from Gillingham just under a year ago, but he'd previously earned the respect of the fans when he collected the Young Player of the Year title, while on loan to Wimbledon from Cardiff City in 2015.
Having the respect of his fellow professionals means a lot to Deji, as he revealed who he voted for, and his surprise at collecting the award ahead of another consistent performer in the Dons back-line.
"I think the Players' Player of the Year is the most important one. To have the respect of your team mates is the best one for me, personally. I thought George Long was brilliant this season and I voted for Lyle Taylor! I thought Lyle's goals were amazing and I did think George would win it, but they've been brilliant as well, so I'm happy to receive it."
Neal Ardley has played a vital role in Deji's development throughout his career so far, with the pair having initially worked together when Neal was his boss at Cardiff's Academy from a young age.
"It's massively important to me. He always told me to do what I had to do and play how I play. When you've got a manager like Neal telling me to do the things that I do naturally to me, it always helps. He doesn't tell me to do much to my game. He just says, 'play your game and you'll be fine'. This gives me the confidence to do what I have to do. Neil Cox, Simon Bassey and Ashley Bayes also encourage me to go and play my game and that in itself gives you massive confidence as it would with any player.
"As a player, you've got to try and use every game and try and be better than your last one and I think I've done that. I believe gradually I've got better and I believe as a team we've got better as well. Our performances as a whole have improved towards the latter stages of the season. I'm happy to have these awards."