AFC Wimbledon's youngsters will this Sunday be aiming to rise to the challenge of taking on talented players from Premier League and Championship clubs.
Our academy hosts an exciting day of free football action at the Cherry Red Records Stadium with players ranging from Under-9s to Under-17s taking on teams from Brighton, Watford, and Reading.
Academy staff are encouraging fans to get along and show their support for Wimbledon's next generation, including creating a match atmosphere that will help the players to progress.
Rob Tuvey, Lead Youth Phase Coach, said: "We are going to try and make it as close to a first-team game as we can for every age group. We want to get a few songs going and make sure if we score a few goals the players get big cheers. That's what they need. Also, that bit of added pressure to maintain their technical skills and retain the tactical information that they've been given during the week is important to the boys. Academy football can sometimes be a sterile environment and the boys need to start playing games in stadiums. It's a great experience for the Under-9s right the way through to the Under-18s. We are trying to put a real emphasis on our players playing in stadiums from a young age and this Sunday does that.
"It gives us a chance to get the message out about the great stuff that we've done this year. Jeremy Sauer (Academy Manager) and Mark Robinson (Academy Head of Football) will be around all day for fans to talk to about what we do and to welcome more people into our great family. We've looked at what a Wimbledon team is, including what it meant in the past, and where we want it to go in the future. I think what we all see is a team that like to play high-tempo, aggressive football, as much as we can. We try to really press high. It's about understanding that if we win, that's because we do more. That's away from the football pitch too. We don't give the boys many days off and the reason for that is because we want to get them in the building to understand other stuff. We've had the boys in reading and using the environment more to get their fitness up. We've really put a big emphasis on our 'Winners do more' philosophy this year."
Towering defender Rueben Collins (pictured right above with Rob) has had a taste of playing in stadiums this season after starring in the FA Youth Cup and he has also stepped up to play for the development squad.
Reuben is aiming to put that experience to good use in Sunday's match for the Under-17s (Under-18s next season) against Reading.
"Since I've been here at this club I've enjoyed it when we've played in stadiums as it gives us that opportunity to play in a similar environment to the first-team," said Reuben. "It's good to get the families down and the fans, plus the other age groups. All of us get together in one place to celebrate the academy and the club. It will be good for the fans to come and watch us try to replicate the Wimbledon spirit."
Scouts and agents will strictly not be admitted entrance for this fixture.
Parents and guardians of both clubs must have their parent ID card and/or designated match wrist band.
AFC Wimbledon supporters are encouraged and welcome to attend. Please ensure you have proof that you are a supporter to gain entry, for example your season ticket, old match tickets or Dons Trust membership card.
The timetable for the day is as follows:
U9s/10s (v Brighton), 11s (v Watford) = 9am
U12s (v Watford) = 11am
U13s (v Watford) = 1pm
U14s (v Watford) = 3pm
U15s (v Watford) = 5pm
U17s (v Reading) = 7pm
Watch Rob Cornell's full interview with Rob Tuvey and Reuben Collins by clicking on the link to our official You Tube channel below.