Deji Oshilaja says he's thriving on the added responsibility of being AFC Wimbledon captain, as the defender gears up to take on his old club Gillingham and our former skipper Barry Fuller.
The 25-year-old was appointed captain just before 2018/19 got underway and he started with a victory at Fleetwood on the opening day. Though a win in the league has proved elusive since, Deji is confident the squad will start picking up the points.
"I think I'm someone that leads by example, first and foremost," said Deji "I like the boys to look at me and think, 'our captain is playing hard'. I can give them that extra inspiration. We have great leaders all the way throughout the team. 'Kingy' in goal has a bit of character and so too has Will in the back four. Tennai is coming out of his shell a bit more and in midfield Tom Soares and Liam Trotter have good experience. We've got good talkers and a good vocal group. Everyone helps each other and it makes my job easier.
"I always like the added pressure and responsibility. Personally, I think I've had a very good season so far. It's an achievement for me to be captain and long may that continue. Barry was very vocal on the pitch, but he was a calm character off the pitch. I think I'm a very calm character in general, but I'm trying to implement the talking a bit more, trying to help the boys to make their jobs easier. I think you can see that this season as, apart from last Saturday, we've been really strong performance wise, but we need to get the points we deserve and start climbing the table."
In an interview for iFollow, Deji joked that he may struggle to get the captain's armband back from Tom Soares! The midfielder struck a goal of the season contender at Charlton in midweek and he's wasted no time reminding his team-mates about it!
Click on the link below for a clip of Deji's interview.
Following three loan spells at Gillingham, Deji is very grateful to the Kent club for helping him to develop as a defender. At the start of 2015/16 Deji suffered a bad knee injury while on loan from Cardiff City and he appreciated the support he received from Gillingham. However, he knows that Wimbledon really need to try and get the better of Barry Fuller's side on Saturday.
"It was a good period for me at Gillingham," Deji recalled. "I played a lot of games, and I had a good rapport with the fans. I had a very successful first season at Gillingham. It was disappointing in the end as just missed out on getting into the play-offs and promotion. The second season was a lot tougher, but the fans stuck with us. Gillingham is a good club. I injured my knee when I was there, but they told me not to rush back and they wanted me to get it right. They knew my qualities and as soon as I was fit and ready to go they put me straight back in. It was good the way that they dealt with that.
"Barry is a top captain and a great player as well. The respect he has amongst the group here, and I'm sure he has from the boys at Gillingham, is at the highest level. It will be good to see him and to play against him, but hopefully we can put one over on him. It's always nice to go back and play against a club you have been at and I am sure it will be a good game. I will be going there looking to put on a good performance and help the boys to get a win.
"It's always nice when you get a result (on Tuesday at Charlton). Macca made great saves and we took good penalties as well. Hopefully we can get a win now, especially coming after the result last weekend. It's a great atmosphere amongst the boys and there's a good vibe around the place."
On Saturday's challenge at Priestfield Stadium, Deji added: "We know it is going to be a fight. We know they are going to come at us, they will work really hard, and they will be very physical with their strikers. I am sure we will have a game plan to deal with that, but we must focus on ourselves. On our day I think we can beat anyone in this league. I think we proved that against Sunderland, even though we didn't get the result we wanted. I though we were excellent on the day. If we can play like that and add a bit more composure in front of goal and in our defending, we can start picking up points."
The full interview with Deji is on iFollow, along with Neal's update ahead of Gillingham.