Jon Meades is convinced that he’s in the right place to begin his coaching journey, but he’s well aware of the high standards set by the AFC Wimbledon Academy.
“Academy football sometimes gets a ‘bad press’, but here these guys do an amazing job and they’ve had good runs in the FA Youth Cup,” said our former left-back as he joined in for his first session at the training ground.
“I’m under no illusions,” said Jon. “I haven’t got much coaching experience and as a player you kind of do the sessions, but sometimes you don’t take on board all the little things that go on. I’m learning all the time. The next six months to a year is going to be a huge learning curve for me and I’m just looking to feed off of our coaches.
“I’ve not much experience really, so it’s a big thank you to the Academy and Jeremy (Sauer). I just hope I can be a big asset to the club, the Academy and add something different. In the immediate future, that’s what I’ll be trying to do.
“Mark Robinson (Academy Head of Football) is someone I can benefit from hugely. It’s not just the players that they’ve produced; it’s the type of football they play as well. I’ve been down on Saturdays and seen them play in the mornings and the type of football they play is really exciting. That’s what I want to be a part of.”
You can see how Jon’s first day in his new job as a Development Coach with AFC Wimbledon’s Academy went in the video below, via our official YouTube channel.
Academy Manager Jeremy Sauer was quick to see the potential as a coach in Jon, when the former Welsh under-21 international announced his retirement from full-time football as a player on the eve of the new season.
“We’ve had ex-professionals involved with the Academy,” explained Jeremy. “In all honesty, not all of them want to learn, they don’t want to do the hard graft and work with the under-9s – they see that as beyond them. We don’t get that from Meadesy. He wants to throw himself in, do the apprenticeship properly and that’s quite exciting and refreshing.”
Jon’s Academy days as a player were spent at Cardiff City where the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Adam Matthews progressed to careers in the top flight. Wimbledon captain Deji Oshilaja was a class mate and its where as a teenager Jon first started to work with Neal Ardley, who was in charge before landing the manager’s job at the Dons.
“Meadesy is a bright lad, I’ve had him around me since the age of 14, said Neal. “A lot of those good sessions he’ll be putting on he probably nicked from me!”
“I’ve always believed that within any youth set-up you should try and have a connection with the club. You should always try and have one or two of the ex-professionals in there, if you can, just to give from their experiences and pass on their knowledge.”