Reuben Collins is determined to rise to fresh challenges laid down by Wally Downes as the young centre-back aims to break into Wimbledon's first-team.
“Wally has brought me up into the first-team environment and is going to see how I am adapting, rising up to the standard or not,” said Reuben. “He wants me to work on my heading, but I think the main thing for me is just developing myself.
“I need to make sure that if I get that opportunity, through injury or different circumstances, that I can play my part in the team. If the team needs me, I then need to back it up.
“Before Saturday’s game we had a presentation and the gaffer talked about what we can do as players, whether that’s on the pitch with players performing to their best, or off the pitch. That applied to injured lads or those not involved in the squad. Wally asked: ‘What are you doing to help around the changing room, the environment or the stadium?’ That’s something I aim to take on board.”
Reuben is soaking up every aspect of being a new professional with Wimbledon. Our reigning Academy Player of the Year, who is pictured holding off Crystal Palace striker Connor Wickham in pre-season, is willing to help The Dons to success in any way that he can.
Speaking during a pre-match chat as part of our Facebook Live coverage on Saturday, Reuben added: “For me personally, I want to contribute as much as I can to us playing well. In the changing room I have to be spreading positive vibes and making sure everything is going well. Even with the younger lads a lot of them might not understand their match day jobs completely. Having coming through the Academy, I try to give them advice on what they are doing around the stadium. I hope they all know that if they have got any problems they can come to me straight away.
“I’m ecstatic to be a part of this, to be honest. Coming up through the Academy it’s always been a dream for me to be a part of this squad whether it’s on the pitch or off the pitch. Hopefully I can contribute towards the team’s success this season.”
Reuben is aiming to follow in the footsteps of those who have successfully made the jump from Academy to first-team football.
“Will (Nightingale) has been such a great captain for the team, such a great leader,” said Reuben. “Around the changing room everyone feels that they are free to talk to him. He’ll go around every morning and say ‘hi’ to the lads and check in with everyone and see what we’re all doing. I think he’s a huge presence in the squad.
“For me, coming up through the Academy, playing with these players and seeing Will and Anthony Hartigan everyday around the ground is really inspiring. They are making more senior players look average or competing with them head-to-head. This, to me or younger players coming up, shows it’s achievable. It inspired me and gave me a huge push.
“We’ve got a few Academy graduates in the side and Jack Rudoni was on the bench on Saturday. The gaffer just wants good, hard working people. It doesn’t matter what your age is. For me as a young player that’s really inspiring because that makes me want to work harder, perform to the best of my ability, and show to the manager that if he needs me then I am here.”
“He’s willing enough to be brave enough to make that decision. To be honest, I think it has paid off. He’s gone for a younger squad this year and we look more vibrant and energetic and hopefully that will come out on the pitch.”