AFC Wimbledon step-up pre-season preparations this weekend by playing two matches in less than 24 hours and our manager Wally Downes said that the trip to Germany was too good an opportunity to turn down.
A 30-man Dons squad will tomorrow fly out to Germany to take on former Bundesliga Champions FC Kaiserslautern on Friday night, before facing Kickers Offenbach a day later. As well as Wimbledon’s five new signings, the squad will include six players still eligible for our Under-18s, and Wally Downes believes it will be a great experience for everyone involved.
“It’s two games in two days and it’s good for the camaraderie of the squad to go over there and all work together,” said Wally. “There will be 70 minutes for one team on the Friday, they will play 20 minutes the next day, and it will be vice-versa with the other team. It’s about us adjusting and adapting because there will be times during the season when we have to play Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday. Players will have to know how to rest and get the best out of their bodies when we have a run of games in a short space of time.
“It’s a funded weekend for us and it’s a nice trip for the club as we will be facing two good German clubs over there. I didn’t want to turn an opportunity like this down because we have young players and it’s about their experiences in life to go to different grounds in different countries. It’s fabulous for us to go out there and play games of football in Germany.
“There are a couple of older ones that are building up fitness, but the youngsters are fit and it’s just about getting their game-management into perspective. They can come into games and run around and be knackered with 15 minutes to go or they can pace themselves and find out that they’ve got plenty left. It’s a fact-finding mission for some of them to realise that they cannot afford to run out of steam and they can’t afford to hold anything back. We are easing them in and they are finding out how to manage the whole 90 minutes.”
The trip to Germany will be a new experience for Will Nightingale, who captained us to League One safety last season, and he is pleased with the way pre-season has gone so far.
“It will be different as I’ve never been to Germany before,” said Will. “Obviously, we’ve got two games in Germany and I’m sure we will have a few fans out there, just like we did in Ireland, which will be brilliant as it’s a nice little trip away for them. For us, the first few games are needed to shake off that rustiness, but now that we’re getting towards the start of the season results are going to matter. We’ve had two tough tests against Championship sides and it shows us what we need to do, because that’s the level where we want to be. That’s the next step and the level we’ve got to aspire to be at. We will get more minutes into the boys during the two matches in Germany and hopefully we can start getting some results so that we’re ready for the start of the season.
“We’ve got a good mix with five new boys and we’ve had a few from the Under-18s and the Under-23s stepping up. We are all training together and there’s a squad of 30 of us going to Germany. We have a good group of lads here and everyone is trying to make each other feel welcome. Hopefully, it should be a good trip away to Germany for us to gel together.”
If you missed our closer look at FC Kaiserslautern and Kickers Offenbach, see our previous article.