Anthony Wordsworth said that his younger team-mates became sick and tired of hearing his voice during the latter stages of Wimbledon’s Great Escape!
However, the 30-year-old plans to give them more of the same treatment next season in an effort to help them realise their potential and lift the club to greater heights.
“I do like to help the young players,” said Anthony. “If you speak to them they would probably say they hate me for 90 minutes because I’m always on at them, giving advice. We needed to stick together last season to keep the club in League One and we had a very young team. They probably think I’m giving them a telling off, but I just want them to do better because they are good players. I feel that they can improve because I see what they are like every day in training. I know that they have got potential.
“People have asked me a lot about how we managed to stay up. I've told them that normally to get out of a relegation scrap you need experience, but we did it the opposite way. When I looked around our squad we were so young. Our back five were young and Anthony Hartigan, who I played next to in midfield, is a young boy. Michael Folivi also came in on loan. We had a lot of young lads in the team at the end of last season. I remember saying to our young players after the Bradford game that what they had achieved was just like winning promotion. It certainly felt like that. Something happened in the changing room after the Rochdale game. It gave us that belief among the squad. I just knew after Rochdale that we were not going to get relegated.
“My Dad was up in one of the stands at the back for the Bradford game. When the final whistle went I was telling him to come down and I don’t know how he did it! He managed to get on the pitch so he enjoyed it as well. It was a lovely moment, especially with him having driven me around everywhere when I was a kid.”
Anthony endured a tough start to his first season with AFC Wimbledon, but he believes that a full pre-season under his belt will make a big difference.
“It was a difficult start last season,” added Anthony. “I didn't have any sort of pre-season, so I wasn’t fit and I didn’t start the first few games. I didn’t really play regularly until Wally came in, but then I played every game, apart from Fleetwood and Barnsley. It was good for me to play regularly as I got my fitness back and my performances started to get better. I’ve had three weeks of complete rest since the season ended, but Jason Moriarty has given us a programme to follow. I’ve started getting to grips with that so that I will be ready for the start of pre-season.
“I think this will be my 15th pre-season, including the two I did with the youth team at Colchester United. They don’t get any easier, especially as I’m not getting any younger and I’m one of the older boys now. I will need the young lads to pull me through!
“On a personal note, I’ve always scored goals throughout my career and last season was a bit different from past seasons in my career. I had to sit back a little bit more and be more of a leader. I had to help to keep our shape and help to keep the team together at a time when we desperately needed points to stay in the division.
“I think anything is possible after what we did last year. I’m not sure what position we would have been in if the season started from when the manager came in. I think we would be up there in the form table, so with a couple more good additions it will be interesting to see what we can do. Hopefully, we can finish in the top half of the table. Everyone wants to make the play-offs, so if we can get anywhere near that towards the back end of the season, then I would fancy us.”
Anthony became known for his exuberant post-match celebrations with our supporters last season, as Wimbledon closed in on completing a footballing survival act that seemed very unlikely in February. However, the midfielder said that he enjoyed Toby Sibbick’s celebrations against West Ham in the FA Cup more than his own! Anthony also believes that another youngster could make the step-up to first-team football next season – 17-year-old midfielder Jack Rudoni.
“I think I enjoyed Toby’s celebrations after he scored against West Ham. To do that against a Premier League team after coming off the bench was special. You get some joy from the young lads achieving something.
“The first time Jack trained with us we did one v ones and he twisted me up! I’ve seen what he’s like first-hand and he is going to be a good player. If he works hard in training then I think we will see a lot more of him this year.”