Having been involved in Wimbledon sides that have upset the odds at youth and senior level, Paul Kalambayi is passionate about playing a part in the club’s future.
“For me, it’s a big deal when Academy players come through,” said Paul, who graduated through our youth system. “It gives us confidence that we can do it. We don’t need to buy anyone – ‘home grown and hungry’ – that’s what you need in the squad. I’m passionate about playing for the club, so that’s what it’s about. I’m excited.
“I’ve known Will (Nightingale) for five years now. I’ve played alongside him a lot and our relationship on the pitch is really good. I spoke to him earlier and told him that I was glad he had signed. I’m pleased to sign the new deal.
“Wally wants me to work hard, as he expects that from every player. You have to earn your spot, as nothing is given to you. There’s competition, so you’ve got to stay on top of your game and that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been working, doing some running and I’m feeling quite fit.”
In the early days after joining the club in 2015, Paul was a part of an FA Youth Cup squad that beat Watford and Newcastle United. The run to the last-16 captured the imagination of our supporters as it fitted in with the Wimbledon tradition of upsetting the odds.
“That’s when I learned to win games, it was all about winning matches,” added Paul. “Those games were lessons, you learn from playing on the big stages and it helps you to move forward.”
That winning mentality certainly helped as his grew into his role in a youthful defence last season. After making his league debut at Portsmouth on 1 January, Paul had to grasp his opportunity at the heart of defence as Wimbledon sought vital points in the battle to stay up – a goal that was achieved on the final day of 2018/19.
“We managed to pull off something unreal, as we were written off so early on,” Paul added. “I’m glad that we’ve got a fresh start this season and we can do better. To be fair, staying up at Bradford was one of the best feelings. That’s the reason why we love football and play it – for moments like that. That just gave me more desire to go and do well this season for the team and hopefully we can get more out of it.
“It went quite fast from when I started playing for the first-team. Every game was literally a cup final! The gaffer mentioned he was taking one game at a time and that’s what the boys focused on. In every match we were given a game plan and we just took it on.”
You can see the full interview with Paul Kalambayi below, via the link to our official YouTube channel.