Darius Charles recently inspired rising Wimbledon talents by talking about the experiences that helped him become a professional footballer.
Our former defender had a Zoom chat with our academy players, providing motivation at a difficult time during lockdown.
When asked about the characteristics that make a good leader, Wycombe defender Darius was quick to mention the impact that our former captain Barry Fuller had on him, plus Bayo Akinfenwa, with all three having helped us to promotion in 2016.
“For me personally, all the best leaders I’ve been around have led by example,” said Darius. “It’s a lot easier to have people march to the beat of your drum if you are doing those things yourself. I’ve played with players like Barry Fuller and it was his dedication to his craft that stood out. He lives in Kent, but he would be one of the first to the training ground. He was working out in the morning, training like an animal, and working out in the afternoon. Bayo was also at Wimbledon and I’m with him at Wycombe now too. Their dedication and application to their work is second to none. What a centre forward does is different to what a full-back does, but it’s still the same type of application. The biggest characters I have been around, and those who have had the most influence in terms of positive change, have led by example.”
Darius also talked to academy players about the challenges he faced as a young footballer, offering advice on making the grade after his 14 years as a professional.
“I think the biggest thing for me was overcoming my pride and being brave enough to ask questions, rather than just trying to figure it out myself," added Darius. "I thought that if I expressed my vulnerability or inability to do something I would be deemed weak or incapable, but after I started to ask questions I started to understand what it is my managers wanted from me as a player and what I needed to improve upon to earn a professional contract.”
Our academy coaches have set-up several Zoom chats with sporting personalities for young Dons during lockdown. England coach Chris Powell, and former Dons striker Marcus Gayle have interacted with our young footballers on Zoom and national sports journalist Darren Lewis will also be talking to academy players this week.