After a first year as Academy Manager that has included steering the youth section through troubled waters, Michael Hamilton is determined to provide a platform for young talents to progress.
In an extensive interview for our official You Tube channel, Michael talked about the measures taken to keep the academy moving in the right direction at a difficult time due to the Covid-19 crisis.
However, he was also keen to look to the future and to provide the best environment for our potential stars of the future to flourish. Central to that vision is highlighting our remarkable club story of Wimbledon rising against the odds through the leagues and into a new stadium.
“We’ve had a few boys called up to get international recognition," said Michael. "Obviously, Matthew Cox came through here to progress to the England set-up and Morgan Williams has played for Wales at youth level, plus one or two others. What’s happening as we become more known and successful is that our boys are being recognised. If not at international level, then definitely at national level with other clubs showing more interest in our boys. That’s testament to all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes from myself, James (Oliver-Pearce), Anthony (Ferguson), and Rob (Tuvey) to make sure that our boys get the best programmes possible.
“Matthew was a pivotal one for us because it showed that we had a talent here that had been recognised. There was interest from other clubs, but we managed to keep him. With the club moving to a new stadium and with the academy hopefully forming a big part of the club’s future, it was massive for Coxy to remain with us. Hopefully, the message has been sent out, not just to those outside the club but also inside the club, that this is a place where you can develop, where you can get a chance. As an academy player here if you roll your sleeves up then it shows that things can happen and you can progress.
“Though we are situated in the most populated part of the country where a lot of boys want to play football, clubs are expanding their talent ID and recruitment areas, so it becomes more challenging. That’s why we have to make sure the Wimbledon story remains true and when new people come into the club they believe they are a part of something special. Moving to the new stadium and having a first-team manager that plays young players and seeing that there is a pathway here, those are the things that will stand us out. We’ve had players turn down so called bigger clubs to stay with us. We want to strengthen that further, so that the boys see here as a place to develop, and to forge a career that they want to be a part of.”
Key to maintaining the academy's philosophy is to educate new staff coming in with club hero Seb Brown set to leave his coaching role.
"With all the changes that are happening, including Seb leaving and Robbo now having less of an impact due to his first-team involvement, we want to make sure that we keep our core elements really strong. We want to carry the AFC Wimbledon story and traditions moving forward. To do that we’ve had to do a lot of work with staff to make sure they understand the club that they are coming into, what we expect from them at the training ground, and the messages that are key to us."
Click on the link below to watch the full interview with Michael.