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How life lessons helped Nik achieve leadership status

"I had points when I didn't see myself playing anymore for the club"

10 December 2021

Nik Tzanev is earning the plaudits as one of the best goalkeepers currently at this level, but there was a defining moment not so long ago when it could all have been very different.

“I think it’s something all goalkeepers have to go through, having to grind it out,” said Nik. “You don’t give up, but It’s always in your head – what’s the point? I had points in my progression at Wimbledon when I didn’t see myself playing anymore for the club, but look where I am now. You have to stay strong and positive and work at it – it’s the only thing you can do.”

The New Zealand international has pulled off a string of important saves, which has seen us make progress in the FA Cup last Saturday and keep a clean sheet in a midweek victory at Accrington Stanley. He also captained the side for the first time away to Sutton United recently.  

“I’m quite happy with my form,” said Nik. “It’s nice to get on a run and where we’re putting in performances like Tuesday night. We’re coming together nicely as a team. My personal goal is to become more of a leader in the dressing room, I think I have done, especially in the last couple of games. I’ve been leading from the back, keeping everyone switched on. Everyone is buying into what Robbo is trying to do.

“Tuesday night was a very mature performance. It was one of those games where there were horrendous conditions to play in, so it was really positive to come out of that with a win.”

Understandably Nik continues to credit our long-serving Goalkeeping Coach Ashley Bayes with playing a major role in the young Kiwi’s development. He’s also thankful for the brief time that Argentine international Willy Caballero trained with us, before sealing a short-term deal with Premier League Southampton this week.  

“I’m gutted he’s gone!” said Nik. “Hats off, I’m buzzing for him! Even for his age he’s diving, flying around the goal, making top corner saves, just as if he was my age! I’m still in close contact with Willy, but he’s been very helpful for me personally as well, teaching me things, so I have to thank him a lot for that. He’ll be missed.

“I can’t praise Bayzo enough. The appreciation I have for him is undescribable, because if it wasn’t for him – I wouldn’t have been here. I know for a fact that even if I had left here in that period, he would have helped me along the whole time, but we’re a really tight group now.”

Watch our in-depth interview with Wimbledon’s number one below, ahead of Saturday’s trip to Adams Park to face Wycombe Wanderers in League One.

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