Millwall’s loss was certainly Wimbledon’s gain with the emergence of Ayoub Assal, who is now making his mark at first-team level after an impressive rise through the academy ranks.
Ayoub, who only turned 19 earlier this year, scored on his league debut at Shrewsbury last week and this season he also attended a Morocco U-20 international camp.
It’s been a long journey through our youth system after he decided to leave Millwall at the age of 12, the attacking midfielder feeling more at home at Wimbledon.
“I was at Millwall as a young lad, but I didn’t end up extending my contract there,” Ayoub recalled. “They offered me a deal, but I didn’t want to extend it. I ended up leaving and I had a trial at Wimbledon for two weeks and then I signed here. I was buzzing to sign a deal and from then on I have been here at the Dons.
“I have had good coaches here, including Robbo and Rob Tuvey, and before that I had good coaching at Millwall from Paul Palmer. Wimbledon is more of a family club, you feel the love from the coaching staff, the players, and the fans. You really feel that you are a part of the club.
“Right now, I’m coming off the bench, but I want to implement my place in the team as a starter, and have a constant impact throughout the whole season. With my individual performances I want to help the team and push the club towards where it should be.”
Ayoub is thankful for the support he has received in recent weeks after breaking into the first-team.
“On a personal note, I came on against Shrewsbury to make my debut, and getting the equaliser was a big step for me,” he added. “As a young kid, that’s what you dream of: coming on for the first-team and making an impact. It was very positive and everyone at the club – the fans, coaching staff, and players – showed their support for me, and I thank them for that.
“It came as a bit of a surprise, but Robbo puts his faith in me and I want to repay him by going on the pitch and putting in solid performances, making an impact, and helping the team, so that’s the main thing.
“As a player, I would say that my strengths are in one versus one situations, pressing high up the pitch, and using my body effectively. Those are obviously my main strengths. I need to work on improving my weaker foot, my positioning, and off the ball stuff.
“I would like to thank all of the senior players as they have all been very welcoming and helped me to settle into the team. That helps as a young player coming through. I still have a long way to go as an individual and I want to take this club where it deserves to be and that’s going forward.”
Speaking about earning international recognition, Ayoub added: “Both my parents are originally Moroccan, so that makes me eligible to play for Morocco. Earlier in the season I got called up to the Under-20s and it was a very good experience. I had good feedback from the coaches there and hopefully there will be many more appearances to come in the future. The country has played a big part in who I am because I used to go there every summer. It is a big part of me as an individual.”