James Oliver-Pearce has called on our young prospects to embrace the challenge of playing two important cup games in less than 24 hours.
Our Under-18s are in FA Youth Cup action on Friday night versus Charlton Athletic at Dartford (7.00 pm kick-off), but another big match starts 17 hours later at New Malden as the young Dons host Exeter City in the semi-final of the EFL Youth Alliance Cup (12 noon kick-off).
Far from complaining about the circumstances, Under-18s manager James is excited by a schedule that presents his players with a chance to earn two key cup victories – and learn plenty from the experience.
“We will be playing two games in around 15 hours, but the players have bought into it and we do a lot in our youth development programme on developing a resilient and robust player,” said James. “Ultimately, what Wimbledon is founded on and what first-team coaches will want in the future is players that are able to play on a Saturday and go again on Tuesday – to develop that mentality of being robust.
“We are not going to play the exact same side for Saturday - there will be some changes - but all the boys have knocked on my door and said that they want to be involved in both, so we will have to make decisions on that. We’ve got an excellent Under-16s side, so players from that squad will be involved. It's not ideal to play two big cup matches in two days, but is it something they can embrace and learn from? One hundred per cent it is, so we are excited by it.
“The credit has to go to our physio Jenna Richards, Liam Conner and Chris McConnell because their understanding and knowledge for the players in terms of how they recover and prepare has been absolutely instrumental for them to be able to do this at such an important part of the season.”
Show your support for our next generation by cheering on the Dons at Dartford on Friday night. Entry is priced at £3 for adults and £1 for U16s and concessions on the door, with gates opening at 6.00 pm.
Click on the link below to listen to Rob Cornell's extensive interview with James and Paris Lock, who talks about balancing his studies with life as a young footballer as he seeks to be a part of our future.