We are delighted to announce that Egli Kaja is back for a second spell at AFC Wimbledon after he signed a short-term deal with us.
Egli, who joined us when he was 10 years of age and heard all about the Plough Lane dream when he was coming through the academy, will now get the chance to play there as a 24-year-old.
The attacking midfielder could come straight into the squad for Saturday’s home game versus Fleetwood – and Robbo said there was no sentiment involved in the decision. Egli’s arrival will add extra depth to our squad at a time when we’ve been tested by injuries and our Head Coach believes his versatility is a real positive.
“It’s not a sentimental decision,” said Robbo. “He can play wide left or right, or off a forward as well, so it’s perfect. He’s quick, he’s powerful, and he can play with both feet. I was talking with someone when we were making the decision and I said that he’s a bit similar to Ryan Longman: he’s very direct and loves to get at people. He has a great change of pace and has played at this level. He’s also played in the Scottish Premier League and it’s just injuries that have held him back. Without his injury problems, I don’t think we would have had the opportunity to sign him as he would be playing higher.”
Egli made his debut for us in a League 2 match at Luton Town when he was just 17 and he made 27 first-team appearances for us, before leaving in 2019. During his first spell on our books Egli had a loan stint with Livingston in the Scottish Premier League with one of his first games at a packed Celtic Park. Egli joined Northampton Town after leaving us, but his spell there was hit by injury problems.
Robbo added: “Egli has had a really tough time with injuries, so he asked me in pre-season if he could come back and we would help to get him fit. I told him that once he got fit I would try and help him get a loan. That was the plan, but in the last two or three weeks he has impressed in training so much that it left me thinking, ‘why do I want to send him on loan somewhere?’ We haven’t got a big squad and I think he will be a great signing for us. It’s his club, he loves it, and he’s going to try and take his opportunity.
“I’m sure it means everything to him. Egli was here when he was 10, and I worked with him until he got his scholarship at Under-18s. He was part of the group that I started my pathway with and when the club was in the Ryman Prem and Conference South a lot of the lads had opportunities to go to professional football clubs. They stayed with us, even though they were paying £300 a year in subs to play their football! They believed in what we were building at the academy. I sold them the dream that one day they would be playing at Plough Lane, and now Egli has that opportunity. It’s probably a bit surreal for him, but I hope he makes that dream come true.”
Speaking about signing here again, Egli said: “The last two years have been difficult for me, but now I’ve got the opportunity to play at Plough Lane. I first started here at 10 years of age and I’m 24 now, so it’s a dream for the club to be at Plough Lane and I’ve got the chance to play here.
“When my contract finished at Northampton I was injured at the time and with Covid and everything it made things extremely difficult. I didn’t have any major injuries, but when you are without a club and you are trying to get yourself fit it’s tough. I managed to get through it with the help of my family, close friends, and physio specialists. I can’t thank Tim Maynard (club physio) and Chris McConnell (club Sports Scientist) enough.
“Robbo brought me to this football club, so I’m forever grateful to him. He’s coached me since I was 10 so I’ve always stayed in touch with him, and I was buzzing when he got the job. He had worked really hard to get it and he’s an unbelievable manager. He’s really changing where this club is going in terms of the style of play and it promises to be an exciting future. It's a dream come true for me to come back and have a chance to play at Plough Lane."
Pics: Robin Bedford
Listen to Rob Cornell's full interview with Egli by clicking on the link below.