Mark Robinson has moved swiftly to fill the void left by the departure of James Simmonds back to Chelsea.
Following the end of his secondment from the Premier League club, ‘Simmo’ bids us farewell, and that means a new role for our long-serving academy coach James Oliver-Pearce.
James, who joined us as an academy coach back in 2013, steps up from his role as Under-18s coach to become our new first-team coach. Our experienced defender Darius Charles will also be involved in a restructured coaching set-up, having initially rejoined us in a mentoring role to our younger players.
Speaking about the changes, Robbo said: “I’ve decided that we’re going to step up James Oliver-Pearce. He’s a top-quality coach, tactically as well. He knows me inside out because we worked together for years.
“I think that continuity is important. You don’t just go and get another loan coach, but it doesn’t mean we won’t do that again. Right here, right now, I think we need that continuity and - and it will be seamless.
“James is joining up with the first-team full-time. I spoke to Michael Hamilton (Academy Manager) about it, and we looked at doing it a couple of days a week, but I need him in full-time and it will be a great learning experience. We will get someone else in to help with the 18s because we don’t want their development to be hindered.
“I’m also going to bring Darius even closer to the coaching staff now. He’s been great with the players and he’s always around them, but now as part of his development and pathway I want him closer to us. He’s going to come into the office with us. He’ll still be with the players, but I want to give him that direction as to where he wants to go next. He’s really excited about that.”
Robbo had hoped that James Simmonds would have been able to extend his stay with us.
“We kind of knew it was possibly going to happen,” said Robbo. “When I took him on loan, it was always going to be until January. You hope that things might change, and we might have had him for longer.
“It is sad, but he’s had a great impact on us as people, and us as a team as well. He came with loads of qualities and he’s certainly added to us in terms of the things he’s done with his coaching and presentations to the lads. I feel his style has changed since he’s been here, and he’s been a great asset.”
After his final coaching session with us on New Year’s Eve, James Simmonds proclaimed: “Once a Don, always a Don, as Bayzo keeps telling me! I’m going to try and get to the Boreham Wood game in the FA Cup next week.
“I’ll be looking out for the results and the progress of the players and staff, and I can only wish everyone well and say a big thank you, because I’ve loved every minute of it.
“You see how much it means to the supporters as it’s fan run, fan owned, and a community club. There are so many good things that go on, including the work of the Dons Trust. Robbo has done great in terms of uniting the fans and the players together. The players are well educated and they know how much it means.
“They are certainly grateful for all the work that goes on and what the fans do for this club. Now I know why it is the greatest story in English football! I’m very privileged and happy to have been a part of it for six months. Long may it continue.”