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Josh on track for success after choosing football

Interview with man who joined us last summer

18 April 2024

Club News

Josh on track for success after choosing football

Interview with man who joined us last summer

18 April 2024

Josh Neufville has taken a switch to an unfamiliar right wing-back role in his stride, but his surging runs will be no surprise to anyone who had the misfortune of competing against him in the 200 metres!

That’s because Josh was a man to be feared on the track as a teenager, clocking 22 seconds for the half lap, and showcasing his speed when competing for Luton Athletics Club.

However, the lure of Kenilworth Road – Josh grew up as a Luton Town fan before joining the Hatters – meant that football held sway over Athletics.

We caught up with Josh for a recent programme interview and in case you missed it the full interview is republished below.

After a decade with Luton, do you feel at home with Wimbledon now?

I knew a few of the players here already from when I’d played against Wimbledon in youth games, including Hus, but it was easy to fit in with all of the lads. As I was one of 10 summer signings, everything was fresh and it felt like a new start.

When we went on the summer tour to Spain we already had six or seven new players, so I feel that really helped in terms of gearing up the squad for the new season. There was a freshness to the group and we also had Morgan Williams, Aron Sasu and Paris Lock involved. They played in big games at the start of the season and have the ability to push on. We have young talent here who are progressing in the right way, it’s a different environment to Luton.

As a pacy, athletic player, were you into other sports when you were growing up?

I was into my Athletics until the age of 16, but then I had to make a decision. The 200m was my best event and I can remember getting 22 seconds when I was in year 10, which equalled the Luton Schools record. I was at Luton Athletics Club for a few years, but it wasn’t really for me – I preferred football.

Was it tough to leave Luton after being there for so long?

It wasn’t as tough as it could have been. With me being on loan for around three seasons before I left it made leaving a lot easier. I wasn’t in favour in terms of getting an opportunity at first-team level, so it wasn’t a difficult decision to leave and it’s maybe something I should have done sooner. With Luton moving up the leagues so quickly, it was difficult for the Academy lads there to get first-team opportunities.  

Josh Neufville in action.png

How do you sum-up your time with us so far?

It has been enjoyable, straight from the first day when I got to meet new players, staff, and the supporters. I’m looking to kick-on and do a bit more. I’ve had injury problems since last September, so that has hindered my progress. Now it’s just about staying fit, taking things in my stride, and pushing on. I’ve only just come back, but I want to keep progressing and contribute to the team with goals and assists. I’d like to recapture the form I was in at the start of this season. 

You’ve been deployed in a right wing-back role this season. Do you feel that you’ve adapted well to a position that’s unfamiliar to you?

The boys have helped me to adapt. The instructions have been clear: covering for the right centre-back when we’re defending and moving high when in possession. When we’re attacking the aim is to get myself in a position so that I’m one-on-one with their left-back or left wing-back. It’s focused a lot on tracking the runs of the opposition’s wide players, so that I do the best job possible for the team. In the past I’ve played at right-back, but the position I’m playing now is a bit different to that.

Leading up to the game versus MK we had a tough training week in terms of adapting to a new formation. A lot of the players had to focus on the task in hand because it was the first time we had played with a five at the back all season. There was a lot of drill work on the training pitch, working on how each player’s role helps the team out, both on and off the ball.

Josh Neufville smiling.png

It was certainly all worth it because the celebrations afterwards were something else. What did that mean to you?

When I first joined the Club I knew about the history, but I don’t think I quite got to understand until the week leading up to the game. When you read what the fans think and their emotions towards the game it makes you fully aware of the situation. We also have staff members who have been here for years, including Robin (Bedford), Trevor (Williams) and Bayzo. We heard what it meant to them and that rubbed off on the players. It was exciting to be involved – it was probably the biggest game I’ve played in.

Is it a good learning environment here to keep making progress?

The gaffer is a young manager and he wants to continue improving, so that’s always good for young players. He has also played and managed at a higher level than this, so we can see that he will help us to improve as players. Terry Skiverton also brings plenty of experience of this level as well, so we can learn a lot from him. Alex Pearce and Lee Brown are experienced players who have played at higher levels, and Jake and Pelly also have a lot of games under their belts, so the senior member of the squad are always helping the young lads.  

How do you switch off away from football?

Going to the spa, getting massages, is what relaxes me, but that’s all about the recuperation for games, especially when we have a run of Tuesday and Saturday matches. You need to look after your body to give your best on the pitch.

I’ve been reading a lot recently. I’m reading The Alchemist at the moment, it’s a spiritual book. I’m trying to maximise my spare time as much as possible.

How did you get spotted by your first club Luton?

I went on trial at Luton Under-8s after playing local football for Crawley Green. I didn’t get in straight away, but the next season one of the coaches at Luton asked me to come and train with the pre-Academy. We played a game against the Academy and I was given an opportunity after that. I had offers to join other clubs, but Luton was my hometown club. I grew up going to the game as a fan, so it was perfect for me.

Crawley Green was a team that my Dad coached. It was a very good team because quite a few boys have gone onto play professionally, including Josh Martin, who is at Portsmouth now, and Jayden Reid, who is out in Finland after also playing for Pompey. Jamal Lewis, who plays for Watford, was also at Crawley Green. We won a lot of trophies and it was a club that well known in the area. There was also a good connection with Luton Town, so that helped in terms of a pathway.

Josh versus Conor.jpg

What has been the toughest time in your career?

I’ve had a few injury problems over the years. When I was 20 or 21 I snapped my ankle and I also suffered a lower leg break, so that put me behind for 10 months – I was just doing rehab. It was at a time as well when I had just come back from my loan at Yeovil Town and I was out of contract. Though I ended up signing again and I had to go out on loan to boost my fitness. Last season I got another injury to my other ankle, which put me out for a few months. This season I suffered a back injury, which was very frustrating. It was something I was playing through initially, but I knew that I had to come out for a bit to make it better. That’s not what you want when you are in the team after joining a new club. Injuries are part and parcel of football and you just have to bounce back from them and come back stronger.

Do you think this happens to you a lot because you’re a dynamic player?

I’ve suffered injuries after being tackled because I’ve been a bit too quick for my opponents. The injury this season is one that’s common for players who play the way that I play, but you have to get on with it – it’s a part of football that you have to learn to deal with.

Do you think the sacrifices that footballers have to make as young men is sometimes forgotten?

Yes. In the area I grew up in there were a lot of distractions. People at my age were not doing what I was doing – training all the time as a young footballer – and you don’t have time to meet up with friends as much. You also have to eat right so that you don’t end up overweight.

I had to be focused on what I wanted to do as I tried to make my way as a young footballer, particularly when I was 15 and 16 because there were a lot of other distractions.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

The win the other Saturday (versus MK) is up there because of the way that we won it and seeing the joy on the faces of my team-mates, staff, and fans. Whatever happens in my career, I think I’ll look back on that as a great moment. We have to push on though and make the fans happy by finishing as high as possible this season. Plough Lane has been rocking at times this season and we have to make it a tough place to come. There will be times when the fans get frustrated – there have been games this season that we should have won – but it’s about sticking with the boys as well. We are giving everything to make the fans happy, so I think it’s about everyone here believing in what we’re creating – the players, staff and supporters.

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