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Club News

Title glory, a new addition & learning outside the box

A productive first month of 2024

21 February 2024

Club News

Title glory, a new addition & learning outside the box

A productive first month of 2024

21 February 2024

It’s been another exciting period for our Academy, with the new year being kicked off in the best way possible: winning silverware!

Here Academy Manager Michael Hamilton explains the secrets behind our success, brings us news of a new addition to the coaching staff and discusses how our young players are learning in different ways.


Our talented Under-17s squad have come out on top as league winners in this season’s EFL Schoolboys Under 16/17 South East Division.

Having played seven league games, winning six and losing only one, the young Dons accumulated 18 points, seeing us top the table in comfortable fashion, six points clear of second place Cambridge United. Scoring 24 goals, with a positive goal difference of 11, Wimbledon performed superbly in their league fixtures, beating Cambridge United, Milton Keynes Dons, Gillingham, Luton Town, Leyton Orient and Sutton United to claim the league title.

The likes of Sam Goma, Justin Clarke, Shaun Soukou and Harry Hedges have all featured at the Cherry Red Records Stadium for Simon Clark’s Under-18s team in this season’s FA Youth Cup run. Notably, Clarke stole the show in the first round of the cup, scoring an overhead kick deep into extra-time to seal the win and see off Cambridge in dramatic fashion.

Additionally, many more represented the Club in the London Senior Cup earlier this season. Alongside the aforementioned, the following players also featured in the competition versus Sporting Bengal United: Amaari Sealey, Tom Carvalho-Norris, Kiayon Moore and Eterne Djedje.

“There’s a real good balance within the squad”, said Jack Matthews, Head of Coaching at the Academy. “We’ve got players that can run with the ball and are very good in one v one situations. We’ve got players that are very creative, players who can control the middle and keep the ball moving, plus good defenders and players good in the final third.

“There’s a lovely mix within the group and on top of that we have some very exciting talents, some very high-potential players.”

Jack led the squad on a tour of Belgium last year, which he deemed pivotal to the development of the team.

“We took the group to Belgium, and we finished runners-up to Stade de Reims as we drew 2-2 and lost on penalties in the final, very typically English of us!

“But that experience highlighted what a tight-knit and close group of players we have. There was a commitment to achieving something much greater than just themselves individually. As a group they were far more than the sum of their parts.”

Credit must go to a number of staff members as well as the playing squad of course. Jack, Michael Hamilton, Ben Hicham (ex-Academy Coach) and recently joined Youth Phase Manager Scott Harrison all led the team to respective league victories throughout this season. A special mention must also be given to Hasib Saeed, who completed 10 seasons in the Wimbledon Academy, including managing this side at Under-15 level in the 2022/23 season.

“First and foremost, our priority is to maximise the development of each individual, but we do feel that if we get our parts right it should hopefully accumulate into winning, supporting the development,” explained Michael Hamilton.

“When there’s a result on the board there’s no hiding that we play for it, and a league/knockout competition like this, is a great example.

“We feel that achievements like this aren’t just something to celebrate, but more importantly something to build upon. Our aim is to try and win every competition we’re in, and we are very proud to have brought this title home. The challenge for the group next season is to do it again.’’


The Academy are delighted to welcome Scott Harrison to the Club, who joins us in the role of Youth Phase Manager, replacing Ben Hicham, who left to join FIFA just before Christmas.

Scott joins us from the academy of National League club Woking, where he was academy manager for over eight years and will now oversee the development programme for the Under-15 and Under-16 age groups.

Michael added: “We are delighted to have Scott on board with us here, as we look to progress to the next phase of the Academy. He joins us with almost 20 years in youth development, including being instrumental in Woking establishing themselves as one of the most productive academies outside of the EFL. He is someone who we always thought would be a good addition to us, if the right opportunity came along. He is a boyhood Wimbledon fan, knows what the Club is all about and has fitted right in already to the Academy Management team.”

Scott said: “A great opportunity arose to come and work for the Academy at AFC Wimbledon. It was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down, to work in a EFL standard academy that has a great track record of progressing players into the first-team and other professional environments. I hope my understanding of the Club and past experiences can support the good work already being done.”


As part of our Professional Development Phase (PDP) transition strategy, Craig Watkins, Head of Academy Player Care, recently organised a visit to the News Building in London Bridge, home to talkSPORT, Virgin Radio, The Sun Newspaper, and The Times, for our second year scholars.

The objective was to expose the players to a competitive and fast-paced environment where learning is constant - a reflection of their past two years in the programme. During the morning, we toured the building, interacting with professionals from various departments such as marketing, social platforms, and fashion. The visit settled in the talkSPORT offices, where three members of the apprenticeship programme shared insights into how it works and emphasised the importance of transferable skills for a career in journalism.

The session included a discussion on hot football topics and how they would translate into the running order for the Drive Time show, exploring how these topics could generate calls, debates, and content.

Following lunch, former professional footballer Alex Varney, who underwent a similar journey as our players, shared his experiences on and off the pitch. He now heads up website content for talkSPORT and Virgin Radio. Alex then answered questions from the players, addressing both positive and negative aspects of his football career, and his transition into journalism.

The final speaker was former Aston Villa player and three-time England capped talkSPORT presenter, Gabby Agbonlahor. Gabby spoke about the never-say-die attitude in football and the importance of playing as long as one can. He shared insights into his upbringing in Birmingham, experiences in the Villa academy, the pressures of being a Premier League player in his hometown, and retirement.

Gabby highlighted the similarities between sports journalism and football, emphasising the challenges of transition but also how transferable skills from football made the process smoother.

The overarching message of the day was clear: whether you are 17, 18, 25, or 35-years-old, whether you've been unsuccessful in football or are a seasoned pro, the lessons learned during these years should not be taken for granted. The lessons equip individuals for the next stage in their career in any industry.


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