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The Academy's 2023: A year in review

Academy Manager Michael Hamilton looks back on the last 12 months

2 January 2024

Club News

The Academy's 2023: A year in review

Academy Manager Michael Hamilton looks back on the last 12 months

2 January 2024

With a new year underway, Michael Hamilton takes a look back at the main achievements at Academy level during 2023.

It’s so easy to get lost in the day to day of our roles, but it’s vital to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, both from a building and reviewing perspective.

Looking back over the last 12 months, there have been multiple measures of success, with player productivity being the biggest marker for an Academy.

Highlights of the year include:

  • Graduate Joe Whitworth becoming the first-ever AFC Wimbledon Academy player to start in a Premier League game - for Crystal Palace away to Brighton and Hove Albion, in March.
  • That same month, the first-team’s matchday squad away at Barrow (25/03/23) contained nine Academy graduates, making up 50 per cent of the matchday squad, a new AFC Wimbledon record.
  • The 46.9 per cent of first-team minutes achieved by Academy graduates was well above the average compared to other Category Three academies, which stood at 7.6 per cent for the 2022/23 season.
  • Aron Sasu, Morgan Williams and Paris Lock all signed their first professional contracts with the Club back in the Summer.
  • England youth international Spike Brits was sold to treble winners Manchester City.
  • Morgan Williams made his first senior start for the Club when we faced Chelsea in the Carabao Cup back in August - competing against World Cup winner Enzo Fernández.
  • The international break in October saw five youth players developed at the Academy called up to represent England across different age groups - Spike Brits (Under-17s), Michael Golding and Archie Stevens (Under-18s), Joe Whitworth (Under-20s) and Matthew Cox (Under-21s).
  • Justin Clarke grabbed the headlines when he became the Club’s youngest-ever player when he came on vs Wycombe Wanderers in the Bristol Street Motors Trophy, a few days after scoring the winning goal in the FA Youth Cup vs Cambridge United.

Productivity of staff is another area we use to measure the impact of our work and across 2023 we saw six staff members depart to pursue opportunities higher up the football pyramid. This included Josh Stepien who moved up to the first-team to support Head Physiotherapist Bobby Bacic in the medical department.

Our recent Youth Cup victory over Blackburn Rovers not only set up a fourth round tie versus Premier League club Sheffield United, but also capped off what has been a productive year on the pitch for our age groups.

The Under-18s finished the year occupying third in the Youth Alliance League with two games in hand on current champions and leaders Luton Town, leaving it all to play for in 2024.

Across our school boy age groups, not only have we had some very promising displays but we have seen silverware brought home, with victories like this not only building towards our vision, but also cementing lifelong memories for our young Dons.   

Of course, there are always areas to be better and a huge bulk of our work prior to Christmas was appraising and reviewing our departments and staff, with the purpose to improve. This will continue next week before we finalise our plans for the remainder of the season.

None of this would be possible without a strong team and not only would I like to acknowledge the Academy Management Team but on behalf of us all here we hope you have a great New Year.

Academy Management Team: Jack Matthews, Simon Clark, Ben Fosuhene, Ahmed Jama, Martin Davison, Theo Treadway Hoyte, Craig Watkins, Ben Ewing, Nicholas Wright, Deji Olorukoba-Oseni, Stuart Page.

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