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Rudi’s return! Popular playmaker pencils in Plough Lane date

Extensive interview with Academy graduate

1 May 2024


Rudi’s return! Popular playmaker pencils in Plough Lane date

Extensive interview with Academy graduate

1 May 2024

Jack Rudoni was first sewed into the fabric of Wimbledon from the age of 11 as a young boy who would go on to grow into a player with an abundance of talent.

Technically gifted and able to showcase a scoring touch far beyond his years, ‘Rudi’ quickly shone in our Academy before earning his step up to first-team level under our then manager Wally Downes. 

It was under his old mentor, Mark Robinson, that he would really flourish, being given the license to showcase his talents alongside fellow youth graduate Ayoub Assal and the older, more experienced heads of Ollie Palmer and Joe Pigott.

The form he put together in the 2021/22 season attracted admiring glances from on high, leading to a big move to Huddersfield Town in the Championship as Jack bid a sad but thankful farewell to the Dons.


Now the midfielder is set to return to the Cherry Red Records Stadium on Saturday 8 June (7.30pm start), joining his former manager Neil Warnock for an ‘evening with’ event that is sure to be popular.

Speaking about the event, Rudi said: “Come down and make a real night of it. The gaffer (Neil Warnock) will keep you entertained for the duration of the event. Personally it’ll be great to see everyone as it will be the first time I’ve been back to Plough Lane since I left the Dons. I will use this as an opportunity to see the fans and say thank you for everything they’ve done for me. It should be a special night!”

Read our full interview with Jack down below as he takes us through his career to date.

How did it feel to leave the Dons after so many years with the Club?

It was a strange feeling. Having been with the Club for so long, it was all I had ever known. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience at Wimbledon but it was exciting to take on a new challenge and have a new place to call home. It was sad but a good step for me as it took me out of my comfort zone.

I started at the age of 11. I’ve experienced every feeling imaginable with the Club. The ups and the downs. I was very connected to its story after coming through the Academy ranks and I knew everyone inside out. It was strange to leave but it was the right time. I have so much love for the Club and still look out for the results. Wimbledon will be back in League One soon enough.

What was your best moment at Wimbledon?

The brace at Wycombe is a standout moment for me. But for me personally it has to be my full debut against Bristol Rovers. The game against Oxford United at home was also one to remember, the two goals I scored that day were my first at Plough Lane in front of the fans. That was an incredible feeling.  

Another fond memory was the back end of the first season when Robbo (Mark Robinson) was in charge, it all clicked when me and Ayoub (Assal) ran off the back of Ollie (Palmer) and Pigs (Joe Pigott) – we scored so many goals off those two simply holding the ball up. It was one of the most enjoyable times of my career, despite playing behind closed doors. It was free flowing.

Who was your biggest inspiration during your time with us?

It would have to be Robbo. He did so much for me. He knew me from the day I joined and stuck with me all the way to the first-team. He oversaw my development and helped me improve in every aspect. Robbo following the same path into the first-team really helped me as I know how he works and what his values are.

On the playing side I have to mention Pigs. We were really close and he was a great mentor and friend to me. When I did something well he told me, when I did something bad he told me – on and off the pitch he would look out for me, I still speak to him now.

How have you adjusted to moving up north?

It hasn’t fazed me too much. I understand that this is part of football and adjusting to a new environment. I’m playing the sport I love everyday so it feels like nothing else matters. I have one coffee shop in Leeds that I visit religiously. They know my face which is really nice.

Yorkshire is such a massive footballing county in England. Have you felt that?  

I’ve felt it when I’ve played in derby games against Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday. You can feel the tension in the streets and in the stadium. You can’t go out in the city of Leeds without seeing someone in one of their shirts! It shows how much people love their teams. I even see Huddersfield fans around here too, it’s always nice to bump into them.

How have you found the step up to the Championship?

I’ve always backed myself against anyone. It took me a few games to adjust to the level and step up in quality. I feel like I adjusted a lot quicker because I was starting week in, week out. It was great to test myself against some great players. João Pedro who’s not at Brighton – he was at Watford at the time – really stood out, you could tell he was Premier League ready.

There’s a lot of good players but you can’t fear facing them. They have to be the games that you want to play in because it puts you to the test and forces you to find new solutions to come out on top.

You’ve played in various midfield roles for Huddersfield. How has your game changed?

It was something I did for a period at Wimbledon as well. Playing deeper at Huddersfield as a number six allowed me to understand what I should do when playing as a number 10 to make an opposing six uncomfortable. I’d experienced the difficulties of defending in that position when I came against players who have played at the top level as number 10s. My footballing IQ has really improved since my earlier years.  

How did your loan spells in non-league with Corinthian-Causals and Tonbridge Angels help you early on?

They were really important. I was playing against people who were twice my size in terms of strength and height in some cases. You don’t get that at Academy level. You also get to experience playing in front of a crowd and pushing for three points that could make or break a season.

I remember playing for Tonbridge and seeing someone get sent off within the opening five minutes for smashing into an opposing player – it summed up what you had to put up with! It was a bit of war at times and it helped to toughen you up in preparation for the Football League.

What role has your family played in your career?

My Mum deals with my agent and that side of things. They work together well – she’s learnt the inner workings of football by following my career over the years. My Mum and Dad didn’t really like football until I started playing – I suppose they were almost forced to take an interest!

They’re both really supportive. They come to my games no matter where in the country I play. My Mum comes to near enough all of them and my Dad gets to whatever ones he can. They are always pushing me and keeping me grounded. My Mum always tells me I need to focus more no matter how well I’m playing, she wants to see more goals and assists. They keep me working hard.

What are your career ambitions moving forwards?

There’s no limit to what I can achieve. I believe in myself and I know that if I keep working hard, I can get to the very top of football. I’m in a great position – providing I keep myself grounded – I’ll one day reach the Premier League.

How much did Neil Warnock help to develop you as a player?

He was massive for me. He came in at a time when I hadn’t scored my first goal for Huddersfield. He made me relax and told me to keep things simple off the ball. He wanted me to run hard, make forward runs and express myself in general. He gave me the confidence and belief to create and score some important goals near the end of the season he came in.

We had a good run of results and stayed up after looking like we were dead and buried. He was brilliant, all the lads would say the same. He brought the morale up to an unbelievable level. He will always ask about how your family is and makes sure your head is in the right place. I’m really appreciative for all that he’s done for me and I still drop him messages here and there.

What makes Neil such a great character?

Everyone see’s the videos of him that do the rounds on social media. There was a bit of that but for the majority of the time he was very relaxed. When he came in everyone at the club was very tense and down about the situation. He came in and said, “it’s not the end of the world, we’re going to get out of this, let’s go and have some fun, enjoy being around each other and enjoy our football”. It got us scoring goals and not letting too many in at the other end.

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