MK Dons under16s take on their young Arsenal counterparts at stadiummk tonight in the Gwen and Jim Mann Challenge Cup, as the Dons look to continue the success of Academy matches being played in the stadium.
One youngster who has taken part in previous Challenge matches and is now playing in the first team fold is Dele Alli, the central midfielder is still in the MK Dons Academy and thinks the games are a great chance for the youngsters to prove themselves.
With the Arsenal Academy famed for its production of players, the Dons are beginning to get a reputation themselves for playing academy players, with manager Karl Robinson not afraid to look to the youth players to join the matchday squad.
Dele told mkdons.com: “The under-16s games have quite a lot of fans there so it helps you to prepare in making the step up, you can get use to the fans. It is nerve-wracking, it was for me playing
in those games in the stadium, but you forget about it after a while, and you don’t notice they’re there.”
With the game offering a chance for the young players to impress and adapt to playing in front of a crowd, it is also a great chance for the fans to see the next generation of talent that’s making its way into the first team, especially with many first team players being products of the Academy system.
Recent seasons have seen Adam Chicksen
and Daniel Powell being key first team members, as well as the likes of Brendan Galloway, George Baldock, Tom Flanagan and of course Alli making their way into the team, so fans can be confident they really are watching the next generation.
The 16-year-old midfielder had a lot of praise for the Academy system, and knows the training and the games like these in the stadium go a very long way to readying the young players for the senior squad.
“The academy set up prepares you well because they make sure that everything is right and you’re ready before you make the step up, they don’t just chuck you in if they don’t think you can handle it, but if they think you can handle it, they will put you in.”
Looking ahead to the game being against a top club like Arsenal, Alli said: “Playing against Arsenal, I think they’ll do well. I went to watch them a couple of years ago against Arsenal and they won so I think they can do it.
“They’ll definitely be looking forward to showing what they can do. These games definitely prepared me going into the first team.”
Tickets for this game are on sale now priced at £3 for adults and £1 for concession and they can be purchased from the Box Office at stadiummk and thecentre:mk or by calling 01908 622900.