Skipper Dean Lewington is looking forward to seeing the younger players at MK Dons prosper over the forthcoming season.
In recent years the number of players to have come through the Academy, or still playing in the youth set-up, has continued to rise and with a number of schoolboy internationals now at the Club Lewington expects to see more home-grown players featuring for the side.
Last season Dele Alli, who is now part of the first team set up having signed a three-year professional contract in May, joined Giorgio Rasulo in making first team debuts for Karl Robinson’s side.
Rasulo and Brendan Galloway, who made his debut at the end of the 20011/12 season and featured twice for the Dons last year, are expected to remain a part of Robinson’s plans for the campaign ahead but Lewington has warned supporters not to expect too much too soon from the young guns.
Lewington progressed through the Wimbledon academy to make his first team debut at 17 and knows how daunting it can be entering the first team environment.
Speaking to mkdons.com last month the left-back said: “Brendan, Dele and Giorgio are very talented boys and the fact that Dele and Giorgio are playing for their respective England teams says it all really.
“They probably need a little bit longer to develop, young lads develop at different stages and speeds, so whilst I think everyone is very excited about them it is important not to rush them or put too much pressure on them as they will need varying amounts of time to get to the level they need to.”
You may think that performing in front of several thousand fans would be the hardest part of making the step up to first team football, but Lewington believes the most daunting part is making the first coach journey with your peers.
“I make a conscious effort to welcome the younger lads into the set-up, like when they get on the coach to travel away – it’s horrible, everyone has done it, everyone has their own seat and you don’t know where to sit – it sounds stupid but you point out where they should sit and ease them into the surroundings.
“Apart from that, lads are lads so once you get the first few days of nerves out of the way they are fine. We try and stick them with people of a similar age so they feel a bit more at ease, we try and get them involved as much as we can in group things that we do but obviously some people are more outgoing while others are quiet so it’s important to get to know them as much as you can.”
In recent years the number of Academy Showcase games at stadiummk has increased and supporters have had their eyes opened to a whole new age group of players. The games have also demonstrated that a similar philosophy runs from the top to bottom and MK Dons which ultimately should make the transition a lot smoother for young players.
Lewington added: “Technically the players coming through the Academy are very good players. The pace is different from youth team to the first team and as there is no reserve team they do lose the middle ground, so you have to have a little bit of leeway but because the philosophy is the same throughout the Club they know the systems and the patterns of the way we play so the hardest part is picking up the intensity.
“Over the last few years there have been a lot of players to have come through the Academy system and the youth team are clearly producing great talent. It’s important for the young lads in the Academy to see players coming through, you need them to see a path otherwise they can get a bit lost.”