The Dons kids are all right
While Karl Robinson will be searching high and low for a string of new faces to bolster his first team next season, the answer could lie within the club.
Oran Jackson, 17, and 18-year-old Connor Furlong both made their first team debuts in the final two games of the season, while David Kamusu, 16, was named among the substitutes as Robinson opted to blood his youngsters after the club’s relegation back to League 1.
It’ll be a huge pre-season for the new intake of academy prospects.
Having witnessed a Dons team lacking a talisman and a spark since the departure of a certain Dele Alli last summer, the possibility is there for one of the youngsters to take a step up and prove themselves ahead of the League 1 campaign.
“Oran is top drawer,” said Robinson after Jackson made his debut on Saturday. “He had a shot that looked good - remember Dele did that in his first game here?
“He’s coming into the first team a year early and I’m excited to see what he can do.”
Having learned the profession through Head of Academy Coaching Edu Rubio and Director of Youth Mike Dove, they’ll be thrust under the spotlight in the first team, where there will be no place to hide.
“The other day, Connor (Furlong) took a touch when he didn’t realise I was behind him - he knew after that and won’t make the same mistake!” joked captain Dean Lewington.
“It’s good to have that natural enthusiasm. They have no fear and just love playing football. You need that sometimes.
“Two or three look very promising with bright futures ahead of them.”
While as one of the senior statesmen now, Lewington said his role as captain will be to help the youngsters get to grips with life in the first team, offering a helping hand where he can to ease their integration.
He said: “It’s now about integrating them in, helping them learn. It’s a big step up for them. But as we’ve seen, it doesn’t happen straight away, they have to be eased in.
“Where you can, you try and lend your experience and try and help them in the right way. You can’t just kick them and tell them to toughen up
“They’ll naturally find their level. It’s more important that the boys of 21 help them, because they’re around their age - the last thing they’ll want is to go for a coffee with me, I’m an old man!”
And given the success of some of Dons’ academy products - Alli, Brendan Galloway, Sam Baldock and George Williams - Lewington hopes there are more to come.
He added: “The club has always been very successful at producing our own talent and getting them into the first team.
“It’s good for them because they’ve been here since they were eight or nine, so they’ve got the club at heart.
“It is very difficult at this level to go out and buy players because we haven’t got the money.
“Down the line, the ones who are good enough end up going, but we have to try and keep a few more. It’s good to see and it’s good for the fans.
“It’s an academy that people want to be coming to now.”