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5 players that could save AFC Wimbledon six figures in transfer fees

AFC Wimbledon’s academy has become famed in recent years for producing some very talented youngsters.

From departed stars such as Ayoub Assal to current squad members such as Jack Currie, the production line from the youth ranks has been superb, and has arguably saved the Dons plenty of money that would have instead been shelled out on expensive transfers.

Wimbledon are fan-owned and, as such, are still very cash-strapped when compared to other teams in League Two. To maybe alleviate the monetary burden of expensive transfers in the modern day, here are five academy players that should, or could, step up into first team action and help prevent wasted spending.

Williams is the only player on this list that is more should, than could, when it comes to stepping up into the first team and helping save the Dons a little bit of cash.

The Welsh youth international has been labelled as an up-and-coming talent at the club for a few years now, and following continued loans throughout the English non-league system, now could be the time he puts his collective experience gained in the lower divisions to good use.

He would likely come into the side and play a similar role to that of new signing Callum Maycock, being a combative, all-round midfielder that can do the dirty work, but has a good knack when it comes to creating goals, and even scoring them too.

He has already made first team appearances for the Dons, appearing five times under Johnnie Jackson, grabbing an assist and even impressed the Wimbledon boss when facing Premier League Chelsea in the Carabao Cup.

His clear talent should definitely help the Dons avoid further spending in the midfield market this summer, and Jackson would perhaps be foolish to let him leave out on loan again.

Paris Lock

Winger Lock gives the Dons a very difficult decision when it comes to a step-up and saving money.

The London-born youngster impressed throughout pre-season ahead of 2023/24, but was sent packing out on loan to Dover Athletic, where he remained until sustaining a season-ending injury while training with the Dons in February, a part of his routine while out on loan at Tonbridge Angels, which he is still recovering from.

The positions he plays in, both the left and right wings, have become a troubled area for the Dons, with Josh Neufville, Aron Sasu and James Tilley all having extremely mixed campaigns in the yellow and blue of Wimbledon. Meanwhile, regular backup option Ryna McClean will not be seeing any first team action for a while, having injured his ACL against Tranmere Rovers in April.

This would then mean that instead of shipping Lock out on loan once his injury has fully recovered, he should be integrated slowly into the first team and given minutes to prove he is worthy of a more regular spot, especially if the Dons continue to have form and injury troubles, even with new signing Myles Hippolyte.

If afforded the opportunity to step up, and indeed impressing, his talent would help save the Dons plenty of money in a position that is becoming more and more expensive to source, even in the lower reaches of the EFL in League Two.

Ollie Downs

Ollie Downs is one of three Dons in this list that fit more into the ‘could’ category, as the likelihood of the 18-year-old left wing-back breaking through is only likely in pre-season, and only even more likely if either, or both, Jack Currie and Lee Brown depart.

It would be rather poetic if Downs made a similar breakthrough to that made by Currie, who first appeared for Wimbledon in the pre-season of 2022. In the following two seasons, Currie has made 94 appearances, and has scored two goals, so if Downs could follow that up, fans would arguably become just as enamoured as they are with Currie.

While Currie’s potential departure would likely bring in a fee for the Dons, which they could easily spend on a replacement, there is still the looming stadium debt that needs to be paid off, so funds may be taken to help pay that off, and in that case, Downs could come in, despite his relative inexperience, and show off the talents he has already displayed while out on loan.

Kai Jennings

While the midfield is beginning to get stacked again at the Dons, with recent signing Callum Maycock joining the likes of Jake Reeves and James Ball as well as the aforementioned Morgan Williams as the choices in the middle of the park, Kai Jennings could still come in and save Wimbledon a bit of money, especially in attacking midfield.

The under 18s player enjoyed a successful loan spell with Whitehawk FC during the latter part of 2023/24, appearing 11 times, scoring twice, and he even claimed a man of the match award against Carshalton Athletic.

He could really give Wimbledon a young, precocious option off the bench in attacking midfield if they need it next season, and would do well to perform when tasked during pre-season.

If he does do well during the upcoming pre-season matches, Jackson will have a real decision whether to potentially bring in a young loanee from leagues above, or develop a player that is proving to be a real star in the making.

Leo Young

Leo Young is a player that, barring a nightmare situation at Wimbledon in terms of depth in defence, will most likely spend this season out on loan while also featuring for the academy’s youth sides. However, if the likes of Ethan Sutcliffe do not renew for the upcoming season, then he could step up.

The 18-year-old captained AFC Wimbledon’s under 18s in the FA Youth Cup this season, where the Dons made it to the fourth round. He is also an award winner at the club, winning the inaugural Nigel Higgs award, which recognises excellence and personal progress both on and off the pitch, in 2021.

It is fair to say that, given the toughness and physicality of League Two, his only path into the first team this season will likely be similar to that of the aforementioned Sutcliffe, who made his debut for Wimbledon against Stockport County following an injury late on in the game for Alex Pearce.

However, that should not be seen as a negative, and should instead be a call to arms for Young to make sure any further spells away from the club, following his work experience loan to Carshalton Athletic last season, are utilised to their full potential, so that in the future, when there is an inevitable turn over in the defensive area at the club, Young can step up and fulfill a spot in the squad.

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