Our AFC Wimbledon writer Mark Hendrikx says the future is looking very bright after watching the club's youth team in action.
In 1994 there were three mobile phone operators: Vodafone, BT Cellnet and Orange.
Orange decided to head with a very clever advertising campaign titled: "The future's bright. The future's Orange."
If we were to use that catchphrase now, most people will look toward The White House, replay that slogan in their mind and try to have you sectioned under the mental health act.
Today I went to see AFC Wimbledon's U18 team play against Milton Keynes at Imperial Fields, the home of Tooting and Mitcham. The senior team's match versus Rochdale had been postponed due to their progression in the FA Cup.
Today I got to witness first-hand the new breed of footballer that is being put through his paces and to determine whether a professional contract is deemed worthy or not.
Now before I continue onto the actual match and what the future may bring, I was invited onto the 9YRS Podcast this week, a weekly fanzine hosted by Nick Draper and Stuart Deacons.
We discussed the season so far at length with predictions being cast and also a reference to my last article for The Guardian 'How Dons' Flatpack Furniture is Falling Apart After Tough Season'.
Nick posed the question as to how AFC Wimbledon can invest in new players during the transfer window. And the conversation suddenly turned to the youth teams, past and present, and how the "production line" churns out some great prospects. I shall not go into too much more detail, and I shamelessly shall recommend you to listen to the episode (#75) to garner the opinions of us three fans.
Today's match was the perfect warm-up to the U18s' FA Youth Cup round-of-16 match away to Preston North End on Wednesday. The team played so incredibly well as a unit and shut down Milton Keynes' attempts at playing football with such relative ease that at times it was beggars belief that AFC Wimbledon only won by four goals to nil.
It really so easily could have been six or seven to one (I have to give one of their three shots on target some credit), if it were not for some over-zealous shooting by Wimbledon's forwards.
I wish I could single out a few of the players who made an impression on me, but truth be told the entire team's ethic and aura were a sight to behold.
The perfect example of this ethic was the clear and glaring differences between the coaching staffs and the players' continual conversations among one another during the match from both teams.
In the first half, AFC Wimbledon took a healthy 2-0 lead by quarter of an hour gone and Mark Robinson, the U18s coach, was very eloquently calling gently out to his players to "[not] forget your left foot" or "keep the space short." The communication between staff and player(s) was remarkable. Especially when Toby Sibbick was adjudged by the referee to have caused a foul. Mark Robinson called out to Sibbick, not to forget to apologise to the ref: An instant sign of respect.
Stuart Deacons stood next to me during the match, and attempted to continue our podcast debate about the future and our youth team setup being so promising. I felt extremely guilty that up until that point I had only seen the U18s twice.
Then came the first major noticeable point about how the two development teams differ. At around 30 minutes played, Wimbledon still bossing the play and causing Milton Keynes so many problems, the MK left midfielder had a big problem happening in front of him: He constantly had two versus one on him. He called out to his coach when the ball was well away from him. Not only did he call out once to his coach, he called out four times. Now, let it be noted that the coach may not have heard him. This is because he was sat in the dugout throughout the entire match. Not once did he call out any tactical advice or opinions during the game. So, along trots #11 of Milton Keynes to the dugout to ask a question. The coach looks at him and tells him straight up that he's "gonna have to figure this one out alone." I was flabbergasted at how a coach, the man who leads the team, regardless of who this opposition was, would not offer any proper quick advice to one of his players, let alone try to remedy the problem by calling other players up on the issue at hand.
At half-time the other 'event' happened which made me sit back and look at just how well set up Wimbledon's youth team is. Whilst Mark Robinson calmly spoke to most of his players one-by-one and quietly gave them his instructions, the Milton Keynes coach screamed bloody murder at his team. His effin' and blindin' was out of this world. Especially to a bunch of children.
Our youth team is something wonderful to behold. It isn't just the players, as so much credit needs to go the staff. It will not be a massive surprise to even suggest that we will be the envy of bigger teams around the land: Hull City, Newcastle United, Bristol Rovers, Watford, Huddersfield Town to name but a few clubs AFC Wimbledon's U18s have taken to the sword and beaten over the last two seasons.
Who knows, maybe Joe Bursik, Toby Sibbick, Osaze Urhoghide, Paul Kalambayi, Sean Bird, Tom Scott, Antonio Walker, Anthony Hartigan, Judah Chapman, Ethan Nelson-Roberts, Nathan Wood, Callum Phillip, Reece Williams-Bowers, Great Evans, Jayden Antwi, Jack Wingate and Tino Carpene will become household names in the future.
The future's bright. The future is yellow and blue.