Don Ardley is doing it for the kids of the next generation
Neal Ardley wants to create a conveyor belt of young talent from the U21s who will forge the future of AFC Wimbledon.
Will Nightingale and George Oakley, both 18, are the latest off the production line after signing professional contracts this week.
Team-mates Chace Jacquart and Tom Beere have signed for a second year after continuing to impress in the U21s.
After releasing eight players on Thursday, Ardley wants to go into his third season in League Two with a small squad, which means the quartet could get their chance on the big stage.
And if the success in the London Senior Cup last week is anything to go by, there could be more to come.
Ardley said: “The U21s has been vital and if we want the conveyor belt of talent that our academy is trying to produce to make it to the first team level, we have to get the U21s right.
“This season has been our first stab at it and it has been successful, but to improve it you have to put more into it and when you’re struggling with first team budgets, it’s tough, but it is money invested in the club’s future.”
He added: “I have told all four players that we are going into next season with a small squad, no more than 20 players.
“It means at some point, if they are in good form, then we may be saying ‘Now is your chance, son’.
“They needed their year in U21s football to get to this point, so next season I’d like to think they will be ready.”
Ardley is quick to point out that the quartet still have a long way to go to make the grade as professional footballers, with the statistics very much stacked against them.
He said: “Only the special ones succeed. The stats show that something like 95 per cent of academy players do not make it.
“From the U21s down, you’re playing and excelling against players who are not good enough to make it, but when you get to the first team, everyone on that pitch is good enough to make it. The jump is a huge.”
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