Picking the right time to weigh up our squad post-promotion, pre-League Two has been difficult… too early and I would find myself writing about players soon to be on their way, but then again too late and it gets caught up in the preseason friendly madness and build up to the season. Therefore the first of four parts starts today…
I’ll begin by looking at the most consistent area of the field, the one position we possess a couple of players with serious potential… the goalkeepers.
Wimbledon’s (and last season England C’s) number one missed just one League game last season, rested for the Mansfield game to give Jack Turner a little experience. Seb proved himself the best goalkeeper in the division last year (this blog showing absolutely no bias…), and has come on from the young goalkeeper who joined us two years ago.
In fact here’s a quote from a blogger still too ashamed to admit his identity, written after Seb’s final trial game against Fulham in July ’09…
“It will be correct to send him on his way now, give him a good reference and hope he finds a route back via a Ryman League club”
In my defence, I also pointed out the coaching staff would have seen the other side of Seb on the training ground, and promised to respect TB’s judgement on the matter… still slightly embarrassing to read two years down the line. Yet Seb looked a nervy kid thrown between the sticks, an accident waiting to happen – all this before it was common knowledge that Seb was a Dons fan, standing with us on the terraces throughout the CCL years, and in retrospect it was to his credit he didn’t play this up during his trial period to get the fans onside.
Seb was brought to the club to provide backup for James Pullen, making his debut at half time as the Dons fought back from 2-0 down at Tamworth in September. Eventually, following the systematic breakdown in the relationship between Pullen and the supporters culminating in a 0-5 defeat at York, Seb took over as number one with Pullen released in the summer.
Terry Brown decided Seb was ready last summer, electing not to sign another goalkeeper and rely solely on Seb and Jack Turner to fulfill goalkeeping duties, and his faith was fully repaid by Seb last season. In fact, the situation has now completely reversed – rather than question whether Seb is up for the job, most fans are paranoid our promising young goalkeeper will be snatched away by a bigger club.
Touch wood, Seb will start the season leading the club he supported as a kid into the Football League, but the truth is it is likely he will progress at a much faster rate than the club will over the next couple of years… if he goes out and replicates what he did last season in League Two – namely prove himself the most promising young keeper in the division – we could find come next summer we have a queue of League One and Championship clubs stretching through the car park.
Under those circumstances, just being a supporter of the club won’t be enough to keep him. Seb deserves the chance to fulfill that ambition and go as far as he can in the game, with the ultimate dream being his talent takes him all the way to the Premier League (before returning to the Dons in the autumn of his playing days to bookend his career, perhaps?). Of course, I wouldn’t be as relaxed about losing Seb as I am now had we not possessed a potentially equally talented goalkeeper to replace him…
In interviews towards the end of last season, Seb admitted he was glad Jack Turner had the opportunity to play in the Mansfield game, and also hinted that Jack was feeling a little frustrated kicking his heels on the touchline waiting for his opportunity. Jack’s problem was that not only was Seb in top form, he also managed to go the whole season without injury or suspension keeping him out of the side.
Terry Brown was more than happy for Jack to sit on the bench last season, although we will never know how he would have reacted had Seb found himself ruled out for more than a couple of matches, those supporters who have seen Jack play for the reserves or in Senior Cup action were confident he could have filled Seb’s gloves in the short-term. Yet all Jack had to build up a bit of experience was that Mansfield game (following up his debut at home to Tamworth the previous season), along with the aforementioned minor cup games… fulfilling substitute duties on a Saturday even kept him from appearing more often for the reserves…
Yet next season TB has indicated it is time for Jack to go out on loan to build a bit of experience, and this can only be a good thing, especially if he can find a club in the BSS (or even the BSP…). Wherever he goes, Dons fans will certainly be keeping an eye on his performances, his unbelievable potential revealed since he first set foot between the sticks for the first team, aged just fifteen, in a Supporters Direct Cup game against Brentford three years ago.
Jacks loan spell will be a vital part of what will be a big couple of years in his career, as he aims to progress from talented youngster to Football League goalkeeper… it’s a huge step, the next couple of years will be a make-or-break period in his career, but nothing we have seen so far suggests he won’t make it…
With Jack Turner heading off on loan, it seems likely TB will attempt to bring in a third keeper to cover Seb Brown. This could be another young goalkeeper, perhaps more likely a veteran or experienced non-League stopper drawn to the club by the promise of sitting on the bench in the Football League with the odd cup game thrown in for good measure. If another goalkeeper doesn’t come in, I suppose we will need the option of recalling Jack at short notice, which could affect the quality of club he finds himself at.
I’ve used the term potential quite a lot while describing both goalkeepers, and its fair to say in terms of potential goalkeeper is our strongest position. We were informed last year of an even younger keeper in the club’s youth program described as ‘the best in Surrey’, it seems ridiculous to suggest at such a young age that if he stays at the club he might be the next on what is turning into a conveyor belt, besides from pointing out the club are doing a lot right in this area.
Yet living up to potential is a different matter, all the goalkeepers at the club still have a lot of work to do to reach their respected aims; yet in this position at least, the club are doing a lot of good work. We can be thankful we have such young talent, and hope that if for whatever reason they do not achieve their goals, it won’t be for lack of effort.