Crazy Gang | Part 8 | How Youth Development Fired Wimbledon To The Premier League

Our unlikely ascent to the big-time of the Premier League from League One in 2021 has been absolutely reliant on developing, promoting and – probably most importantly – selling youth products.

The save so far has parallels with my Trotters Talent save on FM21 with Bolton Wanderers, in which youth products also helped us repair the club’s financial issues and develop a strong young side.

The power of good transfer guile

As a Football Manager, I very much pride myself on being able to pick a prospect, develop them, and sell them for a profit. With Wimbledon, sales of homegrown players have already enabled us to raise over £17m. Those players are, in chronological order:

  • Jan 2022 – Ayoub Assal to Burnley: £600k
  • June 2022 – Zach Robinson to Swansea: £200k
  • August 2022 – Paul Osew to Forest Green: £100k
  • January 2023 – Anthony Hartigan to Notts County: £37.5k
  • January 2025 – Jack Rudoni to West Brom: £4.5m
  • August 2025 – Jakub Stepien to Sheff United: £8.5m rising to £11.5m
  • January 2027 – Mevlut Kartal to Preston for £400k

In addition to our own homegrown players, we’ve done well in signing players on the cheap and selling them for massive profit. For example:

  • Cody Thorn: Free from Man City; sold to Leeds for £8.5m
  • Karamoko Dembélé: £500k from Celtic; sold to Villa for £3m
  • Martin Braithwaite: Free from Wolves; sold to Panathinaikos for £120k
  • Joel Latibeaudiere: £500k from Swansea; sold to Stoke for £2.5m
  • Antoine Vidal: Free from Montpellier; sold to Wolves for £7m rising to £8m

Our transfer business since I took control in 2021 has seen 54 players signed for £4.8m, and 44 players sold for £42m. So it’s easy to see how this has transformed AFC Wimbledon as a club, even if that cash hasn’t been invested in big, high-earning signings.

In fact, most of it has fone into the club’s infrastructure. Heading into our first Premier League campaign, we have 20 junior coaching, 19 youth recruitment (the same as Barcelona!), 16 youth facilities and 12 training facilities and the board upped our Youth Level to Category 1. While our Plough Lane home has more than doubled in capacity in the last six years, going from 9,215 to 20,000 stadium at the start of the new campaign.

The current Wimbledon academy crop

It’s not just sales that have allowed us to grow the club. The current first-team also includes 6 academy products, of which 3 are already important players:

Alphonso Cadogan: The star man of these products is Jamaica-born winger Cadogan, who played 50 games last season and has 12 goals in 105 league appearances since coming through the academy in 2023. Importantly for the way we play, he has 18 aggression, 16 bravery and determination, 17 acceleration and 15 pace. And he recently signed a new contract through to 2029.

Chris Passant: A surprise performer last season, Passant scored his 1st league goal for the club on the opening day of the season and went on to get 19 goals and 10 assists. My coaches now think he has Premier League potential and is playing at Championship standard, so we’ll be looking to give him a chance next season.

Mike Robertson: The midfielder came through in 2024 and stepped straight into the first-team. He played 18 times last season, of which 6 were starts, and generally looked pretty promising. Importantly for us, he has 16 bravery and teamwork and is a good little playmaker.

Liam Williams: The Welshman came through the year before Robertson but took a little longer to show his promise. But in fact, our coaches think he has more potential. He only played 4 times last season, but is definitely one to keep an eye on.

Terry McKenzie: The Croydon-born winger performed really well towards the end of last season and definitely has plenty of promise. He’s only made 7 appearances to date and may not quite make it at Premier League level. But he’s wanted by Derby, so could be one of the next to be sold for a profit.

Theo Musselwhite: The youngest player in our very young squad is 16-year-old Musselwhite, who was also born in Croydon. He made 3 sub appearances at the end of the season and is a solid defender who definitely has great potential.

Exciting emerging homegrown prospects

Behind them is a whole host of exciting academy prospects waiting to make the step up. That includes last season’s products Irish striker Jimmy Black, Ghana-born goalkeeper Enoch Kyere and Birmingham-born left-winger Steve Paxman, who has 19 aggression. There’s also 2025 intake Hungarian winger Botond Deutsch, who did well at Hartlepool last season, and midfielder Darren Prushi, plus Southwark-born attacker Ayinde Nwachukwu, who came through in 2024 and has done well during 3 loans.

Can our homegrown players continue to fire AFC Wimbledon to glory? And will we survive in the big step up to the Premier League? Join us on Wednesday to find out!

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