BY SAM SMITH
AFC Wimbledon youngster Anthony Hartigan says Tom Soares and Liam Trotter have been important figures during his progression to the senior team.
The 18-year-old has been one of only a few highlights during the Dons’ dismal start to the season, starting their last four matches and featuring heavily from the substitutes’ bench beforehand.
Hartigan has hailed the advice provided to him by the more experienced midfield duo.
“Soaresy has been massive for me. He’s probably the most experienced in the dressing room and he plays in my position so it’s perfect for me to learn from him.
“He’s always there, if I’ve got questions then he’s the one to ask – same as Trotts.
“All the midfielders help but it’s not just them, it’s everyone. They’re always there if I need help or advice.”
The Kingston-born midfielder made his senior debut last season and has notched 26 appearances for the Dons’ first team.
He is one of several academy graduates promoted to the first team over the last 12 months. Defender Toby Sibbick and winger Tyler Burey have been involved with the squad frequently this season – although the latter is yet to make his competitive senior bow. Centre-back Will Nightingale is now a key member of Neal Ardley’s first team.
Hartigan – a boyhood Chelsea fan – is pleased to be in an environment in which young players are given the opportunity to impress.
He said: “It’s great to be able to come through the academy and get a chance in the first team. It doesn’t come easily, you have to work for it and earn it.
“It means a lot for the gaffer to give me a chance and for him to trust me. I’ve earned my chance and I’m happy.”
Hartigan was speaking after Wimbledon’s 2-1 defeat to Shrewsbury Town on Saturday. The Dons had led until a second-half brace from Luke Waterfall condemned them to their seventh-straight defeat.
At one point, the youngster was seen barking instructions to his more experienced team-mates, a leadership trait perhaps borne from captaining the youth team.
“I lead in a different way, I’m not really a barker or a shouter. I try to lead in the way I play because I’m younger and I want to learn. Sometimes I might have to say a few things.
“[The Shrewsbury game] was a difficult one because we were on top for so much, especially in the first half. We made a lot of chances but maybe didn’t take as many as we would have wanted to.
“It’s the same story again – two set pieces we’ve conceded from. It’s cost us the game. That’s what has cost us a lot this season, it’s disappointing more than ever because we haven’t won a game in six or seven games and it’s for the same reasons. That’s why it’s even more frustrating.
“I want to stay in the first team and play as many games as I can. We need to start winning games. I don’t like it if I play well but we’ve still lost. I’d rather I play bad and we win. It’s not just about me, it’s about everyone at the club.”