Will Nightingale described AFC Wimbledon’s great escape as the finest moment of his career.
The 23-year-old, who has been at the club for over 15 years, captained the side in Deji Oshilaja’s absence and produced an inspired performance to see the Dons over the finishing line.
And the defender was almost lost for words when speaking to the South London Press moments after celebrating wildly on the Valley Parade pitch.
“It feels unbelievable, it feels everything to me,” Nightingale said. “I have been here since I was eight-years-old, I think I have done every job at the club. Coming through the ranks and to captain the boys is a massive honour and full credit to every single one of them because I think we have given everything.
“The last part of the season we have left every bit of blood, sweat and everything on that pitch. So to finally get over the line – which is what we have been working towards for the last few months – is everything. I can’t put it into words.
“I know we were adrift, but I never once turned around and thought to myself we are going to go down. It is not in my nature to think that. We have pulled off the great escape, like people say, but the thing is we have been taking it one game at a time.
“It’s probably my biggest [achievement]. Obviously, I know the importance of that for the club, we have not had a relegation since the new Wimbledon was formed.
“I joined Wimbledon in their second full season, so way down in the Combined Counties League.
“To retain our League One status is probably the biggest moment of my career. Considering where we were, this was like a promotion, considering a lot of people had written us off. That was our aim and we have done it.
“We came here to win, but at the same time we weren’t going to go all guns blazing and shoot ourselves in the foot because we knew we had to stay in the game and take our chance when one came. I felt comfortable, but we knew how big the occasion was, so we had to keep our concentration for the whole game.”
Photo by Sean Gosling