AFC Wimbledon first-year apprentice Matthew Cox has committed his future to the club by signing his first professional contract.
The promising goalkeeper, who has just turned 17, has made a big impression in Wimbledon’s youth team, which led to an England Under-17s debut against Ukraine in February.
Academy Manager Michael Hamilton told the club website: “Ever since ‘Coxy’ signed with us, we viewed him as having a chance of progressing because he has always been very strong technically.
“However, in the last 18 months or so, that potential has accelerated as it seems Coxy has really started to combine this talent with real focus and dedication.
“On the pitch, he has had some real strong performances, and his call-up to the England squad was no real surprise to us, as we knew they were watching him.
“What sometimes is understated in a player’s progression is the parents and family that support a talent, and I want to say a massive congratulations to his Mum and Dad (Mark and Anna-Lisa). Their support and guidance since Matt joined us has been brilliant.
“To give an example, at Matthew’s development review we started talking about his education at Southfields, but we moved on to football and his Dad pulled us back because he wasn’t happy with something he had heard! All that Mark was focused on was Matt’s application and discipline. Many people don’t realise that these off-field habits do transfer to the pitch.”
Cox, who joined the Dons at the age of 14 after being released by Chelsea, said: “As a kid, I achieved quite a lot and I joined Chelsea when I was eight, staying there for six seasons. Leaving there was a big eye-opener. When I came to Wimbledon I was given opportunities and it was a club that accepted what had happened to me.
“It shows that there has been setbacks in my career – there will be setbacks in everyone’s careers – but it’s how you deal with those setbacks. If you deal with it right, then you can get what you want in your career. The hard work does start now because I have a lot more to work towards, but if you don’t give up you can chase your dreams and make it happen.
“After all my hard work in the past couple of years, it’s all that I wanted and being able to achieve this on my birthday, as early as possible, is great news for me and my family.”
Manager Glyn Hodges said: “I am delighted we have been able to secure another quality young player. Matt has been training with the first-team squad for a while now and he has done very well.
“It is great that England have recognised his progress. If he keeps working hard and pushing himself, I feel he has a bright future ahead of him.”
First-team Goalkeeper Coach Ashley Bayes added: “I am delighted that Coxy has agreed to sign his first professional contract and I look forward to continuing to work with him, so that we can push him on again in the next few years. Happy birthday young man.”
Meanwhile, Under-18s manager Rob Tuvey said: “We have seen him develop into a fantastic player and person throughout his time with us. For me, this is no coincidence.
“‘Coxy’ is always, without doubt, the first player in every morning to do extra gym sessions, or in the office watching clips of his game to make improvements. We cannot be prouder of Coxy, but now is only the beginning of him starting out on what we hope will be a successful career.”