The beginning of the 2011-12 season saw the formation of the AFC Wimbledon Centre of Excellence following the Club’s promotion to the Football League.
A year later Jim Fenlon, one of the nine new scholars, has been offered a full time professional contract and has featured prominently in the first team squad throughout the pre season preparations, which included games against Reading, Preston, Portsmouth and a West Ham XI.
A delighted Jim said “It’s a dream come true to be a professional footballer. When I was in the youth team I thought this day was a long way off, but now I’m here I want to take the chance with both hands.”
Jim spent much of his childhood in Australia and on returning to this country joined the AFC Wimbledon youth set up as an U16, from which he was invited to join the College based team that played in the Conference Youth League in the 2010-11 season.
Three other members of this squad, Brendan Kiernan, Frankie Merrifield and Huw Johnson, have also been given professional contracts and are in the first team squad.
Last season saw the step up to Centre of Excellence football and the opportunity for further development. Consistently impressive performances and a determination to work hard and improve all aspects of his game led to Jim being offered a full time professional contract.
First Team manager, Terry Brown, speaking during the pre season preparations has clearly been impressed.
“I think that Jim Fenlon will be one hell of a player at this Club in the future. It is just about giving Jim the necessary game time for him to blossom as a player.”
Club Captain Warren Cummins added, “He has acquitted himself exceptionally well. He is comfortable with both feet and I think that he has a great future ahead of him.”
The first two League games of the season saw Jim starting on the bench. In the second against Burton Albion he came on at the start of the second half to make his Football League debut. Jim is, however, very realistic about the future.
“It’s good that Terry is giving youth a chance. I’ve just got to work hard in training and hopefully take my chances when I get them.”
Academy Manager Mark Robinson (pictured above with Jim and First Team Manager Terry Brown) is clearly proud of Jim’s achievements.
“We are very pleased for Jim, it is a futher step for him towards his goal of establishing himself as a successful professional player.”
“At our Academy we work very hard at producing technically excellent players, who are comfortable on the ball and pass the ball well. Jim is very good in both of these areas, and with his hard work he has given himself the chance to progress further. I am very confident that he will seize this great opportunity.”