BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Neal Ardley has praised AFC Wimbledon’s board for allowing him to bid for players – and reckons supporters should be totally chilled at a quiet start to the window.
The Dons have signed Mitch Pinnock from Dover Athletic. The fee for the former Arsenal youngster will be determined by a tribunal.
Ardley said: “I am really relaxed, really comfortable.
“We have done so much groundwork and I’ve never seen so many players. I’m confident, that is all I can say, that we have got close to a few deals.
“I know everyone gets panicked but I don’t think in the past I have signed more than one or two at this stage. About 10 per cent of all deals are done now.
“I’d like to think in the next week or so they will be a little bit like buses and there is going to be some good news.”
Midfielder Pinnock, 23, started his career on the Gunners books before moving on to Southend.
After that came non-league stops at Bromley, Tonbridge Angels and Maidstone. He scored eight goals for Dover last season in the National League.
Asked if Pinnock was a long-term project in terms of being in the first-team, Ardley replied: “I’d like to think he’s both one for the future and could be ready now.
“We did a lot of homework and one of the remits was that we wanted to bring one or two, if we can, from non-league or the lower leagues – talented young players, hungry young players. We even put in offers to buy. Mitch was one.
“In the past we have been a free transfer type of club and we have pushed hard to go in a slightly different direction. We need height and experience in the squad. We’re trying to bring some in but also not crowd positions with a player we feel might be ready for next season. Others we have got plans to loan out.
“A lot of work goes in, we don’t just piecemeal it together as we go along.
“Mitch, for me, was one of the best in the National League last season and fits a lot of our criteria.”
One struggle for the Dons last season was the lack of a powerful target-man to replace Tom Elliott, who signed for Millwall on a free transfer.
And Ardley is looking to redress that shortcoming for the 2018-19 campaign.
“If there is one out there who wants to come to us then we will bring them in,” he said. “The difficulty is that you speak to other managers and that is what they need too.
“They are few and far between, but we are doing everything in our power to do that. Joe Pigott can do a bit of everything and so can Kwesi Appiah. Cody McDonald likes to play a bit more off of a target-man.
“We are probably in the market for six, seven or eight players. It is quite exciting. If we do that then the fans won’t have a lot to be happy about!
“The transfer window takes time, especially at Wimbledon. But the club have been brilliant with me, they have really pushed to help out. They have given me a bit more and this is the first time ever we have been trying to sign players and pay money for them.
“We are trying to get one or two over the line. I never say we are close because I’ve had ones in my office and it still hasn’t happened. Until they are signed I don’t go overboard.”
Ardley is also keen not to block up the pathways for the likes of Anthony Hartigan and Alfie Egan.
“Ant was exceptional for us last season and we rate him highly. Alfie is a different type. We’ll assess them in pre-season, we’re not going to rush anything. If Alfie needs some game time we might loan him out.
“Players can come back in pre-season and all of a sudden you say: ‘Wow, where has this guy come from?’”
Two that won’t be returning are Dean Parrett and Darius Charles, who signed deals with Gillingham and Wycombe respectively.
The duo were offered extensions but opted for League One rivals.
“Listen, they are both very good players and likeable lads,” said Ardley. “It is disappointing they are not here. But in both cases we had to sit down with the physio and looked at the stats – when they played and when they haven’t.
“They were both on good money for us and we had to make sure the money was on the pitch.
“We made our best offer to try and get them to re-sign but I had a feeling both wouldn’t be happy. Players never want to earn their money on the pitch – they want to know their guaranteed wage. I’d have been the same when I was in their situation.”
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