BY SAM SMITH
Cheye Alexander has been reinvigorated since Mark Robinson’s appointment as head coach at AFC Wimbledon – enjoying his longest run of successive starts since signing from Barnet.
The 26-year-old former West Ham academy graduate had previously been frustrated at a lack of game time.
But Saturday’s 2-2 draw against Charlton at Plough Lane was his sixth start in a row. He only made five – in total – under Robinson’s predecessor Glyn Hodges.
Alexander was brought into the team after the 3-0 home loss to Hull City. Since then the Dons have suffered just one defeat – drawing the other five.
“I felt that I should have been playing and so did many of the others,” he told the South London Press.
“I go into training every day and give everything. When Robbo got the job, he just said to me: ‘You’re ready to go, so here’s your opportunity – it’s down to you to take it.’ For sure, that was a confidence boost.
“I’d not been in the team much before the last six games. My performances have been good, so I deserve to stay in the team.
“I’ve been ready from the first game of the season, but things happen and things change.
“It had been a long three or four months of frustration – going into training every day and giving my all, but then just missing out on a place on a Saturday or a Tuesday. Now I go into training feeling confident and knowing that if I keep performing, then I’m going to keep my shirt.
“Robbo’s brilliant. He’s definitely a very good coach and loves the game. You can see that from the style that we’re playing.
“It’s been a dramatic change. We played a completely different style under the previous manager. From the recent form you can see that it was time to make that change and it has put us in the right direction.
“The ethos at the club is all about togetherness and everyone has to play under that.
“You’re encouraged to do what you feel you should do. It’s not: ‘This should be done this way, so do it this way.’ It is: ‘If you feel this is the direction you should go, that’s your decision.’ There’s a sense of togetherness and a real want to win.”
Alexander missed Barnet’s play-off matches in July to sign for Wimbledon in the summer. The Bees were beaten by Neal Ardley’s Notts County in the semi-final.
There had been previous opportunities for him to move into the EFL.
“I’ve always felt that I was good enough to play at this level,” said Alexander, who also had spells in non-league with Concord Rangers, Bishop’s Stortford and Aldershot Town. “I’ve had many opportunities to do so but timing, family and stuff outside of football haven’t allowed me to proceed in doing a move.
“This year was the perfect time in all aspects of my life. I want to keep going for the remainder of the few years that I’ve got left on my contract at Wimbledon.
“I’m a strong believer in the saying ‘everything happens for a reason’. I just felt that at those times, [a move to the EFL] wasn’t the right thing to do. Stuff outside of football has impacted that. I feel that has helped me to build a stronger mindset.”
Wimbledon are 23rd in League One but their improved form has given them an advantage in their quest for safety. Robinson’s side have at least one game in hand over each of the clubs below 18th.
Alexander has never been involved in a relegation battle before. But he insists that the approach remains the same in both scenarios.
“I’ve always been involved in the play-off positions at my previous clubs. This is a first for me. I don’t think it makes any difference – the mindset is still the same. You have to go into every game with the same attitude, whether you’re at the top of the league or at the bottom.
“Small mistakes in our box have caused us to concede goals, and maybe we have not been as ruthless as we should be in their box. Those are the small, small margins that we need to change, but they are only small margins. In most of the games our performances have been very good.
“A game in hand is obviously good but you would rather just have the points. We’ve still got plenty of games left, if we do our jobs then we know we will be okay.
“We need to make sure in every game that we give everything and contribute something to the team to make sure we get out of this position.
“When we do get out of this position, then next year we can come in with a fresh mindset, work hard to get up the league and potentially push towards the Championship.”
PICTURES: SEAN GOSLING
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