BY SAM SMITH
When Nathan Trott was told he could leave West Ham on loan in the summer, he saw a club in AFC Wimbledon with a reputation for giving young goalkeepers an opportunity.
In recent seasons, George Long, Tom King and Aaron Ramsdale have been signed on loan at a young age and been the first-choice goalkeeper during their respective temporary stays.
Nik Tzanev, aged 22 but signed from Brentford at 19, progressed to make his senior debut for the Dons earlier this campaign.
Ramsdale was a huge success as part of the club’s escape from relegation last season and has since become the regular AFC Bournemouth goalkeeper. The 21-year-old also played a role in Trott’s move to Wimbledon.
“There were quite a few League One teams who were interested in me,” said Trott. “From West Ham’s side, they wanted me to stay relatively close.
“Wimbledon was probably the closest one, it was only an hour-and-a-bit away from West Ham’s training ground. It was easier for both parties.
“One of my England team-mates, Ramsdale, was there last season. He was telling me about how it’s a good club, it’s a club that will give you games and they have a history of having young English goalkeepers. It was a no-brainer just to come here and get the experience.
“They have a history of having good goalkeepers. When you’re in goal at Wimbledon, there’s a lot to do and the fans are right behind you. Even from the time I’ve been here, you know the fans will love you right from the start.
“You can make a mistake and they will still be behind you, they will still be positive around you, no matter what the result is.
“I can understand why the goalkeepers do really well. It’s just positivity around you and that can only have a positive effect on you.
“My focus is just on getting as many games as I can, everyone’s situation in the first team is a bit different. It depends on a lot of things for me.
“I don’t know what his [Ramsdale’s] situation was at Bournemouth, but I’m concentrating on myself, it’s a long season ahead.
“I want to try to get as many games in and try to have a positive impact on the team, then we’ll see how it goes next year.”
Trott is just 20 but his fledgling career has already taken him from Bermuda where he was born, to Valencia where he was still a versatile outfield player. He took on roles at left back, in midfield and on the wing and admits learning the Spanish style of football has had a positive effect on his ability with the ball at his feet when in goal.
He then returned to Bermuda to finish school but that was where his goalkeeping career took off at the age of 14 following a chance injury to the national youth team’s goalkeeper during a tournament in which Trott subsequently won man of the match “in most of the games”.
Trott moved to England and had trials at Crystal Palace and Reading before an agent linked to his cousin – the former Millwall youngster Brandon Phillips – helped him settle at West Ham.
His progress was recognised with a call-up to the England U21 squad during the last international window.
“[England] contacted West Ham and West Ham contacted my coaches at Wimbledon,” said Trott.
“There were talks around a potential call-up but nothing was 100 per cent until the day before when I got a message from one of the coaches from England saying I’d been called up. I wasn’t expecting it to be so early.
“I thought it would take longer for me to get some first-team games before getting a call-up, but it was a good moment for me.
“It’s what I’ve been working for since I got into the England set up, so it’s a good achievement for me and my family are really proud. It was good to be involved.
“I wouldn’t say it was difficult [choosing to play for England], but I saw it as a step in my career and people understood why I did it.
“It’s all about playing at a high level, raising my game and I’m learning more.
“You can only improve if you look at training with England compared to Bermuda. You’re seen as being one of the best players in the country, it’s only a good thing.”
At the end of the season, Trott will return to West Ham where he has won the ‘Premier League 2’ Save of the Season for the last two years. The Hammers – dumped out of the FA Cup by Wimbledon last season – have an academy with a reputation for producing first team players.
Declan Rice is the most notable current graduate, but defenders Reece Oxford and Ben Johnson, and midfielder Conor Coventry, have also made their senior bows. Under Manuel Pellegrini, Trott knows he is in with a chance of being the next in line.
“He [Pellegrini] is a really motivating coach.
“He’s not just there coaching, he has a really good relationship with all the players. Especially the young players, he’s always asking if you’re okay, asking how things are going in your personal life.
“He always knows what’s going on and that’s important for young players, that he knows about you and is watching all the time.
“It urges you to do well, because you know the more you perform then the more chances you have.
“Whether that’s getting called up to the first team or whether it’s getting put on the bench, or maybe coming on in a league game or a cup game.
“It’s given a positive vibe around the academy and it’s helpful to know you can get the chance.”
PICTURES BY PAUL EDWARDS AND KEITH GILLARD
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