BY MATT VERRI
Ben Heneghan is looking to make up for lost time at AFC Wimbledon and put a difficult year so far behind him.
The Dons recently signed the defender, who has been without a club since the end of last season, on a free transfer.
Heneghan, 27, scored on his first start in a 2-1 defeat against Gillingham. He has worked with Dons manager Glyn Hodges before, in the early stages of his career when the pair were at Stoke.
“I had a few phone calls with other clubs, and then Glyn called me and he sold the club,” Heneghan said. “I came down and had a little tour of the stadium with the CEO. He told me the vision and the club’s history, and it all had a good vibe to it.
“The squad is pretty young, but I’ve got a lot of experience behind me and I feel like I can be a leader in this team. I’m still getting settled, but with all the games coming up it’s just the more the better.
“I know what I can bring to a team, and wherever I’ve been I’ve played more or less every game, apart from at Sheffield United.
“That was out of my control, there was nothing more I could have done from my perspective. That’s gone now though, and I’ve got a point to prove to push back up.”
Heneghan, who spent the last two seasons on loan at Blackpool, was released by the Blades in the summer after making just one senior appearance, back in 2018.
He has maintained his fitness with a gym in his garage, but the defender admits the last few months have proved extremely challenging with all the uncertainty.
“Being in that position is horrible – watching the football on the TV every weekend and wishing that was you playing,” Heneghan said.
“Everyone in the world has problems at the moment with their jobs and their lives, but as footballers all we want to do is play.
“It’s brutal out there. I know a lot of players who still haven’t got a club, and that’s players who’ve played in the Premier League and Championship.
“That shows how hard it is, if players of that experience can’t find a club. Clubs don’t want to bring anyone in, because they don’t know what the future holds on the financial front right now.
“Hopefully when the fans come back it brings a financial stability of sorts, and my friends and all the other players without clubs can get sorted.”
With the end of the national lockdown, fans in certain parts of the country will now be allowed to return to football stadiums.
Wimbledon chief executive Joe Palmer has confirmed that their fans will not be able to attend Plough Lane until the necessary test events have taken place, which he hopes will happen in January. Heneghan said: “I can’t wait for the fans to get back, playing in the games without them has just been surreal.
“You create a chance, make a good block, score a goal – it’s just nothing.
“When I first played away against AFC Wimbledon in my first season at Blackpool, I remember there being a full house. That showed the commitment the supporters had and how they got behind the team.
“I know it’s been a very long wait for the fans with this stadium, so that will be memorable for them to finally get inside.”
While recent seasons have largely seen the Dons involved in relegation fights, Heneghan is hopeful this campaign can be a more enjoyable one for both the players and the supporters.
“We’ve got a good opportunity to push on, because the league is wide open really,” he said.
“There’s a couple of big clubs in the league, but for anyone else if you have the right squad and the right commitment, you can go far. We saw that last year with Wycombe getting promoted, that was a big boost for everyone.
“There’s some good players at this club, and with a lot of them being young it’s exciting because they can become even better.
“Once we get everyone firing on all cylinders we’ll do really well.”
PICTURES: KEITH GILLARD AND SEAN GOSLING
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