AFC WimbledonSport

Exclusive: AFC Wimbledon duo offered new contracts


Johnnie Jackson has confirmed AFC Wimbledon have offered fresh contracts to key duo Omar Bugiel and Armani Little.

Bugiel and Little have been ever-presents under the former Charlton boss this season, with the pair joining last summer.

Striker Bugiel signed as a free agent from Sutton United and Little, who had spent the second half of last season on loan with the Dons, rejoined permanently from Forest Green following their relegation to League Two.

“We’re in talks with them both,” Dons manager Jackson told the South London Press. “We have made the offers which we think reflect their standing at the club and how much we think about them.

“We want them to be a part of what we’re doing. These things are never straightforward, but all the talks we have had have been really positive – we can see no reason why they can’t both be with us longer term.”

Lebanon international Bugiel has netted 10 times in all competitions this season.

Ex-Southampton youngster Little has recorded eight goal contributions in 36 League Two outings and captained the side on numerous occasions.

AFC Wimbledon v Morecambe SkyBet League Two, Cherry Red Records Stadium, 17 February 2024
Picture : Keith Gillard

“You only have to look at the fact he gets picked every week when he is available,” said Jackson. “It shows what esteem he’s held in. He’s been an integral part of what we have done – that’s why I brought him back after last season.

“He was a good player for me last season and I saw that if we improved the team with him in it, then we would get even more out of him.

“We have done that and we have given him a really good platform to go and flourish. That’s why I’m keen to get him tied down to next year as well.”

The Dons lost Ali Al-Hamadi in January, with the Iraqi striker moving to Championship side Ipswich for a club-record fee of the phoenix era after scoring 17 goals in the first half of the season.

Joe Lewis and Ryan Johnson – who started in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Wycombe Wanderers on Tuesday as they step up their return to first-team action – also all suffered spells on the sidelines in recent months and have not started a game together since mid-Januray.

Jackson’s side have maintained their play-off hopes with a string of important wins and are seventh in the League Two table heading into tomorrow’s clash at promotion-chasing rivals Crewe.

“We have done great,” added the former Spurs midfielder. “We lost the centre-backs through injury. We lost the best player in the league. Our captain [Jake Reeves] was injured and our other striker [Bugiel] was away [on international duty] for the whole of January.

“We have had to do it the hard way and it hasn’t been easy at all.

“We found a way to stay in there. It was never going to be plain sailing and cruising. Sometimes you fall victim to your success. Because you’re up there, people expect you to get in, and we expect that of ourselves, but we’re really having to do it the hard way.

“If you look at the teams around us, I don’t think anyone lost their top scorer in that period. We have had to find a different way of doing it and it’s been built on being hard to beat and resolute defensively.

“We haven’t been free scoring since January but we have still managed to pick up points.

“In November and December, we were scoring three, four or five. We scored more but also conceded more.

“We have had to be a bit more frugal and a bit more pragmatic. It hasn’t always been as pretty, but we have been up against it with what we have been dealt.

“We have got on with it – we haven’t moaned – and we have found a way of staying in and amongst it.”

Jackson will be without Bugiel this weekend with the 30-year-old on international duty with Lebanon to play a doubleheader World Cup qualifying clash against Australia.

It could allow January signing Josh Kelly to come back into the side after the striker dropped to the bench for the past two League Two outings. The 25-year-old is still waiting for his first Wimbledon goal but has come agonisingly close to breaking his duck.

AFC Wimbledon v Morecambe SkyBet League Two, Cherry Red Records Stadium, 17 February 2024
Picture : Keith Gillard

Jackson said: “He’s involved in a team that’s pushing at the right end of the table to get into the play-off spots and do something special – he’s happy to be a part of that.

“Of course he wants to score goals – it’s what every striker wants to do – but the work he’s doing off the ball is equally important. He needs to keep doing that and the goals will come. He’s scoring in training and his confidence is still there.

“He’s making all the right runs – it’s just a matter of time. If he keeps doing those sorts of things, it will come. We’re not worried.”


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