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‘There are many more years to come’ – Omar Bugiel on signing new AFC Wimbledon deal and ‘wanting it to be different’ next season


Omar Bugiel arrived at AFC Wimbledon as the unselfish striker who was prepared to do the dirty work in order for others to succeed.

But the 30-year-old – snapped up from local rivals Sutton on a free transfer in January – has become much more than that under Johnnie Jackson this season.

Bugiel has produced the best goalscoring return in his League Two career, scoring 10 in the fourth tier to help the Dons in their attempts to claim a play-off spot this campaign.

While the SW19-based side are expected to just miss out on a place in the top seven, they have already been handed a boost as Bugiel committed his long-term future last week by penning a new two-year deal.

“They made it quite clear after the Christmas period,” Bugiel told the South London Press, when asked about Wimbledon’s desire to keep him on. “I was barely injured and available to play most of the games. They need that player who can play Saturday, then Tuesday, and put his body on the line.

“They said straight away: ‘If you want to make this commitment, we want you to stay for at least two years here’.

“I’m aware of my age, but my body doesn’t feel like that. I can still play and put myself about. There are many more years to come.”

Bugiel found the back of the net four times in the league before he jetted off to the Asia Cup in January with Lebanon. His performances for the Dons at the start of the season earned an international recall after a 25-month absence.

When he returned from Qatar, with Lebanon bowing out in the group stage, the forward line at Wimbledon had been shaken up.
Ali Al-Hamadi was sold to Ipswich for a club-record fee after scoring 17 goals in the first half of the season in all competitions and Josh Kelly was signed from Solihull Moors to replace the outgoing star striker.

Bugiel has stepped up to the plate in the second half of the campaign, scoring important goals in wins over Gillingham, Mansfield, Barrow and Salford as Jackson’s side targetted a trip to Wembley in May.

“That was the plan from the beginning – he [Jackson] wanted me to be the main man up front,” said Bugiel. “With selling Ali, who was massive for us, as soon as he left, we had to adjust quickly.

“Someone had to step up and score goals. I was fortunate enough to chip in loads more than I expected after the Asia Cup and be the focal point in that attacking front.

“Not much has changed with me – I have always been the same. I’m very comfortable and know the league well now.

“People are well aware of what I’m capable of doing. Most teams we play against, their game plan is to stop me.

“Sometimes you’re only going to get one chance to score a goal. The prime example would be Salford, where we scored from a throw-in – it was the only chance I had.

“I’m happy to score the winner. But if it’s someone else and I’m able to help the team and we get the clean sheet, that means more to me sometimes.

“We’re hard to beat and very organised – we have kept 16 clean sheets this year. But we need to work on our final third and end product – getting other players scoring goals again. That’s what wins you games and promotion.”

Bugiel has been the ever-present in the strike force, with his partner up top switching from Al-Hamadi, to Josh Davison and now Kelly after his arrival in Januray.

“It’s different styles of play with three different types of forwards,” he added.

“Everyone is totally different. Unfortunately the last 10 games, results haven’t been as we have wanted.

“It takes time. It’s going to be a big summer. There are going to be loads of changes. It’s going to be interesting to see who they are going to bring in. The main thing is making sure they keep the core.

“They just have to fill the gaps with players who want to fight for the shirt and make sure there is competition all around.”

The Dons are four points off the top seven with two games remaining in the season. A chance at the top seven looks a tough ask with Doncaster, Walsall and Gillingham all in with a stronger claim of taking Crawley’s final spot away from them should they slip up.

Looking ahead to next season, the ex-Forest Green striker said: “I don’t want to give too much away and set the bar too high.

“I know deep down what my goals are and what I want to achieve next year.

“We need to get players involved who want to do the same thing, otherwise, what’s the point?

“It’s like a family and you want to win games and titles. We want it to be different next year. We want to be in the play-offs or the automatic spaces.

“We have been unfortunate with losing players and injuries. You have to try to get it right. You’re laughing in football if you have your strongest 11 available for the whole season.

“I want to score more goals and have more points on the table. The aim is trying to be better than this year and learn from the mistakes.”


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