For many young footballers, rising to the very top in English football is something they can only dream of.
AFC Wimbledon’s youthful midfielder, Jake Nicholson has endured disappointment and success, despite only being 22-years-old. The Dons centre midfielder was released by Premier League side West Ham United in the early stages of his career, before fellow top flight Londoners Tottenham Hotspur took a chance on him. After only making a handful of appearances, including coming on a substitute in the Europa League qualifier against Hearts three years ago, Spurs felt he was surplus to requirements.
Nicholson then decided to play his football elsewhere, consequently moving to Finnish side M.Y.P.A, before moving back to the United Kingdom to play for Greenock Morton in Scotland. Nicholson said that more young English players should experience playing in another country in order to develop more as a player.
Nicholson told FootballFanCast: “It was a really good experience for me. You don’t really realize that after being released by both West Ham and Tottenham, moving abroad, like I did in Finland, could result in playing Champions League football. You don’t really realise that in countries like that, and you don’t really realize how big the football is out there. In Finland, football is the only thing going in on that sort of country. It was just a great spell and a good experience.”
The midfielder added: “Looking at the Premier League, you’ve got mostly footballers from abroad. As you look further down the leagues, you’ve got more English players. People say the football gets worse. I’m a big fan of playing football from a technical perspective. People wouldn’t say to the likes of Xavi or Iniesta that there too small to play football, or telling Messi to win the second ball, in England’s League Two, they do that.
“It’s sometimes hard for players like myself that get cultured at a club where you have technical matches at somewhere like Spurs and Arsenal and you don’t quite make the grade, get released, go into League One or League Two and it’s a massive shock. They’ve got to adapt something about the players at big clubs going out on loan early doors because it really opens your eyes.”
After an eventful start to his footballing journey, despite only being 22 years of age, Nicholson is now settled nicely at League Two outfit AFC Wimbledon. The creative spark has expressed he would like to get more games under his belt.
“I haven’t been playing as much as I like”, said Nicholson. “The style of League Two football is very hard considering where I’ve come from. Being at Spurs from when I was a child, and making my debut for them, I like playing technical football, and obviously to go off the back of a bad injury and go into the third tier was pretty hard to adapt. I started the game against Wycombe Wanderers, and spent 90 minutes with the ball in the air. When I did get the ball, I couldn’t really play my own game.
“It’s very hard, but I know what I’ve got to do to conquer the league, and part of that is to do the dirty side of it, getting tackles in and breaking up the play. It is what it is, but I just have to deal with it. I would like to play more, but my style is not really going with the league at the moment. That’s might be where the manager is having second thoughts. But I just need a manager to trust me really.”
The Dons have not won in their last four league games; however, their next two games against Dagenham & Redbridge and Oxford United could prove to be vital, as both are also struggling to get points on the board. Nicholson admits it’s too early to tell if these are both must win matches.
“Every game is a must win game. You go into every game trying to win. I don’t think anyone would want to go into a game trying to draw, but considering how tight League Two can be, you would think the next two games could help us get on a run and build momentum.”
“If you look at previous games, we beat Burton Albion who were top of the league at the time, we did the same to Bury. It just goes to show you there is a thin line in this league. In a short space of time, most of the bottom half teams could be challenging at the top come the end of the season. But there’s no lack of confidence in the team, and it is showing with every training session.”
For a player of Nicholson’s calibre and huge potential, seeing the midfield maestro play in League Two will show that the league can offer something different to just aggressive play, and showcase that the league does have technical ability amongst its ranks.
Nicholson is a prime example of a player who can easily bring that added quality.