Dons boss Jackson feels he has a team of his own following famous cup win against Coventry City
AFC Wimbledon manager Johnnie Jackson pointed to how the re-vitalisation of the playing squad at Plough Lane has helped his side make a promising start to the new season.
The Dons beat Championship side Coventry City in the first round of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday to set up a tantalising tie against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the next round.
Late goals from two of Jackson’s summer signings in Omar Bugiel and Ryan McClean helped his side to a 2-1 victory, and he now feels he has a squad built in his image after a miserable end to last season that saw Wimbledon finish 21st in League Two
“This is a new team, a fresh team,” he said. “They are not scarred by any of that (last season). They’re not inhibited by any of that.
“This is a new team, it’s my team. We want to give the fans a team to be proud of.
“I’d be a liar to say I wasn’t trying to shape it that way. There’s been disappointments in the past.”
Only two players who were involved in the matchday squad for the game against Coventry were involved in the first-team squad ahead of Jackson’s arrival in the summer of 2022.
One of them, goalkeeper Nick Tzanev, had an exceptional game against the beaten finalists from last year’s Championship play-offs.
Despite a run of just two wins in 23 matches at the end of last season, Jackson says there has not been any more pressure on his shoulders than usual to begin this season well.
“You want to start quick but the emphasis has been on the rebuild and on shaping the squad how I wanted it to be for the league,” he explained.
“I think if you get that right then the rest comes. We’ve had a good summer in terms of recruitment and rebuilding, gaining confidence and positivity around the place.
“We’ve obviously had a decent start but we want to build on that.
“There’s always pressure. I went through it last season didn’t I? There’s no more pressure than the nature of being a manager in professional football.”
Wimbledon fell behind to their Championship opponents at Plough Lane to a 16th-minute Matt Godden penalty and were only able to draw level through substitute Bugiel five minutes from full-time.
Fellow sub McClean sent the home crowd into raptures with his injury-time winner, and the Dons boss says he never stopped believing that his side could find a way back into the contest.
“I felt we had an impetus in the game,” he said. “There was a lull probably halfway through the second half where Coventry were quite comfortable. But we made the changes from the bench and I think that gave us a freshness and an energy.
“I felt like we could score. Once we equalised I think we all felt that a winner might be coming because the atmosphere in the stadium changed and out on the pitch I think the players believed.”
Wimbledon have earned themselves a trip to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea in the next round of the Carabao Cup in a dream tie for players and supporters alike.
However, their attention will return to league action for now, with Wrexham making the trip to Plough Lane on Saturday.