New AFC Wimbledon signing Alex Pearce says he wants to help the club “get back on the right track” following their relegation to League Two – but the centre-back is under no illusions about how tough the division will be.
The 33-year-old ex-Millwall captain, who made more than 80 appearances at the Den and has picked up nine international caps for the Republic of Ireland during his career, became manager Johnnie Jackson’s first signing at Plough Lane.
The Dons needed to bolster their centre-back options after Darius Charles announced his retirement and Ben Heneghan decided to leave the club on a free transfer at the end of next month.
This will be Pearce’s first time playing in the fourth tier of English football, having featured in the Premier League for Reading and in the Championship for Derby County and the Lions.
Wimbledon are heading into this season on the back of a 28-game winless run in all competitions.
Pearce, who only featured six times in the Championship last season, told the club’s YouTube channel: “I’m aware that it is a very competitive league.
“I’m aware that you need to do certain things to win games at this level.
“We need to learn how to win games and hopefully we can do that.
“It’s a tough league. I haven’t played in it, I have watched it from afar, and I can see how demanding it is, physically and mentally – it’s a long old season and a lot of games.
“They will be coming thick and fast so, for sure, we need to be ready. Hopefully, I will be.”
Pearce said that the deciding factor in convincing him to sign for the Plough Lane-based side came from the “pull” of Johnnie Jackson, who was appointed Dons boss last month.
“As soon as I met the manager, I loved what he was saying and what he was about,” explained Pearce.
“That was the main pull for me – the ambition that he showed me in terms of getting this club back to where it needs and should be.
“The standards that he wants to set are right up my street as well. I set my own standards in what I do. We just align on a lot of things, so hopefully, we can all pull together and do the business for this club.
“He just wants me to come in and be the player that I am. He’s not asking me to do anything I wouldn’t already do or know.
“He wants me to come in and be a big part of it – stamp my own presence and authority on the football club. Hopefully, we can all push in the right direction.
“I am a team player, and I want to help this football club get back on the right track.
“I would say that I’m quite vocal. – I can read the game quite well. I wouldn’t say that I’m the quickest, but I would say that I’m quick in the brain. I’m a wholehearted kind of player, and hopefully, I can show that and show everybody what I can do.”
Millwall U23 coach Paul Robinson, who made more than 300 appearances for the Lions, was a crucial part of the AFC
Wimbledon team that won promotion to League One via the play-offs in 2016.
When asked if he was going to talk with Robinson about the club, Pearce said: “One hundred per cent. He’s a great guy – a top
player and professional. He played well for this football club, and everybody saw what he was about.
“People have their own individual targets, and that’s fine, but it’s about pulling together as a group because you’re a lot stronger as a group than you are as individuals.”
PICTURE: IAN STEPHEN