June 21, 2024

Sutton United's Omar Bugiel during the Sky Bet League Two match at Borough Sports Ground, Sutton. Picture date: Saturday March 19, 2022.

New AFC Wimbledon striker Omar Bugiel is not concerned about his own personal accolades in front of goal.

The 29-year-old has linked up quickly with the Dons after leaving League Two rivals Sutton United on a free transfer at the end of last season.

Bugiel has 13 goals and eight assists in 93 League Two appearances and becomes Johnnie Jackson’s third summer signing as Wimbledon prepare for a second consecutive season in the fourth tier.

But the former Bromley and Forest Green Rovers forward, who is linking up with Josh Davison and Ali Al-Hamadi as Wimbledon’s striker force for next season, is not concerned about his own record in front of goal.

“You have the goalkeeper union, and the same thing goes for the strikers,” the Lebanese forward explained to the South London Press.

“There are three of us at the moment and whoever plays, that person deserves to start. If I’m not involved, I’m happy to support those boys. But, on the other hand, there might be games where it doesn’t go their way and that’s maybe where I can step up.

“Perhaps on a Tuesday night away at Salford, where it’s going to be a battle and you need someone to lead the line. That type of game is me all over – it’s my bread and butter.

“They have picked up that I have played a lot of games, and with the way I play, I can put myself about – I can deal with that pressure.

“I know what I’m all about and I love those sorts of games. I have been through every division to get to League Two, so I have seen every type of defence.

“The most horrible way [for the opposition] to play the game is when you play against a forward who loves the battle – you know it’s not going to be an easy game.

“It [me battling away] allows Ali and Josh the freedom to get on the ball and to get their goals.

“If I can help them out going forward, that will be brilliant, as I have played my part in the team.”

Al-Hamadi, 21, hit the ground running when he joined on a free transfer from Wycombe in the winter window, scoring 10 goals in 19 appearances and winning the club’s Player of the Season award.

Club-record signing Davison, 23, bagged double figures (10) in all competitions after joining from Charlton in the summer.

Bugiel said: “They’re younger than me, and that’s one of the reasons why Johnnie maybe has got me involved. I have those experiences and can help them – maybe they can learn a few things about

making their lives easier when playing against different opponents.

“I know my history of goals doesn’t look great, and I have picked up on Twitter about some of the fans talking about it, but I would rather win football games. It doesn’t matter how many goals I have scored as long as we’re winning games.

“If I have to battle with both centre-halves and Josh or Ali get the winner, I’m happy to do that. Hopefully, they will appreciate the way I play.”

The journey from Sutton United’s Gander Green Lane to Bugiel’s new home in SW19 is just shy of five miles, with the two sides forming somewhat of a rivalry in the same division.

Bugiel turned out 152 times for Sutton in all competitions after joining from Bromley in 2019 but left the Us at the end of the season after his contract came to an end.

“I would say it was tough – I was there for four years,” Bugiel said of his decision to leave Matt Gray’s side.

“If you make the right signings to compete in a certain division, you will be successful. That’s what happened at Sutton – we competed in League Two and made it to Wembley.

“I know it’s a direct rivalry, but the two clubs are right next door to each other, so it will be interesting how it will play out with the fans.

“Half of my phonebook congratulated me and half of them called me a snake, so it is what it is. It’s a funny one. As players, you want that rivalry where you get fired up – that it’s a big game.”

Bugiel has battled his way to get to this point. Born in Berlin, he came to England at the age of 16 to learn the language

But after developing his skills on a five-a-side pitch as a teenager, the 6ft 1ins forward climbed the lower reaches of non-league football, playing for the likes of Bognor Regis Town and Worthing, to make his way into the top four divisions.

“I appreciate what I have been through to get to this point here – it’s been a hell of a ride,” he said. “I have seen so many things and have good memories and bad memories, but for me, this, joining Wimbledon, is the right step forward.

“It’s a big club and a big history. When I signed, I met 20 or so volunteers, and I talked to them for around an hour about where they wanted to have their club back. And as a player, you want to make that happen.

“I’m certain that the season they had last year won’t happen again, so I’m going to work even harder to make sure this club will be pushing up in the right direction.”

Bugiel has penned a one-year deal with the Dons, who are coming off the back of a season where they only managed two wins in 2023 and finished fourth from bottom in League Two.

But with the South Londoners moving quickly to snap up three new signings before the transfer window has officially opened, adding Jake Reeves and Josh Neufville along with Bugiel, there is renewed optimism heading into the campaign.

“Everyone wants to get promoted,” said Bugiel. “But there are big teams in the division this year – it’s the strongest League Two for years.

“My goal, after every game, is to stay fit and be available for the next game and get three points.

“Come May, we can have another chat and see how the season went. I won’t set the bar too high or too low – we want to compete. I’m excited. It’s like starting a new school.”

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