Last week, AFC Wimbledon boss Neal Ardley pulled no punches in telling his young London Senior Cup winning heroes they faced a tough path to a professional life in football.

And, according to the former Cardiff City academy boss, the numbers do not lie.

He said: “The stats tell you that from of a club’s U18s team, only a small percentage will make it to the Premier League. Something like 95 per cent will not make it.

“Let’s say three U18 players get a pro contract, and out of those three only one makes it into the U21s.

“At U21s level you’re playing against players who are also desperate to prove themselves, and maybe only two or three will get offered a second year contract.

“Even then, they still need to learn their trade at U21s level before breaking into the first team, and maybe only a couple of them will make it after the step up.”

He added: “Only the special ones will get through, and only that really special one, that one in 10,000, will make it to the very top.”

The Dons youngsters hoping to catch the eye may get chance in the pre-season friendly fixtures already lined up ahead of a new League Two campaign.

Ardley’s men will face: Margate (a, July 12), Chelsea (h, July 19), Salisbury City (a, July 22), Woking (a, July 26); Havant & Waterlooville (a, August 1), Aldershot (a, August 2).