AFC Wimbledon boss Terry Brown has hailed Pim Balkestein as his biggest signing of the summer as he continues to rebuild his defence after a shaky start to pre-season.
Brown, who pushed the club’s finances to secure the Dutchman’s services, backed the former Ipswich and Brentford centre-back to hold down a first team spot after a loan spell last term.
“I think he is our biggest signing of the season. He came in on loan and helped us get several wins and steady the ship,” Brown said.
“I would say he is a real quality footballer. A big centre-back and we are getting him in his prime. He is a good Dutch footballer and a very strong lad.”
The Dons boss was also quick to scotch fears the defender would go off the boil after signing a permanent contract – an accusation levelled at him during his Brentford days.
The Dutchman joined the Bees from Ipswich Town having impressed then manager Andy Scott during a spell on loan at Griffin Park, but struggled to recapture that form when the move was made
Balkestein helped the Dons to three crucial home wins in six appearances last term that went a long way to securing their League Two safety, and he hopes to better that this time around.
“We spoke to coaches about him. He is no different to the vast majority of young footballers that don’t adjust well to being third or fourth in line,” Brown said.
“But when he was released we were on the phone straight away.
“We paid a lot for him and, believe me, if he is fit he will play a lot of games this season.”
The Wimbledon boss was speaking after his team ran out 3-1 winners away at Maidenhead on Tuesday, which followed a 7-0 thumping at home by newly promoted Premier League outfit Reading last
Jack Midson struck twice against Maidenhead, with Stacy Long also on target.
New signings Long, Warren Cummings, Curtis Osano and Louis Harris have all settled in at Wimbledon, with Harris impressing in midfield on Tuesday.
Brown said: “When we were planning pre-season you would want to play them [Reading] when we were ready.
“You would want them after three or four games and then look forward to playing the big boys.
“We were outclassed in the second half. It is not an issue. I told the boys to look at it as a little lesson early in the season.
“At Maidenhead, we were still a long way off where I would like to be, but I don’t look too far into pre-season results.
“What we want is a good performance, fitness and no injuries. The results are academic.”
Brown said he was still looking for a younger defender, after cooling on the chances of signing two trialists.
“We will probably look at getting a younger player in on loan towards the end of pre-season,” he said.
Balkestein could get his first run-out at Bognor Regis on tomorrow.