It was a long time in coming, but MK Dons have finally made it to the second tier of English football. The patience the club put in Karl Robinson has been repaid and the club look set for a good season with a stadium and team worthy of the Championship.
Last Season: League One (2nd)
Manager: Karl Robinson
GKs: David Martin, Charlie Burns, Cody Cropper
DFs: Lee Hodson, Dean Lewington, Tom Flanagan, Kyle McFadzean, Antony Kay, Jordan Spence, Joe Walsh, Ben Tilney, Harry Hickford
MFs: Darren Potter, Ben Reeves, Carl Baker, Mark Randall, Daniel Powell, Giorgio Rasulo, Samir Carruthers
FWs: Dean Bowditch, Tom Hitchcock, Simon Church, Dale Jennings
In: Joe Walsh (Crawley Town), Simon Church (Charlton Athletic), Dale Jennings (Barnsley), Cody Cropper (Southampton)
Out: Ian McLoughlin (Released), Will Summerfield (Released), George Baldock (Oxford United – Loan), Danny Green (Luton Town)
First Six: Rotherham United (A), Preston North End (H), Bolton Wanderers (H), Reading (A), Birmingham City (H), Middlesbrough (A)
Likely Line-up: (4-5-1) Martin – Spence, McFadzean, Kay, Lewington – Potter, Green, Baker, Randall, Carruthers – Church
A word from…Peter Leven
On his time at MK Dons I definitely felt ready as I’d played in the Scottish Premier League a lot before I moved down to Chesterfield, but it was such a great opportunity to go to MK Dons, play in a great new stadium and the way they played it felt like a team I should be playing in.
It was my own decision to leave the club. The club offered me a new contract but it wasn’t really what I thought I deserved to be honest. The club had a wage structure at the time and I think they were making some cutbacks but I’d played plenty of games, won the Sportswriter’s Player of the Year award just before I left. I was scoring goals, I even played with a broken hand for the full season so I thought it was a little bit harsh on me, but I was a bit stubborn back then and I was absolutely gutted to leave.
That’s why when I left I went to Oxford, it was close to Milton Keynes, I wanted to stay around the area, we had a lovely house and it was only 40 minutes away but it was another really ambitious club for me to join. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being at Oxford but I should have been at MK and I’m still disappointed I didn’t get to stay.
On Championship football I think they can do what Brentford or Wolves did, I see no reason why not. They play good football and they’ve shown in the cups they can mix it with better teams. It’s just the style of play that MK Dons have, it’s the ethos there and then the players have to adapt to that. The only problem I think they have is up front, if they sign a good striker I think they’ll be alright because the football they play is right up there.
The way things are going now, everyone wants to play the Arsenal way, the Barcelona way, and I think MK have done that lately, I just hope there’s a little bit of money there because when I was there they never bought a player, I was there three years, it was remarkable and people think the budget is big because of the stadium but it’s not. But the football they play just works, there’s been a lot of talk about the rivalry with AFC Wimbledon and the move away but nobody can question what they do on the pitch.
On Karl Robinson He’s very good. I’d say he’s more like a friend than a manager. He gets to know you, he gives out a relaxed atmosphere and lets you go and enjoy your football. I mean, he makes you work hard every day but when you get on the ball he gives you that freedom and fluency and I think that’s why a lot of players like him and enjoy working with him.
He’s a young manager too, he’s got that football philosophy, he’s not old-fashioned and I think Pete (Winkelman) has backed him, given him that longevity at the club. There’s no point changing your manager all the time, they’ve backed one man and one philosophy and it’s showing now that it’s worked.
On recruitment You need a strong spine and strong characters. Obviously they’ve got Lewi (Dean Lewington), but what Karl does is he gets everyone together and instils what he wants straight away. He’ll make you work hard but he brings that togetherness and that spirit which is just as important as bringing in new faces.
You’re not scared to go out and play football, you’re not scared to go out and make mistakes. That’s one thing about the club, they’ll let you make mistakes, they tell you not to worry about it and it’s a really great atmosphere, even Pete is always there to put an arm around you if needed.
But, if they do want to push on and make it to the Premier League, they might need to bring in a few new faces and a few more strong characters.
The Offside Rule Podcast Prediction: With a small budget, nobody should expect any miracles but there’s a good squad in place, a talented manager and a good owner, so MK should be able to at least stay up.
Key Player: Carl Baker – The midfielder has an excellent opening season with MK Dons, almost reaching double figures in League One and was the driving force in the middle.
One to Watch: Dale Jennings – Something about the striker attracted one of the world’s greatest clubs. With a fair chance in a team that plays good football and creates chances, it will be interesting to see what he can do.