Following a dismal and disappointing first half of the season, MK Dons parted ways with head coach Robbie Neilson in January and appointed Dan Micciche the former MK Dons Head of Academy and former U16 England’s Manager as their new manager. Ross Bramble writes about the managerial change-over, how MK Dons have fallen into the relegation places, and the relegation battle ahead with only 16 crucial league 1 fixtures remaining.
In the past month alone the EFL has seen a slew of hiring’s and firing’s: Leeds, Barnsley, Bradford, Oxford, Cambridge, Southend. All have either sacked or replaced their bosses in the early ebbing of 2018, but of all the clubs on that list, the MK Dons may just be the most interesting – so far, at least.
Robbie Neilson found himself on the unemployment line on January 20th of this year after a season dogged by poor performances and an ever-developing revolt among the fanbase.
In truth, the Dons’ return to League One has been a poor experience for a side who had for so long been knocking on the door to the Championship under Karl Robinson. Their relegation back to League One seemed to have drained the club of that vital spirit that lead them there in the first place, and Neilson felt the blunt end of the misery.
In his place comes a relative unknown in Dan Micciche – a former academy coach at Crystal Palace, Tottenham, and indeed the MK Dons before taking up the role of Coach and Player Development Technical Lead with the England national team.
This role focused predominantly on the development of U12s – U16s. Micciche also has a Master’s degree in International Management and in Football from the universities of Loughborough and Liverpool.
The MK Dons have given him the platform to begin his managerial career, although the circumstances are perhaps not as favourable as he may have liked. The Dons are embroiled in a relegation battle with games quickly running out. Time to adjust to Micciche’s style is short, but there are signs of an exciting side developing early doors.
With experienced coach and manager Keith Millen as his assistant, Micciche’s first foray into management brings with it a lot of intrigue. For a number of years now, pundits have been clamouring for young English managerial talent to be given the platform to develop their game.
Gary Rowett, Paul Hurst, Karl Robinson and a handful of others have all enjoyed successful spells in the EFL and have earned the acclaim of naturals for their impressive displays. They, among others, are usually seen as a thinning breed; for those concerned by those slim pickings, Micciche is a welcome addition to the collection.
Given his investment in youth development so far in his career, it is only natural for speculation to run rife over the new direction the Dons will take under the 38-year-old.
Dele Alli’s recent rise from Milton Keynes to England’s national service will of course be pointed to as an example of the growing reputation of the Dons, especially with young full-back Callum Brittain now turning heads.
Josh Tymon, Ike Ugbo and Connor Furlong are amongst the other youngsters who could now be set to benefit from Micciche’s track record, although the two former are only wearing white for the length of their loan deals.
Given the success now reaping rewards in Germany with young coaches taking up high profile jobs in the Bundesliga (ie. Julian Nagelsmann and Domenico Tedesco at Hoffenheim and Schalke respectively), there’s more than a small desire to see the English replicate the feat.
Given his academic background and youth academy experience, Micciche seems the closest active manager the Football League has to the names impressing in the German first division.
It has to be said, of course, that the MK Dons are still yet to claim their first win under Micciche. Defeats to Coventry, Walsall and Portsmouth, all by a single goal in the FA Cup and League One respectively have of course started his reign off on the wrong foot.
A relegation to League Two, which as it stands is still a distinct possibility, could see the end of Micciche before he’s even really begun. Success is no guarantee, and despite the cultural interest in his appointment, he will be subject to the same scrutiny and ultimate repercussions if he fails to get the Dons roaring.
All that being said, whatever becomes of Dan Micciche and the MK Dons in the coming weeks and months, they will certainly be an interesting case study.
Oxford United seem determined to run the Dons close for the most hipster managerial choice, what with their recurring links to Frank Lampard, David Unsworth, Craig Bellamy and the current favourite, Sol Campbell.
If the O’s do end up recruiting an ex-player, they will immediately swallow the headlines, but make no mistake that whether it ends in success or failure, Dan Micciche’s MK Dons run is one of the most interesting and noteworthy appointments we’ll see this season.
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