Dons place faith in the odd couple

Posted by on Jul 15, 2010 in Milton Keynes, The Seventy Two | 7 Comments

Milton Keynes Dons enter their third year in League One off the back of a play-off finish two years ago under Roberto Di Matteo and then disappointingly missing out last season when expectations were high under the returning Paul Ince. Ince left amidst talk of disputes over playing budget cuts and a slump in form, particularly away from home.

The club appointed 29-year-old Karl Robinson, Ince’s former assistant, to the role of manager this summer, making him the youngest manager amongst the Seventy Two.

Always a controversial club due to the relocation of Wimbledon F.C to Milton Keynes and the establishment of a new “franchise” in the area, this season is crucial. Dons have a superbly appointed stadium, a growing fan base with last year the seventh highest home attendance in the division and clear ambitions to move through the leagues.

Chairman Pete Winkelman has handed Robinson, a former Blackburn coach, a 12-month rolling contract at stadium:mk and he will now concentrate on assembling a team to lead the Dons to promotion next season.

Robinson has appointed the former England coach John Gorman as his new assistant manager, with Alex Rae retaining his position as first team coach.

So much depends on Robinson. He inherits the core of a squad that has been in the top half of League One for two years in experienced goalkeeper Willy Gueret, talismanic captain Dean Lewington, playmaker Peter Leven and strikers Aaron WiIbraham, Sam Baldock and Jemal Johnson alongside the mercurial Luke Chadwick.

This is a team known for playing good football but which nevertheless scored twenty goals fewer last season than the promotion near-miss of the year before. It also conceded nearly double the number of goals on its travels last season compared to 2008/09.

Robinson can either retain the team’s footballing principles or become more pragmatic in what, this year as much as any, looks to be a hard, competitive division in which teams have to be able to roll their sleeves up week in, week out. At times last season, Ince’s side went missing. In League One, that makes a huge difference as was demonstrated by Dons’ final league placing of 12th.

As hinted at in the behind the scenes disputes in spring, Robinson has to reshape the squad against a background that dictates the playing budget is no longer a step above most of the division. Despite that, there have been some eye-catching summer signings, most notably the 35-year-old Dietmar Hamann.

The German will protect the back four, assuming prolonged fitness, while also assisting the relatively youthful Robinson in his new role of heightened responsibility. Winkelman’s hopes of success for his team rely on a successful working relationship between his newly-installed young manager and newly-recruited veteran star.

Dons have also drafted in two strikers: Lewis Guy from Doncaster and, on a season long loan from QPR, the talented Angelo Balanta. Robinson has also hinted at several “high profile” loan moves from Premiership clubs to come. These will be needed because Robinson’s current first team squad, comprised of 18 players, looks a little thin to withstand the rigours of a long campaign.

As it stands, MK Dons look to be a “top half” team but not one likely to be challenging for automatic promotion alongside the big guns of Southampton, Sheffield Wednesday, Charlton and the like. A shot at a play-off place is likely to be the sum of realistic ambitions for the new man at the helm in the new city.

Written by: Rich Prew

The Seventy Two
The Seventy Two published an outstanding series of articles about the Football League between 2010-12 and was the brainchild of Leicester City fan, David Bevan. As well as collaborating with The Two Unfortunates on the Football League Blog Network and a mammoth 2011-12 season preview, the site featured a host of leading bloggers and David was rewarded with a nomination in the 2011 Football Supporters’ Federation awards. Latterly, he was joined as co-editor by Joe Harrison and TTU is happy to present this archive of the site’s output.


  1. Simon Holt
    July 15, 2010

    I can’t believe you have an article about Franchise. This is a football blog. They are not a football club. By writing this blog you are legitimising the stealing of a league place. I hope you are proud of yourselves.

    • The 72
      July 15, 2010

      Cheers for the comment and it’s a point of view that I anticipated because I can empathise up to a point – they are not my favourite club by a long way and I’d have found it difficult to write the article objectively myself, but it was sent in as a contribution – I think it’s an interesting time for them with a young manager and a player of Hamann’s pedigree on board.

      On the issue of legitimising their actions by including them, if I’d named the blog The Seventy One and refused to acknowledge their existence, it would have given the impression of making a stand against them which I cannot claim to do. I’ve been to the stadium twice, once to watch my team and once to watch the team of the town I live in. I don’t like it and I wish it hadn’t happened but that fight is for other people who feel more passionately than I do about it.

      This site is intended to celebrate the wealth of interesting stories concerning our football league clubs across the length and breadth of the country and it’s not a single-issue site about the merits or otherwise of Milton Keynes Dons, an issue that has been covered elsewhere.

      And yes, I’m proud of the site and the writing on it.

  2. SH
    July 16, 2010

    I think all football fans should be taking a stand against franchise, because football clubs at our level are about community and from that point of view we need to stick together. I wish you had named the site ‘the seventy one’ – that would have been brilliant. It’s very easy to say ‘it’s nothing to do with me, that’s their fight’, but I don’t think such an ostrich-like approach is for the fundamental good of football as a whole. Certainly when my club (Stockport) almost got renamed ‘ManStock County’ and moved to Maine Road in 2001, and then when we were trying to find money to fund a Supporters’ Trust takeover in 2005, we really appreciated the help and support given by other fans. I will never go to the Wankledome and they will never have my money, because I feel it’s important to take a stand in this respect. If every football fan did that and they had attendances of zero every week, then they would fold and the authorities would be shown that allowing franchising is unacceptable to the football community in this country. By giving them attntion, I do feel you are legitimising them, yes. If that ever happens to your club and you are asking for the support of other football fans in your quest to prevent you being moved cross country, how would you feel then? I hope it never happens to you, but such a self-centred attitude of ‘it’s only about my club’ is maybe why the ‘have nots’ (smaller clubs and supporters) always get a raw deal? This website could either be a really powerful voice for change and improvement within the game – it could be something special – or it could not be. Maybe you think franchising is OK? Maybe you think that £35 a ticket in the Championship is OK? I don’t, and that’s why I think taking a stand is important – that’s why I think principles are important – but obviously your conscience will tell you what you think is right.

    • The 72
      July 16, 2010

      Thanks for the comment.

      My main thought here is that the fact we have covered MK Dons has led to the comment you have made, which will be read just as the article will. We will be aiming to cover a wide range of issues pertinent to the Football League but have done some fairly standard previews across the three leagues so far and it is this kind of opinion that makes a subject powerful.

      If we had shunned all mention of MK Dons then you would not have had the opportunity to post your opinion of them.

      I certainly don’t agree with franchising or £35 for a ticket in the Championship. Taking a stand is important and principles are important and, as I commented previously, I would have found it difficult to be as objective about MK Dons/Franchise as the contributor of this article, but I would much rather publish it and get people reading and thinking about the subject rather than ignoring it completely. MK Dons is a reality and it’s right to debate it.

      It’s not only about my club, believe me. The passion and enthusiasm I have for the Football League (and non-league) should be reflected in the work I’ve put into this site for all fans of Football League clubs – and the same goes for all the contributors to it because there is obviously no money involved at any stage in the work that goes into the site.

      What I’ve said may seem a cop-out, and if you think that then I apologise, but I truly believe it’s better to open it up and have the debate than to impose my personal opinion on a site that I intended to be for fans of all clubs in the Football League (and other interested observers).

      Thanks again.

  3. SH
    July 16, 2010

    You make reasonable points, and your tone has been pretty concillatory – credit to you for that and for leaving my posts up even though (especailly the first one) was quite forceful. It would have been very easy to censor that and the fact you chose not to is admirable.

    I’ve made my point – and, as one of the people who runs the Stockport messageboard, I know how boring a ‘back and forth’ can get for everyone else, so I don’t want to go into the territory of trolling. That’s not what I’m about and this site deserves better than that, too. It’s a good site and no doubt I’ll be back commenting on other posts throughout the season, too. For now, though, I’ll leave you in peace :-)

    • The 72
      July 16, 2010

      haha thanks, hope you enjoy the site in future!

  4. The ubiquitous issue: why I’ll be supporting Stevenage »
    November 8, 2010

    […] despite apparent evidence to the contrary, isn’t a U-turn. I didn’t go quite so far as naming the blog The Seventy One, which I […]


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