MK Dons Season Preview: new era

The times, they are a-changin’ for MK Dons. Manager Karl Robinson, so long a figurehead, ended his six-year tenure in October last year. Following him out the exit door this summer are long-serving players, marking the end of an era in Milton Keynes. Supporter Jonathan Harries reflects on Robbo’s time in charge…

We were always competitive pushing for the play offs then obviously 2014/15 season was the best season at my time there. What a team we had there: Dele Alli, Will Grigg, Benik Afobe and Carl Baker all contributed to such a memorable season. Robinson’s eventual downfall was his lack of tactical nous and ability to change tactics in a game.

You’re the only team in League One to win more away games than home games. Any reason you fare better on the road?

Our home form is very concerning amongst the fans of Stadium MK.  I’m not sure whether it’s the expectation of a modern stadium in the league or whether there’s a freedom in the away day performances. Peterborough, Charlton and Walsall are all examples of that.

Captain Dean Lewington is staying on but fellow stalwarts David Martin, Darren Potter and Dean Bowditch have all departed. Is this the right time to break up the old guard?

I do believe that now is the right time for a changing of the guard. New manager, fresh ideas, fresh imports. If I’m honest a lot of the players leaving probably needed a fresh start.

New signing Conor McGrandles has seen his career stutter since his move to Norwich three years ago, but he’s still only 21. Is Robbie Neilson the man to get the best out of him?

From what I’ve seen of McGrandles there is certainly potential there. Bit of match fitness and sharpness and I believe he will be a valuable member of the team.

New signing Peter Pawlett has gained good reviews at Aberdeen while your fans seem to have taken to Robbie Muirhead. Do you expect to have creativity this year?

Creativity is something we lacked since our inaugural promotion to the Championship. We saw signs it was coming back with Chuks Aneke, Harvey Barnes and Muirhead towards the end of the season so hopefully this season with Pawlett and whatever else comes in we can go back to the identity of Milton Keynes Dons.

Kieran Agard was your top scorer last year with 14 goals. What do you make of your options up top?

I still feel we are two strikers short, we can’t be too reliant on Kieran Agard. I believe one permanent and one loan should cover the void.

French-born Malian Ousseynou Cisse is a holding midfielder who can also play centre-back. Did Neilson need to add a bit of physicality to the team?

Cisse looks like the sort of player we have been missing defensively strong and eye for a pass hopefully we have found the link we have been desperate for.

You’ve not been able to keep hold of George Baldock. Who do you expect to play right-back this term?

George Baldock leaving was no great surprise Championship quality at full back and hopefully gets a chance to prove that on a regular basis. George Williams is Mr versatile so should be no issue in that sense.

21-year-old Wieger Sietsma joins from SC Heerenveen. Was it important to sign a goalkeeper?

Sistema was essential as we only had Lee Nicholls as an experienced League One goalkeeper and will hopefully provide stiff competition in the team.

Sietsma was your fourth signing and you’ve not since brought in anyone else. Will there be opportunities for academy graduates such as Giorgio Rasulo and Ben Tilney?

I believe that Nielsen believes if you’re good enough age is just a number. Callum Brittain, Tilney, Rasulo, Brandon Thomas-Asante, Sam Nombe and Oran Jackson all have the ability to kick on this season. I’m fairly confident more experience will be added to this young squad.

What are your thoughts ahead of the League One season as a whole? Any potential dark horses for you?

League One in my opinion is too hard to call I can genuinely say at least 15 teams including the promoted side’s can all dream of promotion whether automatic promotion or play offs.

MK Dons are 5/1 with the bookies for promotion – where will you finish?

At the minute I believe we are genuine play off contenders. With a few more transfers and belief who knows where we’ll finish. One things for sure we have a manager that won’t let the standards drop to achieve promotion again .

The Football Lab’s Verdict

Neilson has been rightly ruthless with MK Dons’ old guard, freshening up the midfield with promising additions and tactical variation. Agard has the quality to put chances away so if the defence can hold firm, the first full season of this new era could be an exciting one. 6th