MK Dons Season Preview: Brittain to shine?

With the 2018-19 League Two season preview coming up, The Football Lab spoke to MK Dons fan Jonathan Harries (@harriesdon87).

It’s certainly been a tough time for MK Dons with two relegations in three years. Clearly the club have made plenty of mistakes since promotion to the Championship in 2014-15: would you list the January dismissal of Robbie Neilson among them?

I think upon reflection, it was the best decision for the club to sack Robbie Neilson. Dressing room bust ups a lot of animosity from the fans towards him all added to a hostile atmosphere in the stands. Dan Micciche started to turn that around and hopefully Tisdale can start to turn this ship around.

Paul Tisdale is clearly a manager who will stick to the club’s possession principles, but also has the presence to properly implement his ideas. Has his appointment brought some excitement back to Buckinghamshire?

When we were first linked with Tisdale at the end of last season, I got the feeling early on it’s what the majority of fans wanted. Pete Winkelman’s appointments post Karl Robinson have been very left field and in hindsight maybe looking closer to home would have been the safer option. Hopefully with Tisdale’s appointment, there will be a solid foundation that we can build on.

You’ve only lost three players who were permanently contracted last season – Ed Upson and Scott Wootton had offers in League One while Ben Tilney hadn’t featured. Did you want more of a clear-out?

Ideally yes I’d have liked more of a clear-out. Ouss Cisse when signed some fans thought wow but he has nowhere near reached his potential for one reason or another. Chuks Aneke would be another one I’d personally like to see leave as his attitude towards the end of last season was very negative and, in my opinion, was one of the factors in our relegation.

Academy graduates Callum Brittain, Sam Nombe and Brandon Thomas-Asante all seem to have bags of energy. Do you feel Tisdale will help them develop?

Without question. Arguably Brittain was one of our plus points of last season. It will be interesting to see where Tisdale would want to play Callum as he’s a utility player. Other notable youngsters like Sam Nombe, Liam Sole and Dylan Asonganyi, I expect could play a vital role in this forthcoming season.

The stats suggest you would have had a better chance of staying up had midfielder Alex Gilbey not got injured in February (1.1 points per game when he started, 0.9PPG when he didn’t). Are fans excited by a possible partnership with new signing Jordan Houghton?

Without question Alex Gilbey could be the lynchpin. His endeavour his attitude on and off the pitch are what every young aspiring footballer should aim for. His partnership with Houghton could be vital in the spine of the team as we haven’t yet replaced Darren Potter who quietly made us tick in my opinion. Gilbey should be captain as he is a true leader on the pitch.

Jordan Moore-Taylor is arguably one of the best ball-playing centre-backs outside the Championship. How much of a coup is his arrival?

JMT looks solid and a real leader on the pitch from what I’ve seen. A partnership with Joe Walsh could be our best pairing post Kyle McFadzean and Anthony Kay; it could also give Nicholls confidence in turn, as having a unsettled defence was yet another downfall last season.

Like Moore-Taylor, midfield technician Ryan Harley and versatile forward Robbie Simpson are re-united with Tisdale, while Lawson D’Ath and Ryan Watson arrive from Luton and Barnet respectively. Thoughts on the new signings?

Bit early to judge the signings at this time as haven’t seen much of them. JMT and Houghton are real coups for this league in my opinion. Mitch Hancox also looks handy as a left-back/left wing-back and his delivery is certainly consistent. Watson and D’Ath seem like useful squad players; personally not convinced by either Harley or Simpson but obviously they are players who Tisdale trusts.

Kieran Agard, on paper, could be a decent striker for League Two level. Are you hoping to see him get a run of games down the middle?

Agard for me was always signed as a striker down the middle; I have never liked him out on the right hand side as he hasn’t the pace or delivery needed for that position. He needs to stay in the width of the penalty area and gamble on balls coming into the box; the squad as a whole has the potential to supply the fans demands for goals. Hopefully Agard finds his Rotheram form in front of goal.

New boy Mitch Hancox is a versatile left-sider, but you still look a tad short in the left-back area. Are you hoping to replace Josh Tymon?

Yes, currently left-back and up top are areas we need to seriously strengthen. Dean Lewington, as much of a club legend as he is, cannot do the demanding left-back role anymore and to ask him to do that again would be a risk as teams target him.

Lee Nicholls started 41 league games last season but Wieger Sietsma finished the year in goal. Is that an area you need to look at?

The goalkeeper position is not something I’m greatly concerned about if Nicholls stays fit. He had an obvious lack of confidence last season as the defence in front of him was non-existent. Without doubt one of the strongest goalkeepers in League Two.

George Williams was your most-used outfield player last season with 41 starts. Was he worthy of the loyalty managers showed?

George Williams is Mr Dependable; he can nearly always guarantee you a 7/10 most weeks, a brilliant utility player who can cover centre-back OR left-back when needed. Not over-used, he was maybe undervalued by the fans last season.

MK Dons aside, what are your thoughts on the League Two season as a whole? Any potential dark horses for you?

League Two for me personally is about rolling your sleeves up and fighting for every point throughout the season; it’s less about style, more about battling. This is the wake up call the club needed in my opinion as everyone involved with the club seemed happy with League One status. New manager, hungrier players, crowd back onside; Stadium Mk needs to again be a fortress that strikes fear into opposition. My promotion pick would be Mansfield; don’t discount Notts County, Northampton, Bury or Lincoln as I think League Two could be good this year.

Where will you finish?

As for MK Dons, all I’d love come May is PROMOTION!

Thanks to Jonathan for his answers. The Football Lab’s verdict on MK Dons can be found on We Love Betting in late July.