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MK struggling with life back in League One - Interview
Thursday, 4th Jan 2018 16:11 by Clive Whittingham

Two MK Dons supporters for the price of one this week as Ryan Ray and Rory Williams take us through where things have gone wrong for their teams since relegation from the Championship 18 months ago.

How did you come to support MK Dons?

RR: I’m an original Wimbledon FC supporter who moved with the club, started going in the early 80s and saw the rapid rise to the top flight as well as the monumental occasion of beating Liverpool in the FA Cup in 1988. I’m a season ticket holder as are my sons, we travel from Berkshire to Milton Keynes for a home game.

RW: I’m 15 years old and I began following MK around 2007, three years or so after Wimbledon relocated. MK Dons gave the people of MK a real team to go for. The Stadium is brilliant and a great place to watch football.

It’s been 18 months since MK Dons were relegated out of our league, how has that period gone?

RR: It’s been a tough period for the club, results on the pitch have been awful. The club’s ambition was initially to avoid relegation at all costs and then to bounce straight back-up when that failed, we’re still truth we’ve not even been close to challenging since dropping out of the Championship.

RW: It hasn’t been great. The season off the back of relegation was ropey and Karl Robinson left after a tough time in the league. Robbie Neilson came in from Hearts and did a good job of keeping us in a firm league position (12th). As for this season. Where to start... We have conceded far too many goals away from home, which doesn’t help the boys’ confidence, but also we can’t get a good string of results together. Overall the period from relegation to now has been well below average.

Karl Robinson had been with the club a long time prior to his departure – had he gone stale? Was it just time for a change? With hindsight do you wish he’d stayed on?

RR: Hindsight is a wonderful thing, Karl was excellent for us as a club. He helped put us on the map in many ways, his football philosophy was a joy to watch (when they got it right). I think we’d have done better in the Championship with Karl rather than back in League 1. The biggest failing was his inability to develop a plan b (which can’t be a reworking of plan a)! In fairness to Karl he wasn’t backed financially when he needed it most but after three awful transfer windows I guess finance and ultimately patience ran out. Something needed changing, not sure what that was but I guess the buck stops with the gaffer. Even though to this day he still cares passionately about the club.

RW: I think Karl Robinson lacked a certain flair in his Dons team which took its toll on the league form. I think the board at MK knew that Robinson was not going to gradually improve with the team he had and the way he plays the team. I am glad we signed Robbie Neilson as our manager because he is still quite young as managers get. Pete Winkleman obviously saw his creative edge at Hearts in the SPFL and decided to bring him over, I am not bothered by Robinsons departure as RN is a great replacement.

What’s gone particularly right or wrong this season? Currently 19th in the league…

RR: How long have you got!? This season started with much hope and lots of promise, we were told that the target was automatic promotion, not play-offs. Wholesale changes were made in the summer, a different type of player was bought to the club; big, strong, physical and more direct - not something we’ve become accustomed too. Many fans accepted that the physicality being bought in was exactly what was required but the football was/is dreadful on so many occasions. I’ve lost count of how many games I’ve walked out on before the final whistle, it’s become a running joke. I don’t think we’ll go down but I can’t rule it out fairness to Robbie he hasn’t really had an extended run with his best 11 as yet although I’m tired of clubs using that as an excuse. We SHOULDN'T be where we are in the league, the club HAS to get out of this tinpot division to grow.

RW: We lack a leader in the team at the moment. With Dean Lewington out of favour our defence can be very ropey and it needs sorting. Nineteenth is an awful position to be in. We have the quality in the team to do better than this but they don’t seem to be showing it .

How has Robbie Neilson done? Some speculation he was coming under pressure prior to the recent win with nine men against Peterborough…

RR: The jury is still out for me, given the tenure and stability that Karl gave us I’m reluctant to jump in with the ‘Robbie Out’ brigade. We’ve had our years and years of changing managers every season and it didn’t get us anywhere, I don’t see any benefit in changing the manager at this stage, given they’re his players. That said I was convinced if we’d lost to Posh (considered rivals) then he’d have been sacked, we didn’t but we were then bought back to earth by Oxford on New Year’s Day. Results HAVE to improve as do the performances otherwise things will turn even worse, fans won’t renew season tickets and the club will act.

RW: Neilson was under huge amounts of pressure for many weeks as he couldn’t get a positive result - before Peterborough our last league win was on November 11 which quite frankly is not good enough. But he has shown the team has fighters that want to play for MK Dons to beat play off favourites with two fewer players for over 70 minutes.

MK have been known for bringing through some great young talent in recent times – any names coming off the production line we should be watching out for?

RR: It’s been great seeing the like of Alli, Ojo and Galloway coming through in the top flight, they’ve also helped put MK Dons on the map. Currently we’ve got Callum Britton who’s represented England U20s, Dylan Asonganyi who’s been looked at by a host of the top four and is still only 16. The youth team is doing really well actually, perhaps the only good thing about this season so far. So, we’re hopeful there’s a few more gems coming through.

RW: Dele Alli is the main player to come out our academy, but we have many promising players waiting to get their chance. The stand out players for me are Brandon Thomas-Asante , David Kasamu and Sam Nombe.

Stand out players and weak links in the team?

RR: Our best player by a mile is Chuks Aneke, head and shoulders above most in the league. Strong, great touch and knows where the goal is. Osman Sow looks like he’s got potential up front but is still on his way back from a long term injury, Alex Gilbey is getting stronger as the games go on and Ed Upson is very consistent. We struggle with width, hardly any of our wide players can beat their man or even take them on, Arybi can but he’s not likely to start and Britton is injured - the defence seems fairly weak also, we’ve been done over the top or down the channel far too many times this season, usually several times per match.

RW: Our stand out players are Chuks Aneke, Lee Nicholls , Gboly Aryibi and Aiden Nesbitt. Our weak links are Ethan Ebanks-Landell, Scott Wootton sometimes and Joe Walsh.

Any January transfer activity likely?

RR: No, I’m expecting a few to leave including the club stalwart and fans favourite Dean Lewington (son of Ray), who’s been at the club for 20-odd years and club captain for most. He’s had a falling out with the manager and been banished from even training with the team, he’s currently at Charlton thanks to a favour from Karl so he can get fit for the transfer window. I would hope for a couple of new faces but I doubt we’ve got any funds to really go and make a difference, I think it’s damage limitation this season and make a fresh challenge next season, that’s the rhetoric the club will send out anyway.

RW: Yes. With the position we are in now we have to bring in new faces, Preferably a centre back with strength and pace. Neilson has said he’s bringing in a striker and a wide player. Ethan Ebanks-Landell might be recalled by Wolves.

Short, medium and long term aims for the club?

RR: Short: stop the rot, improve results and performances. Get the fans onside and finish the season strong, holding onto prized assets. Medium: challenge for promotion and build a squad capable of competing in the Championship, attract investment and encourage more fans to come along. Long: establish ourselves as a Championship club with the capability of competing at the top end of the league, for me that’s where I’d be happy, others will say Premier League but I think it’s too commercial now, teams are just making up numbers and fans are alienated from the club.

RW: Short Term aims - Stay in the league. Medium Term aims- Push for play off places. Long Term - Get a solid Championship side.

The Twitter @loftforwords, @RyanRay74, @KrNz420

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TacticalR added 22:12 - Jan 4
Thanks to Ryan and Rory.

Sounds like quite a bit of turmoil after a long period of stability. Also interesting to hear that the MK Dons fans are so keen to get out of League One - some of our fans (not me) seem to think it will do us good to go there for a while.

Myke added 22:50 - Jan 4
Thanks lads - this highlights the vital importance of staying in Championship - and I'm sure Holliway will pick the team accordingly!!!

toboboly added 12:46 - Jan 5
I hope they get relegated and go out of business.

RBlockG added 10:37 - Jan 6
Sounds like a cup game we might actually win :)

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