This Just In – Following today’s announcement that the Kingston lot have got through the playoffs, shares in MK cleaning firms are set to rocket when trading begins again on Tuesday morning. Speaking exclusively to The MooCamp this evening, local cleaning magnate Roy Al-Doulton announced excitedly
“We’re going to be rich! Rich I tell ya! It’s been ages since we’ve had a proper boycott, and this one’s a dirty protest too? Fantastic! I’ve just been on the line to my broker, and we’ll both be retiring after this.”
The current status of the Armitage Shanks Countdown Clock shows that it is currently:
since anyone took a crap on the floor in the Boycott End
More on this once we’ve dug out the photos of the last dirty protest.
Well that wraps it up for 2015/16 then. Quite a season really.
It was a season that started with a degree of hope, a sense of belief, built on last season’s general wonderfulness, and a feeling that, unless something truly awful happened, we would probably be alright. It all started so well too – that beautiful sunny day in Rotherham where we got our first taste of Championship football, and it tasted good. I can remember chatting to people on that day and saying “this league isn’t so tough then is it?”.
We were top of the league too! I think the stats for the season show that we were top of the league for longer than everyone else in the Championship except some of the others. Can you tell that I can’t remember where I saw the stat?
Anyway, a good start swiftly gave way to a pretty poor season. We tried to play our passing game, building from the back, and keeping possession, and we kept on getting caught out. Some teams were pressing us hard and we were making mistakes, while others just sat back, let us have the possession and waited for us to balls it up. We rarely disappointed. The swagger of last season had gone, and much as we persisted, it just seemed to be a little out of reach.
There were many reasons for our struggles, and they’ll be argued over for many seasons to come, but there are a few areas where I think we got it wrong.
First of all, Robbo said at the start of the season that he would be putting his faith in the team that got us promoted. That sounded like a brave move at the time, but it also felt like the right one – we had a team of players who knew how to play with an for each other, and that should be a real head start for us. Clearly, it was the wrong decision, but just how wrong it was wasn’t really clear at the start. First of all, we didn’t have the entire team that got us promoted, and any suggestion that we would be able to compete at a higher level without adequate replacements for Dele, Benik and Will was probably naive to say the least. We did bring in replacements in those areas, but it would be an understatement to say that they didn’t fill the shoes of any of the players that we’d lost. We also discovered as the season went on, that a significant number of the players that we did have from last season just weren’t good enough for the Championship. That’s the overriding reason for me that we’ve been relegated, and it’s the most obvious I guess – our players weren’t good enough for this league.
Secondly, we tried to play the same game that had been so successful for us in League 1, and kept trying long after it was clear that it wasn’t working in the Championship. Pretty much every team seemed to know how to play us, and were able to stop us playing our game, at least in any areas of the pitch where it mattered. Our possession statistics were the best in the league for considerable periods of the season, yet our league position, our shots and our goals scored were the exact opposite. I felt until way past christmas that it would still come right for us, and that we were right to keep playing that way. I also felt, probably rightly, that we weren’t set up to play any other way. I was wrong, as we eventually proved, much too late, that we could dig in and grind out points away at places like Hull. An earlier change to our style of play, and I think that we’d still be playing Championship football come August.
Thirdly, we weren’t strong enough, both physically and mentally, either as individuals or as a team. We didn’t have the stamina to hold on to games we were winning or drawing in, and gave away large numbers of points in the dying stages of games. Our confidence went early on, and it hasn’t returned. We didn’t fight hard enough to keep possession when challenged, and we didn’t fight hard enough to get it back when we lost it – there was a noticeable difference between the ruthless efficiency that we saw from the majority of our opponents and our own ‘nice’ approach. Just the games that we threw away in the last few minutes would have been enough to keep us up.
Fourthly, we seem to have completely underestimated pretty much every element of what was required to compete in the Championship. At a fans forum towards the end of last season, Robbo claimed that he “didn’t need a top half championship budget to compete in the top half of the championship”. According to a table that was published fairly early on in the season, we had the lowest budget in the championship, and Rotherham just one place above us had a budget that was double ours. At the same event, Robbo also said that if we went up, we “would have the pick of the loan players from top premiership sides”. That clearly failed to materialise, perhaps due to the higher financial expectations for loans at this level meaning that we couldn’t actually afford them, and also perhaps due to clubs not wanting to send their players out to a side that was losing all the time. It’s possible to argue that this means that we were doomed from the very beginning, but it’s not easy to understand how Winkie got this one so wrong.
As well as the challenges for the players and the management, it’s also been a season-long learning experience for the fans. We’ve had to get used to losing more than we’re winning, which has been a rather useful reminder of just how successful the club has been in recent years. Since the relegation under Danny Wilson back in 2006, we’ve not had a season where losing was the norm, and a lot of our fanbase weren’t around back then. We’ve also had more ‘issues’ amongst the fans at away matches than in previous seasons, combined with stricter stewarding and policing, which is something that we need to get better at controlling ourselves.
Rotherham away on the opening day
Being top of the Championship for a week back in August
Frustrating the hell out of Hull
Filling the stadium against Chelsea
Wednesday away – my favourite away of the season
The walkers and kayakers to Fulham
Daniel’s equaliser at Bristol City
Dele becoming the darling of English football
Players, manager and fans applauding each other after relegation was actually confirmed against Brentford
The lap of appreciation after the Forest game
Robbo confirming that he’s staying
Relegation being all but confirmed against Rotherham
Robbo getting booed at the end of the Rotherham game
Antony Kay’s goal at Leeds
Making Bolton look like Barcelona at their place
No Tony Stratford at the end of season awards
Gifting Huddersfield three points at their place
The MooCamp Radio Show misplacing it’s radio station
Getting hammered at home by the Saints
Burnley showing the real gulf between us and them
Hearing Chelsea Dagger on the radio at some point in April and thinking ‘I haven’t heard this for ages’ then realising what that meant
Lack of progress on the training ground.
There’s a nervousness as we start to look forward to life back in League 1. We ought to be able to compete in the top-half, but we’ve not won a game in two months, and it will take something quite significant to turn that losing mentality around. The last time we got relegated, we reached the playoffs in the next season, but that took Martin Allen to shake the club up and turn things around. It remains to be seen whether Robbo has what it takes to turn us around, and whether Winkie is able to provide the support that he needs. Expectations will be high – I’d be happy with a side that’s pushing for the playoffs next season, but I have a feeling that won’t be enough for many. If we did manage to find our way back into the championship, then whether we’d be able to find a way to compete I really have no idea. That will be a nice problem to have I guess.
Bring on the Euros, bring on the pre-season friendlies, and bring on the 2016/17 season I guess.
It was a beautiful sunny day, we were taking an inexperienced goalkeeper, no substitute keeper and a bench primarily made up from Academy kids. It was fancy dress and I wasn’t dressing up. We’ve already been relegated, we were expecting to lose, possibly heavily, and I was going on a minibus leaving at 9:30 am with a two hour pub stop as the only non-drinker. What could possibly go wrong?
Well to be honest, not much really – we had a great day out. Just short of 500 of us made the trip, which was about double what I was expecting, and we made a fair bit of noise at times. The football was a bit rubbish in the first half, but somehow we managed to go in on level terms. the football was better in the second half, but somehow we managed to end the game behind. That’s been our season really.
We played a dangerous game with fate by packing 75% of the presenters of The MooCamp Radio Show into the same minibus. Had the bus exploded following an attack by a flock of angry wrens, the entire future of the show would have been in the hands of Young Alby, and that just doesn’t bear thinking about. The very thought sends shivers down my spine. Anyway, great pub stop in a village whose name escapes me (but it definitely began with an H) and then on to the ground.
We faced our relegation with generally good humour – lots of self-deprecating chants, which got occasional recognition and applause from some of the nearby Ipswich fans. A fair bit of chanting was targeting one particularly large lad, who gave as good as he got for a while, before leaving in a bit of a huff. The irony of me chanting towards an overweight bloke wasn’t lost on me, and the disapproving looks from Mrs B helped to keep my participation to a minimum.
In what’s become something of a regular feature at aways this season, there were some cross words exchanged between a few of our fans at half-time, with some people getting angry about some other people’s ‘we’re not very good’ type of chants. Usual handbags type of arguments, but it did result in one of our group (who shall remain nameless until I know he’s alright) deciding to leave at half time, not to be seen again. I have no idea whether there’s anything we can do to keep these rows from spilling over into genuine anger, but I hope we can – it does tend to put a bit of a damper on things, and I could do without it.
As soon as I saw the challenge that won us the pen, I thought ‘definite penalty’, though the fact that literally EVERYONE else around me disagreed suggests that I may well be wrong. Revell took the penalty well, and level we were, just before half time. To be level at half time was actually really, really funny, as we really shouldn’t have been in the game at all, but level we were.
Second half we played a little better football, and at times looked like we might still know how to pass the ball around, but it really was in quite short bursts. On a couple of occasions, the ‘we want you to stay’ chant went up for Revell, and he looked genuinely moved. I think he was just about to be subbed for Maynard when he got our second, so Maynard sat back down again, and a few minutes later came on for Bowditch. They did sub Revell a short while after that and when he went off, you could see that we’d made an impact on him. I don’t think he’s the greatest striker we’re ever going to see, but he is the best striker we’ve had in the air since Clive Platt, and when combined with his fantastic workrate and dedication, that makes him worth keeping. I hope he does stay. But I doubt that he will.
Anyway, just as it looked like we were going to cling on for the point, something happened and they got the winner. I have no idea what it was, because I wasn’t watching, and neither were anyone else around me. I blame Antony Kay myself.
So, a great day out, only spoiled in part by some of the football, a bit of arguing, and a missing presenter. Aways are fun. End of season aways doubly so. And the scary clowns were fantastic – kudos to all those who took the time and effort to do it.
One more game to try and claim that third from bottom spot again, and to try to go down with a bang.
On St. George’s day, nobody wants to be the dragon. Everyone wants to be the one left standing, sword in hand, prodding the bloody corpse to make sure all life has gone. Sadly this year we celebrated Shakespeare’s birthday as the dragon, and we were coughing out smoke instead of breathing fire. Though we’d hoped for a different ending, we were finally put to the sword.
We can all point to games where we could have salvaged points – there have been many – but as Robbo succinctly said in his post-match interview, the table does not lie at the end of the season. We’re going down because we’re one of the worst teams in this division, and that’s been proved beyond any doubt.
This match was a pretty good analogy for our season. We started well, took an early lead, but very quickly found ourselves pegged back to level terms. Then our confidence went, the opposition were playing with a swagger that we couldn’t match, and we resorted to a hoofing the ball forward, vainly hoping for something to happen. Then we started making mistakes, and we fell further and further behind. Injuries led to unplanned substitutions, planned substitutions had a lot of people raising their eyebrows and an air of resignation fell across the stadium.
We huffed and puffed but as a team, we really didn’t look like we had any ideas how to get ourselves out of it. There were some poor performances individually, but some very strong ones too. On the poor side, Cody Cropper had a nightmare of a first half (though it was oddly entertaining to watch at times) and was substituted at half time, though it was reported that was due to an injury. Charlie Burns struggled as Cody’s replacement, and any lingering optimistic hopes we had were damned as the goals went in.
On the positive side, Josh Murphy had what I’d say was his best game in a Dons shirt, and will rightly be in demand come the end of the season.
The most positive thing about the day was the reception given to the players and manager at the final whistle. We’d just been relegated, but the fans, players – both loanees and contracted – and manager stood and applauded each other.
This season has been a painful one. We’ve worked so hard to reach the championship, and been found wanting at the first hurdle. The post-mortem has been going on for months already, and will surely continue for a while longer, but for now, we need to lick our wounds, support each other for the final two matches, and finish with a smile on our faces.
I’m gutted, but still proud of what we’ve done this season.
One of those ‘not sure why that was so good, but it really, really was’ kind of evenings. Still buzzing from it a couple of days later to be honest. There were a number of ‘why on earth are you going?’ questions that were thrown my way beforehand, but it was a bit like Saturday, in that I felt I really should be there.
No opportunity for #Coachwars, as there was just the one coach, although I did my best, with #coachwarssoundtracks bringing the best of a series of Desert Island Disc podcasts. Chris Hadfield, Kylie and an author, activist and feminist whose name escapes me all shared their life stories and their record collections, and the journey went quickly.
Hillsborough is a difficult place to watch football. As soon as you see the away end from the outside, it still looks exactly the same as it did in all those news reports from 1989. It’s eerie and I find it hard not to feel like some sort of tragedy voyeur if I spend too long outside there. I took a walk round to the memorial, which I always find a moving experience – this year, with our match being so close to an anniversary, and particularly with the jury currently being out, it felt doubly so. There were messages and flowers from some of the families, which I found difficult to read, so I made my way back to the ground.
We weren’t expecting many of our lot, and it felt a bit like an away match of old – I recognised pretty much every one of the 185 of us who made the trip, and there was just a good feeling about it. We know we’re down (unless something ridiculous happens repeatedly over the next few weeks, but more of that later) and everyone just seemed happy to enjoy the ride while we’re still in the championship.
So we’re relying on a miracle if we’re going to stay up, we rarely score (to be honest at the moment, we rarely shoot), our main goalie is out for the rest of the season, our number two goalie is suspended and we’ve got our academy goalie Charlie Burns making his full debut. Our most consistent defender is on 14 yellows so one more will see him out for the rest of the season. We’re playing a team who have resources that simply are in a different league to us, and who are in the playoff spots. What could possibly go wrong?
Well to be honest, it went rather well, all things considered. Charlie did himself proud, making some good saves throughout the game. Wednesday hit the woodwork about a hundred times, and didn’t seem to have their shooting boots with them when they managed to get into good positions. Wednesday went down to ten men after one of their lot decided to literally kick Johnny Williams up in the air while the ref was busy booking one of their lot for diving (harshly I’ve heard since). Johnny Williams got assaulted by one of their supporters when he got substituted, Robbo intervened to protect him, and all the while, the Wednesday players, bench and fans were getting more and more hot and bothered.
The crowd were getting on their backs, and were we even remotely threatening as a football team at the moment, we’d probably have gone on to win it. Sadly that wasn’t to be, but we knew that a draw would be enough to keep us clinging on for four more days, and cling on we did.
What made the evening so special for me was that we felt united as a fanbase. We were all in it together, we all sang together, we all laughed together and we generally all had a great time together – none of the frustrations and annoyances that have been part of other away trips this season were there, and it felt great to be there together. Thanks everyone.
Come the final whistle, as the other scores came in, it became clear that everyone else had drawn too. That meant that Charlton were relegated, we were still nine points behind the three teams above us, but interestingly, Bristol City had dropped back into fourth from bottom.
Odd as it may seem, there’s still a chance for us to stay up. If we win our remaining three games, and Bristol City lose their remaining three games, we will stay up. While I could easily see Bristol City losing their remaining three games, I really can’t see us winning ours, so it’s not going to happen, but it keeps it alive for one more game. If we win on Saturday and any of the other four lose, then we’re still clinging on, but the Bristol City goal difference means that it really has to be them.
This Just In – Following last Tuesday’s quite horrific challenge by MK Dons defensive maestro, Anthony Kay, MK Dons supremo, Andrew ‘Call me Andy’ Cullen has explained that all that need be done, has been done.
Having been lucky enough to have been within the club media departments, I can announce that they have been working around the clock since Tuesday night and believe they have created a new App, which they have studied really well – or an ‘ology’ if you will, and the club feel they have done their best to appease the Zyro incident.
They are calling it ‘App-ology’, and hope this will be enough.
More on this once we’ve worked out whether this is too clever or not
So that’s it then. We’d always said that if we stayed up by a single goal on the last day of the season, then this would have been a great season. While it’s still mathematically possible for that to happen, it’s not going to happen. We’re relegated. So it hasn’t been a great season.
It wasn’t a good match – we were one down in 54 seconds, and the game was effectively over at that point. With the possible exception of a couple of efforts from JFK towards the end of the game, we didn’t threaten, and never really looked like scoring. Rotherham are not a great side, but Colin has managed to get them playing together and for each other. Their fans were behind them from the very first and they were in this together – players and fans. I doubt they were like that prior to Colin’s arrival and them going on their run, but that’s what happens when you string a run of results together. What we watched today was what happens when things go in the opposite direction.
I’m going to buck the trend here and say that I don’t think it was down to a lack of effort. Those players were trying their best, and as each goal went in, you could see that it was hurting them. They’re not the best of players, but they’re generally good players, though they’ve perhaps been shown up a little at this level. What seemed to be missing today was any sense of team, and any real idea of what they should be doing or how they should play together. It was a group of individuals, desperate to do something to make it better, but with no idea what they should actually do. That has to be down to the manager.
Robbo would not have survived so long in most clubs. The fact that 89 other clubs in English football have changed their manager since he was appointed is testament to that. Maybe if we’d sacked him earlier in the season we’d still be in the championship next season. Bristol City and Rotherham have done alright with that approach. Doesn’t work for everyone of course – just look at where Forest are right now.
But we’re not most clubs. We do things differently. I think Robbo has a lot to learn in management, and I think that he will learn a lot in management. The thing is, I want him to learn those lessons with us. We got promoted together, team, manager and fans, and I want us to get relegated together, team, manager and fans. I want us to rebuild together, I want us to go again together and I want us to work our way to promotion together too, however long that might take. I’m nailing my colours to the mast a little here perhaps, but I want us to do this differently.
I’ve often found things to criticise in elements of our fanbase. There have been a number of situations this season where I’ve found some of our fans’ behaviour more than a little cringeworthy. This afternoon, for the first time, I was genuinely ashamed. Not many people had stayed to clap the team off, but come the moment where Robbo himself claps the fans who have stayed, some fans chose that moment to boo. Boo at half time if you must, boo at the end of the game if you really feel the need – if you’re that way inclined, then boo during the game. But to stay behind, when most have already left, and to choose to boo at that precise moment, when the only message it can possibly give is a very public ‘fuck you’ to our manager, I genuinely cannot understand what could drive someone to do that.
That moment, those few seconds that happen a few minutes after the end of each match, is a bonding moment. It’s the point at which the fans say to Robbo ‘we’re with you’ and at which he says ‘thanks for being with me’. It’s a genuinely significant moment for me. It means something. If you’re not with him, then feel free to make your point in any other way, but that was a truly appalling thing to do. You could see how hurt he was at the time, and you could hear how hurt he was on the radio afterwards. He does not and he did not deserve that. If you were one of the people that did that, then I wish genuinely horrible things on you. If you’re close to Robbo, then please let him know how sorry I am that he had to experience that, give him a hug and make sure he knows he’s got support.
The hounds are already out in force all over the web, calling for Robbo’s head, and suggesting that just about anyone would be an improvement. With any luck, things will settle down a little before anyone makes any decisions about what happens next.
The social media world is currently full of people saying that they won’t be renewing their season tickets. If that’s you, then I’d suggest that football, or at least lower-league football isn’t for you. Thanks for the money while you were coming to games, but I don’t think you’ll be missed. That’s not what this football thing is about.
I’m feeling very low tonight. It’s just a game of course, except it’s not and we all know it’s not. But we’ll be back, and I’ll be back, and together, we’ll have great times. League 1 was always great fun, and we’ll have great fun there again.
Maybe it will be the turning point. The start of the fightback that sees us cling on to championship survival on the last day of the season, as the ball goes in off of Lewie’s face in the 93rd minute against Forest. Maybe we’ll look back on today as the point at which we started to regain our confidence and play the football that we know we’re capable of.
Or maybe it will just be the day that confirms what most of us are already expecting. We’re not good enough to stay in this league, and will have to start again in League one next season.
First of all, it’s settled in relation to Dougan or the Shirt. Dougan wins – on that showing, there really isn’t anything to hate about Wolves, so my childhood traumas can be put to one side, and I can get on with just ignoring them 🙂 Though I do want to read the book again – does anyone have a copy?
It started well – a Wolves own-goal (though claimed by Mickey Naynard of course) in the fifth minute and we were looking pretty good. Passing the ball around with a bit of confidence and swagger – Caruthers looking sharp and doing relatively simple stuff well, JFK looking fit again. Daniel looking like Daniel does when he starts, which isn’t generally that good, but you can’t have everything I guess.
The first half was pretty good, and results elsewhere were going for us, so it was a relatively relaxed group of us that met in the bar at half-time, even if we weren’t feeling over confident that we would hold on.
The second half went how we’d feared – we started sitting back, the confidence went, the passes started to go astray, and we all knew what would happen next. They scored. And then they scored again. And I think at point, even those of us who’ve been remaining confident and positive knew our fate for the season.
Highlight of the game was playing ‘Daniel? Go Long!’ ((c) the Friends episode with the Geller cup) every time their was a corner or a free kick near either box.
I get a bit cross at times when people say that Robbo doesn’t have a plan B. First of all he plays a formation that allows for an enormous amount of flexibility anyway, but in recent months he’s gone well beyond that. He’s had our team of passing footballers digging in, time wasting and grinding out points, which is exactly the right thing to do at times.
There are times though, when Robbo doesn’t seem to act in a way that’s appropriate to the situation we’re in, and with the substitutions tonight he excelled himself. You’re 1-0 up after half-time, and you’re really under pressure, but you leave Revell, who seems to be the one guy able to hold the ball up and win things in the air at the moment, you leave him on the bench until we’re 2-1 down. You have Jonny Williams and Bowditch on the bench, each of which provides attacking promise and options, yet they don’t even get on the pitch. And Jay Emmanuelle-Thomas does? In what universe does that make sense?
It’s not over yet, but it’s close. Defeat on Saturday and we really will be dead and buried of course, but if we can keep it alive, then there will still be a little bit of hope, and we know what can happen with just a little bit of hope.
I think I said this at the weekend, but we don’t have the psychological strength to win a match at the moment. Wolves weren’t very good. They really weren’t. We were good enough to beat them. But we weren’t strong enough to beat them. And I really can’t see that changing.
So bring on the Millers on Saturday and let us see if we can bring Colin’s run of form to grinding halt. If we can do that, we’ll just have to wait and see for a little bit. If we can’t, then at least we can sit back and relax, because it will be over.