Category Archives: Brando’s Blog

Take a deep breath and count to ten

“May you live in interesting times” (Chinese proverb)

It’s been an interesting ride so far hasn’t it?  Life as a supporter of the Milton Keynes Dons very rarely offers much in the way of mid-table obscurity, or anything that could be described as being even remotely run of the mill.

This might go on a bit, so apologies and all that, but there’s nothing on the telly, so what else are you going to do?  I should also say that if you’re of a delicate nature and don’t like the idea of criticism, this might not be the best thread for you to read – what I should state for the record is that I’m clearly not talking about you.  I know you’re ok and able to take criticism appropriately.  It’s the others.  Ok? 😉

With the usual apologies to the fans who followed the club up from London, as a new club, there are some things that we’re not very good at.  That isn’t all that surprising I guess, but it does help to sometimes spell it out – there are situations that are either new to us or that we have only encountered once or twice before.  That’s true at pretty much every level of the club, from the chairman to the supporters and in those situations it can be difficult to know what to do or how to react.

One of the issues is that as supporters, we often have trouble accepting that there isn’t actually anything that we should do.  One of the symptoms of our relative newness is the lack of a steadying hand at the core of the support, who might share the frustrations of the more reactive members of the support, but who’ve been there and seen it many times before and know that firstly it’s just part of football, secondly, that it’s someone else’s job to sort it out and thirdly that we have a different role to play here.

There’s a fundamental difference between those who have a bit of a whinge and a moan and those who expect their whinging and moaning to have an outcome.  The big difference is that those who expect to have an influence can end up working against the best interests of the club, often without even realising it.  Now I know YOU  mean well – I really do (though I’m not sure about some of the people who sit near you – they worry me) but it’s worth stopping for a moment and clearing up what I see our respective jobs are in this:

Responsibility of the supporters

  • Putting their hard-earned cash into the club
  • Getting behind the team during matches when things are going well
  • Getting being the team during matches when things aren’t going well
  • Getting cross and uptight about stuff
  • Abusing the officials
  • Abusing Rob Hall (apparently)
  • Showing the next generation what to do

Not the responsibility of the supporters:

  • Team selection
  • Manager selection
  • Chairman selection

That it’s not their responsibility doesn’t mean that supporters shouldn’t sometimes express their opinions on the above, but the significant point is that they shouldn’t expect their opinions to be taken seriously in any way at all.  Like it or not, none of us know how to manage a football club.  I’ll repeat that slowly.  None – of – us – know – how – to – manage – a – football – club. Your opinion is just that – an opinion, and an uninformed one at that – you being taken seriously about stuff just because you’re angry doesn’t help anyone and in the long run it just makes everyone’s job harder.  There are extreme situations where the supporters could and possibly should have a part to play in the above, but we are not, and have never been in any of those situations.  The fans of Blackpool and Coventry to give just a couple of recent examples would give anything to just have to deal with the issues that some of our lot are so hot under the collar about.

One of the issues with expecting supporter opinions about the team or the manager or the chairman to be acted upon is that extreme reactions become just a normal occurrence and they lose the impact they should have, leaving just a general sense of unpleasantness around the place.  Take yesterday’s game against Charlton and the fact that the players were booed off at half time for example.  Now I recognise that it was a terrible half of football – truly awful – but the previous manager has already been sacked and the new guy is trying to find a way to get results from what he’s inherited.  What do you think that booing his team off is going to do, and how can that possibly have anything other than a detrimental effect on the manager and the players?  The gaffer makes some changes, we had a better second half, but still lost and at the end of the game there’s booing and chants that the players aren’t fit to wear the shirt.  Where is that leading to, and in what way could it possibly help?

The calls for Neilson’s head have now changed in some quarters to calls for McCiccie’s head (after 5 games?  lol) or calls for Winkelman’s head (be very careful what you wish for) and it’s all getting a little ridiculous.  Other clubs have dealt with and continue to deal with far more than this – we should really count our blessings at times.  So take a deep breath, count to ten and get behind the team, the manager and the chairman.

I often hear that because they pay their money, people have the right to express their dissatisfaction in any way they choose.  I’d argue that it really isn’t much of a response, doesn’t stand up to any scrutiny and it’s time it was challenged.  We all have the theoretical right to do many things, but generally we don’t do them because it’s either unpleasant, unwise or just wrong.   What you don’t have the right to do is express your dissatisfaction in any way you choose without being criticised for it – that’s how freedom of speech and expression works, and just in case of doubt, I criticise you for it.  Yes you!

If you think there are players out there who aren’t trying their best for the club, and that somehow your football experience allows you to see this, but that the manager and coaching staff somehow aren’t as clever as you and have therefore missed it, do you have any idea what that makes you?  To avoid any confusion, let me make it really clear – it makes you part of the problem, not part of the solution.  If you think you’re helping, then you’re wrong.  If you think you’re somehow acting in the best interests of the club or the supporters, then you’re wrong.  Just an opinion of course, but I’m entitled to that aren’t I? 😉  Take a deep breath and count to ten, then get behind the team, the manager and the chairman.

The need to ‘do something’ throws up some odd suggestions – I saw one yesterday that we should all now apparently support the team but not support anything that would go to any of Winkie’s other businesses.  It’s the sort of presumably well-meaning but poorly-thought out suggestion that comes up at every club in difficult times.  (The other businesses keep the club going by underwriting its losses, so you can’t harm that without harming the club if you’re a detail sort of person.) Take a deep breath and count to ten, then get behind the team, the manager and the chairman.

If you’re the sort to be doing the ‘I’m going and I’m not coming back’ sort of pouting, then (prepare yourself for this) please just do it quietly and let the rest of us get on with supporting the club.  Fans come and go at every club, and if coming to support this club isn’t for you anymore, then it’s a shame and all that, but we’ll cope without you.  If my experience is anything to go by, once you’ve had a break you’ll get a different perspective on it and you’ll be back and enjoying it again, but the more you build it up now the harder that will be.  Either way, either go quietly or take a deep breath and count to ten, then get behind the team, the manager and the chairman.

Responsibility of the Manager

  • Bringing the right players into the club
  • Coaching and training them to be better players
  • Bringing youth players through into the first team appropriately
  • Selecting the right team to perform on the pitch

Not the responsibility of the Manager

  • Pandering to the whims of the supporters, however angry and well-meaning they may be

It’s a difficult situation for any manager, particularly one staring relegation in the face, but I’d really like to see him show a bit of honesty right now.  Personally, I’d give anything to hear him say “the fans who get behind us, they’ve been fantastic, but those who boo and those who only seem to get on the players backs, I’d really appreciate it if they didn’t come back, at least for a while – we’re in a difficult enough situation without the players feeling pressure from their own supporters”.

Shankly said it best “If you can’t support us when we’re drawing or losing, then don’t bother supporting us when we’re winning”.

Responsibility of the Chairman

  • Bringing the right management team into the club
  • Providing the manager with appropriate funds to perform on the pitch
  • Misleading supporters about how good it might be this season to maximise season ticket sales 😉
  • Getting out of the manager’s way
  • Safeguarding the financial security of the club

Not the responsibility of the Chairman

  • Pandering to the whims of the supporters, no matter how angry they might be

Winkie has created something of a rod for his own back in recent years.  His openness, his optimism, his connection to the supporters and his willingness to accept he’s made mistakes are all things that we’ve rightly hailed as being real positives.  Right now those things are coming back to haunt him, and he’s going to have to accept that he can’t please all the people all of the time

His sacking of Robinson and Neilson following fan pressure has created an environment where there is an expectation that fan pressure will lead to him acting, and he needs to make it clear that isn’t going to always be the case.  His defence of fans rights to behave in whatever way they choose towards players, manager and himself has made it difficult for him to exercise control if that gets out of hand.  When Ince said that we didn’t need the sort of fans who booed him off against Oldham in our club, Winkie should have agreed with him, not sacked him.  He should still have sacked him of course, but not for that.

His suggestion that we should be vying for promotion this season has been called ‘lies’ by some elements of the fanbase.  It’s ok to upset some people Pete – it really is.  The majority would understand.

There ought to be a point in all of this, so let me see if I can make one.  I urge every one of you to get behind the team, get behind the manager and get behind the chairman.  If those around you aren’t of a mind to join in, then so be it, but don’t get caught up in all the negativity, however tempting it is to do so.  You can’t control anyone else (although it’s fun to try sometimes – people really hate it) but you can control you.

If we get relegated, as looks likely, then so be it.  It’s part of football, we’ve been there before and we’ll go there again.  It’s not pleasant, but in the wider scheme of things, it’s just a bend in the road.  Take a deep breath and count to ten, then get behind the team, the manager and the chairman.

Come on you Dons!


All I Want Is A Team Of Lewingtons

If you include the caretakers, we’ve had ten managers since the Dons moved to Milton Keynes in 2003.  With the possible exception of Winkie’s fashion sense, there has been just one consistent feature throughout all of those managers tenure, and that is Dean Lewington.  In an age where the idea of a one-club player is pretty much unheard of, Lewie has bucked the trend and shown a level of loyalty that we’ll probably never see again.

Now I understand that the manager has to be in charge of the team.  If he thinks that Lewie isn’t good enough to play in his team, then he has to be able to make that call and he deserves to be supported by staff and fans alike.  Whether that’s the right decision from a footballing perspective remains to be seen, and it’s for Winkie to decide whether the less than solid defensive performances that are being delivered are acceptable or not.

What’s come to light in recent days though is something different.  It’s bigger than the team and bigger than any single manager – it’s about the club itself and the lack of awareness of that from Neilson and the wider club at the moment is showing naivety in the extreme.   When Neilson has moved onwards and upwards/downwards, this club and its supporters will still be here, and how we as a club treat those who’ve given such service will live on and will define what we stand for as we move forwards.

To have ended up with our longest serving player, our club captain, and to be brutally honest, the man who embodies this club more than perhaps any other person, for Lewie to have ended up having to train with another club, without any form of explanation to the fanbase, is simply not acceptable.  No ifs or buts.  It’s not acceptable and it’s not how we do things here, or at least it hasn’t been up to now.

The silence in the face of such a significant relationship breakdown does not reflect well on the Manager, and the lack of explanation from the board looks very poor on them too.  This is not going to just go away – the vacuum is being filled with rumours and speculation, it’s dividing the support and increasing pressure on the players and manager at a time when they could really do with everyone’s full support.  Most of all though, this is just not an appropriate way to deal with someone who’s given so much to this club.

To have described the situation in the casual manner that Neilson did on 3CR on Saturday and to not have mentioned that Lewie wasn’t even able to train with us is frankly appalling, and has lost him the support of many who understand what Lewie means to this club.  If Neilson isn’t prepared to let the fans know what’s happening,  (and he had his chance on Saturday), then Winkie is going to have to step up and do so – so Winkie – please either explain what’s happened with Lewie, with Mike Dove and anything else that’s going on behind the scenes, and look to undo some of the damage that’s been caused, or hold your manager to account.


The Trip to Kingston

Just a couple of points from me in the run up to the trip to Kingston.

First of all, while I completely understand the many reasons why a lot of our usual away travellers will be giving this one a miss, I’d urge you to think again.  Not going to a match is a difficult choice to make, and I know it won’t have been made without a lot of thought, but I would ask you to consider it once more.

Recent announcements by those supposedly in positions of responsibility within that club, combined with the disgraceful way that Robbo was treated there recently give a clue to the level of hostility that we as fans are likely to be met with by members of their staff. If there’s anyone left in the football world who still believes the myth that they are some sort of family friendly club, and club that acts in a way that others should aspire to, well it’s safe to say that these events should have put paid to it once and for all.
In any organisation, you will find individuals who are bad eggs, and football is no different.  What shows the character of any organisation is how they respond to their own bad eggs, and the Kingston lot have repeatedly shown that they are fully supportive of, and even proud of, the people in their fold who act in ways that would be considered abhorrent in any normal civilised environment.  The fact that our fans and club representatives have to enter the ground under police protection to provide protection from their fans shows just how out of control they are as a club, and they should be ashamed of themselves.

We’ve seen enough to know that they will feel no shame though, as they have managed to reach a point where they believe that any behaviour towards us is acceptable.  Sorry Kingston, but that makes you nothing more than a bunch of thugs, and you’re everything that’s wrong with the game.

So why am I asking those of you who have chosen not to attend to reconsider?  Purely because I’d love to see as close to our usual away crowd attending as possible – our genuinely family friendly crowd, who’ve been there and seen it all, who aren’t likely to rise to any provocation from Kingston staff on the day.  I’d love there to be laughter, and piss-taking and pride in everything that we’ve done together over the years, and the less of you who attend, the less representative the crowd on the night will be.

So do me a favour – if you’re currently in the ‘no’ camp, then give it another thought.

My second point concerns those who are going.  

My guess is that we’ll face a pretty hostile reception from both fans and staff.  Fans we expect to be hostile, and we’re used to it.  Staff we don’t expect to be hostile (and shouldn’t have to) and we’re not used to it, so it could be odd to say the least.  I would encourage you to shrug off any attempts to provoke you into some form of response, laugh at them and get on with supporting the Dons.  I would suggest that if possible, you capture any attempts by their stewards or other staff to provoke a reaction on camera, but don’t rise to it.  This game means everything to them, and in the wider scheme of things, nothing to us.
It’s a nothing game, with a nothing club, who are desperate to turn it into something, because without us, they’re nothing. 

Don’t give them the satisfaction.

Come on you Dons.

It’s Armitage Shanks Memorial Clock Time Once Again

The Armitage Shanks Memorial Clock
It has been:

since anyone took a crap on the floor in the Boycott End

Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun?  It’s been a while since we had a visit from the Kingston lot, as you can see from the clock above.  It should be pointed out that the clock wasn’t reset after their last visit, as apparently the handful they bought with them for the JPT match were actually toilet-trained.  The cleaning firms of Milton Keynes are obviously hoping for a return to form this time, however the rest of us are hoping for a more civilised visit – we’ll keep you posted, and if needs be, we’ll reset the clock.

It can’t be easy for the Kingston lot when they have to play us.  Hidden somewhere in the depths of that club, I’m pretty certain that there are some principled people who will never have anything to do with us.  I presume that they are also the people who with good conscience asked supporters of other clubs to boycott games against us for many years.  Obviously over the years the number of people who paid any attention to boycott calls diminished dramatically – more away fans generally visit us than visit any other club in our division – but even now, long after the calls for a boycott stopped, a very small number of supporters of other clubs still won’t visit us.

What must it have been like for those principled people, both within Kingston and other clubs, when the Kingston lot first had a chance to show their support for all those who had boycotted in the past?  As the ticket sales increased for that first game, even offers to buy back tickets fell on deaf ears, and eventually they bought more than four times their usual away gate.  The hypocrisy still amazes me.

The next attempt to save some dignity was to ask all their fans not to spend any money while in the stadium.  I felt sorry for the handful of individuals standing by the massed queues at the food concessions, asking people not to spend money and being routinely ignored, as  receipts for programme and food sales for a crowd of that size testify.  That they crapped on the floor as well was presumably a disappointment, though that’s never been acknowledged.

The most hypocritical, ‘shoot yourself in the foot’ series of acts that I can imagine – I still can’t believe they came.

They’ve been here a couple of times since then, with dwindling away support each time, though that is apparently going to be back up to about 2,000 this time, which is around three times their average away support.  Again the papers are full of stories of boycotts, and food boycotts – it will be interesting to see how principled they are this time.  Thanks for the money anyway – it’s much appreciated.

So what do you do as a club, if you’re almost entirely defined by your issues with the bastard cousins 60 miles up the road, and your own fans let you down so badly?  I’d say that you concentrate on the football, and that’s what they’ve done – they deserve credit for what they’ve achieved on the pitch.  They’re now in the same division as us, and they’re currently sitting comfortably above us.  They also deserve credit for the ‘just another game’ approach that they’re taking officially in the media, which is in marked contrast to previous games.  The usual individuals are still looking to milk the media for all they’re worth, but it would appear that the club itself has learned from their dwindling public support and is sitting back for now.  Whether they keep it up will be interesting too.

I don’t prescribe to the ‘just another game’ viewpoint – to me it’s an important game from a footballing rivalry perspective, and I’d like to win it.  (Football rivalry it is though – having brought so many people the first time, any pretence that it is anything else has long gone.)  In terms of the match, current form suggests that we’re likely to get a bit of a kicking, but games like these can be hard to predict.  We’ve got a new boss, and we’re not quite as bad a side as our results suggest.

To Robbie, welcome on board, and a quick suggestion.  If you’re looking for a way to establish which of our squad has what it takes to take us forwards, then this is it.  If the players aren’t up for this, if they don’t get the importance of this, then there are no further questions to ask.  Get rid and play some of the kids who’ll fight for us.

To the fans, just turn up, thank them for their money, sing loud, laugh at their banners/planes/boycotts/toilet habits and win, lose or draw, be proud of all we’ve achieved.

Come on you Dons.


Thanks For Everything Robbo!

Though I was hoping that he’d be given more time to turn the current run of results around, it wasn’t to be, and as of this afternoon, Robbo has left the club.  There’ll be lots of opportunities to look forward, and talk about what happens next, but for now I just want to take a few minutes to look back on the past six years or so.

When Robbo took over as boss, he was not the fans favourite for the job.  There were strong expectations that Winkie would be looking for another high profile appointment to follow Allen, Ince, DiMatteo and Ince.  On the day that the negotiations were taking place, I was asked for my opinion by someone within the club who was trying to sound out what the fans reaction was likely to be if he was appointed.  My response at the time was “if you’re looking for a safe pair of hands, then he’d be great, but if you’re looking for the dynamic guy who is going to get us promoted, then he’s not your man”.  Six and a half years on, I’m comfortable that he turned out to be both.

It’s been an amazing journey – it really has.  There’s so many fans at so many clubs that would have given their right arm to have had half of the experiences that we’ve had over the past six years, and it’s worth picking out a few highlights.  We’ve had playoffs followed by playoffs followed by nearly playoffs then 10th then automatic promotion then relegation.  The season we finished 10th was the closest we’ve ever come to the mid-table obscurity that is the bread and butter of the majority of football clubs.

We’ve had cup exploits that will live for many years in the hearts of everyone who was lucky enough to witness them.  I’ve watched live football for more than 40 years, and I’ve never experienced excitement to match the Heel of God.  Everything to do with that game, from the way Robbo approached the press activity in the run up to the match, to the respectful way that he dealt with the victory afterwards, it all showed the class of the man.

Walking in to the Man Utd match and seeing the stadium full will live with me forever, but what will last longer was the way that Robbo approached the game.  No respect was shown to one of football’s greats – instead we went out and played OUR football, and god we were magnificent.  That 4-0 is still talked about wherever I go in the world and the conversation turns to football, because the whole of the footballing world say what we could do that night.

And that wasn’t a one-off.  The football that we’ve played at times has been sublime, and I feel genuinely privileged to have watched it.  That’s been made particularly special where it’s played by players who have come through our academy, playing the style of football that Robbo insisted on.  Dele Alli gets most of the headlines, but there are many more who’ve come through the ranks, and will continue to make their mark on the game in the years to come.

It’s the off-pitch stuff that matters most to me though, because that provides the foundation that as a club, we’re still building, and the work that Robinson has done there cannot be overestimated.  When we have fans forums, he’s there, fielding questions from disgruntled fans, and providing honest responses.  He does not have to do that, and most managers, at most clubs, would not do it.  There are stories everywhere around the club about times when he’s gone over and above to help people, to work with charities and when he’s generally been a damn good guy.  He’s immersed himself into the life of our community and he’s going to be sorely missed.

There are still other moments that will live for me for years – I’ve talked at length before about the MKDSA 10th anniversary do – see here if you need reminding, but there’s another moment that I look back on with great fondness.  It was at a fans forum, in the run up to the Kingston match.  I couldn’t be there in person, and I was listening at home on the radio, and there was a point where Robbo said “the players and I understand that, however important this game is to us, it’s not about us, it’s about the fans.  We know how important this game is for you”.  I was jumping round my kitchen shouting “he gets it – he actually fucking gets it!” and he genuinely did.  He got it and he got us.

If it sounds like I’m trying to deify him, then rest assured that he’s driven me crazy at times.  We started the ‘Different Class’ fanzine (copies still available if we can remember whose garage they’re slowly rotting in) precisely because we were pissed off with his repeated use of that phrase to describe things that we felt were somewhat less so.  And he read it and laughed along anyway.  We took the piss out of him regularly on the radio show, and we came so close to getting him into the studio so we could do it live  on more than one occasion.  He got it.  And he got us.

And that’s where it leaves a sour taste in my mouth in terms of how it’s all come to an abrupt and unpleasant end.  I don’t think there is a person alive who understands what it’s been like to be a supporter of this club over the past 12 years or so better than Karl Robinson.  And I don’t believe there’s a person alive who’s put more into bringing us together as fans, and bringing the club and fanbase together as one.

For the record, I’d say that those of you who so publicly turned on Robbo have a lot to answer for.  Whether he was still the right guy to lead us on is neither here nor there, and you are of course entitled to your opinion on that, as with anything else.  What you’re not entitled to is to have those opinions respected, and you’re certainly not entitled to have them accepted without challenge.

If you think that the man who’s given everything he could give to this club for so long deserved to leave with boos ringing in his ears, then I’d suggest that you’re just plain wrong.  I’m ashamed of us as a club and a fanbase for that, and I hope you feel some shame yourselves.  Sadly, I expect that your deluded sense of entitlement will allow you to justify your actions, but please be aware that there’s a lot of people judging you for it right now.  He deserved better.  You tossers.

We’re so spoilt as a fanbase, and I hope we don’t find out too soon just how spoilt we’ve been.  Things certainly weren’t going right on the pitch, but that is no excuse for the way that we’ve allowed it to come to an end.  I’d like to think that Karl could have turned it round, but we’ll never know.  For those of you who are so desperate for us to be accepted as a ‘proper’ club, congratulations – we’ve just taken another massive step towards being just like everyone else.

Come On You Dons!


Making Your Mind Up – What Do You Really Want?

What do you want from your football club?  Serious question, and one that we all need to be asking ourselves right now, because a selection of our fanbase are currently in danger of forcing Winkie into a decision that we would come to regret in years to come.

There’s been a minority of fans calling for Robbo’s head for a while, and with each home game that doesn’t bring a win, that minority appears to be growing.   I think Winkie can comfortably ignore it for now, but it it continues to grow, then he may be forced to act.

If you’re currently one of the booing contingent, or if you’re considering joining them in their campaign to have Robbo removed, I’d ask you to consider a few things.

I’m not going to ask you to consider whether our situation is really that bad – you know that we’re three points off a playoff spot and three points off of a relegation space, and you know that we’ve won three of our last five matches in all competitions.

I’m not going to ask you to consider whether a change in manager is likely to bring about a positive change – you already know that the majority of managerial changes bring nothing more than a temporary uplift, and that the money it would cost to remove Robbo and bring in a new boss would make a significant dent in the funds available for the playing squad.

I’m not even going to ask you to consider whether a new manager would be able to do anything at all right now – you know the transfer window doesn’t open for a couple of months, and that the option to bring in loans is no longer available.

I’m going to ask you to consider these:

  • MK Dons 4:0 Man Utd
  • MK Dons 2:1 The Kingston Lot
  • Dele Alli, Brendan Galloway and Sheyi Ojo
  • Promotion to the championship in 2014/15
  • The footballing ethos that he’s embedded at every level of the club
  • The loyalty that Robbo has shown to the club when other clubs have come in for him
  • Attendance at fans forums
  • Attendance at SA 10th Anniversary Party

Whatever you might think of the way we’re playing, our current league position, or our lack of wins at home since March, Robbo gets us.  He understands the club, he understands the fanbase and he loves it here.

The last one in the list is the most telling one for me – at the SA 10th anniversary party, Robbo, Winkie, Andrew Cullen, Lewie and a few others came along.  As you might expect, Winkie, Andrew Cullen, Lewie and the others stayed a respectful amount of time then made their excuses and left.  Robbo was different.  He bought his family, they stayed right to the end of the night, and at the end of the evening, he went round the room shaking hands with everyone and saying goodnight.  That’s bloody amazing.  That’s commitment.  That’s genuinely unique.  Whatever is happening right now, I genuinely do not believe that there is another manager in the country who would do that.

Whoever we would get in would not get us in the way that he does, and that means something to me.  I hope it means something to you, and that you get behind him and the team and see us through this difficult patch.


Brando’s Blog – End of Season Review – 2015/16

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?”.

The MooCamp Radio Show 3.07 - Listen Now!
It’s All Gone A Little Wrong This Season

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.

The MooCamp Radio Show 3.03 - The MK Dons Finest Hour
The MooCamp Earlier Today

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.

Armitage Shanks - The MooCamp Radio Show
That’s Our Season Down The Pan

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.

Season Highs

  • 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

Season Lows

  • 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.
Florian Sturm
The Annual Out of Context Sturminator Pic

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.



Brando’s Blog – Family Fun Day – Give us your Foobing Money – 18/03/2016

It’s Family Fun day tomorrow at Stadium Colon MK, and you have the opportunity to stand in the presence of greatness.  Our very own Bootsie and Radar – the two mad Dons fans who will be kayaking to the Fulham game to raise vital funds for Willen Hospice – will be there, in the flesh, looking remarkably sexy.

The Kayak Brothers
The Kayak Brothers

You can see more about the wonderfully stupid task they’re undertaking on their Facebook page, but more importantly, you can give them just a little of your cash too, either directly on their fundraising page or you can come have a go at the Tombola tomorrow.  There are over 100 Tombola prizes or you can buy a raffle ticket to win an amazing Easter cake made by Megan Knight.   Also all kids and adults are able to sit in the kayaks and see what the boys will be sitting in for 10/12 hours a day

Brando’s Blog – Win, Lose or Draw – Enjoy Every Minute – 31/01/2016

My beloved Dons fans, today is a glorious day.

The visit of Chelsea this afternoon means that our stadium will be full for a football match for the first time since that glorious night 16 months ago against Manchester United.  On that occasion, a plucky team who were hoping to push for promotion from League 1 showed the world that on our day, we were capable of taking on and beating one of the greatest club sides in the world.

Win, Lose or Draw - Enjoy Every MinuteWhen I look back on that night, it’s with feelings of immense pride.  Walking into the stadium and seeing it full, actually ‘feeling’ it full, was truly wonderful to experience.  It showed just how far we’ve come over the past 12 years and I feel great pride at everything that we’ve achieved together during that time.

What made me most proud on that night however, was the way that we played our football.  We didn’t sit back and defend, hoping to snatch a goal on the break.  We didn’t change our game in any way to counter the vast differences between the resources at the two clubs disposal.  Instead, we played our game and we played it our way.  We passed the ball as if we were playing another League 1 side, not Manchester United, and we kept doing that for 95 minutes.  That took great courage for the players to play that way, and genuinely immense courage for Robbo to send them out to do that.

Looking back on the changes to our squad since that game, we have to accept that you can’t lose players like Dele, Will and Benik without leaving massive gaps, and so far, we’ve struggled to fill those gaps.  This season we’re not a club hoping for promotion from league 1, we’re a club hoping to avoid relegation from the championship.  When you factor in just how tough this season has been, the task today begins to look impossible.  Looking at the vast differences between the resources at Chelsea’s disposal and ours, there should be no possibility that we could ever be a threat to them.

The Heel of GodThat could bring extreme pressure onto the team, but as fans, we need to do the opposite.  We need to take the pressure off of the players, and take the pressure off of Robbo.  They and he need to know that it is ok to go out and play our football, our way, win, lose or draw.  They need to know that whatever happens on that pitch, they will be cheered, clapped and encouraged along, every step of the way.

The eyes of the footballing world will be on us this afternoon, some hoping that we’ll be able to repeat the Man Utd result and cause a cup shock, and some because for whatever reason, they’ll be hoping to see us lose.  What’s undoubtedly true is that the former will massively outnumber the latter – we’ve won a lot of friends for the way we try to play and the players that we’ve brought through.

If you’re leading the singing today, keep it simple, keep it slow, and keep it going.  Give people the opportunity and the time to join in, and they will.  If you’re joining in, then stick your chest out with pride and sing louder than you’ve ever sung before.  If you find yourself wishing that you had the courage to sing, then be bold and sing anyway – make some noise and make sure that the people around you know that they won’t be on their own if they sing.

Games like this genuinely do not come around very often – make sure that whatever the score, win, lose or draw, you enjoy every minute.

Come on you Dons!


Brando’s Blog – For what we are about to receive – 02/05/2015

My beloved Dons fans,

When we talk of famous matches in our history, we talk of ‘that’ Tranmere match, securing promotion at Stockport and winning the league at Bradford. We talk of winning the JPT at Wembley, drawing at Wycombe with nine men, beating Leeds at home and we talk of the first Kingston match and the Heel of God.

That'll Be the Score Then!Those matches have etched a place into our collective memories, and Sunday 3rd May 2015 will be a day that will live long in the memories that we are building together.  Whatever happens at Stadium:MK and whatever happens in Colchester, we will talk of this match to each other, and to our friends and families for years to come.

If things go our way, then at the final whistle, we will have secured a place in the championship for next season.  If things go differently, then we will be moving in to the playoffs in incredible form, and we’ll have done it by playing some of the greatest football that we’ve ever played.

If you’d told me back in August that I’d be looking back on a season where we beat the Kingston lot again, but that it would be nothing more than an afterthought, I’d have doubted your sanity.  But that’s exactly what happened – this has been an incredible season.

The feeling of walking into our sold out stadium for the first time was remarkable.  Seeing us use that opportunity to destroy Manchester United, and seeing us doing that playing OUR game, in front of the watching world was beautiful.  Seeing the entire stadium celebrating each goal with us was sublime.

We’ve scored goals galore this season, and we’ve defended strongly, breaking records at both ends of the pitch.  The points tally we’ve accrued going into the last match would have been enough for us to have already gained automatic promotion in the majority of recent seasons.

What’s most significant for me this season isn’t the numbers, however impressive they may be – for me what’s most impressive is the way that we’ve done it.  I am genuinely honoured to have watched some of the football that we’ve played this season.  There have been many occasions where I’ve struggled to believe that we’re a third division side – it has been beautiful, and I’ll remember it forever.

From the moment we arrive at Stadium:MK tomorrow, we have a job to do as supporters.  We need to sing loud and proud from before kickoff right through to the final whistle, whatever happens in Colchester.  Wherever you sit in the stadium, make sure that anyone near you who wants to sing will not be singing alone – lead the way and make some noise.

If things go our way, then we’ll party till Tuesday morning :-).  If things don’t go our way, then que sera sera – we need to start our playoff campaign from the final whistle.  Let the team and Robbo know how great this season has been and let them know that we are behind them.

Whatever happens – let’s puff those chests out, be proud of everything we’ve created, and the history that we’re making.

Come on you Dons.