Tag Archives: championship

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.

COYD.

Brando.

Gets on Sunday – It’s The Hope That Kills You – 27/03/2016

Since our inception, Milton Keynes Dons chairman and owner, Pete ‘Winkie’ Winkleman, has had one mantra. Actually he has had many, but one always stood out head and shoulders, pun intended, above the others. ‘Planning for The Championship, dreaming of The Premiership’. And finally on a spring Sunday afternoon, eleven years after our controversial birth, we made it to the second tier of English league football for the first time.
It was a remarkable season by anyone’s standards. The football league’s top scorers with 101 goals. A comprehensive thrashing of Man United in the League Cup. The dramatic final day when we went on to pip Preston, courtesy of a goal from an ex-player from our hated, estranged cousins. We played expansive, attacking football, led by the mercurial talent that is Deli Alli. Ably supported by Will Grigg, and for half a season, Benik Afobe. As I walked out of the stadium that day, things were looking good.
Summer was around the corner, and when it came, so did the first major coup of our life in The Championship. We signed two players from Real Madrid. Real Fucking Madrid! And one of them was captain of Real Madrid. Okay, it may have been Real Madrid Castilla, their reserve team, but still! Pretty impressive. There were pictures almost as soon as it was announced, of the duo posing with head butting champion, Zidane. Once again, things were looking good.
The MooCamp Radio Show 2.19
“Dreaming of the barbers”

When the first one signed, I hoped that he would turn out to be more Lloyd Dyer than Florian Sturm. After witnessing them play in a League Cup match, most fans were baying for the return on the Sturminator. They were woeful. Truly dreadful. Still, it was early days, and things could only get better. Things were still looking good. Let’s not forget the wonderful opening match of our Championship campaign here.

Things started to look less than good, pretty quickly. Krobbo found it difficult to attract players that wanted to sign for us. We missed out on Grigg, who actually did want to sign, due to the price, and wage demands, being deemed excessive. He signed for newly regulated Wigan instead. So we took on Simon Church, and Sam Gallacher as our strike force. They were both pish. The Maynard debacle, where he dithered over signing due to ‘Not being able to feed his family’ on the money we were offering, should have been a massive warning shot right there. We suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands and feet of Southampton in the aforementioned League Cup. And well, you know the rest.
When we were promoted, I for one didn’t expect us to be pulling up trees, once again pun intended. I thought we might settle somewhere in the lower mid-table region. I was wrong. The most disappointing aspect of this season  so far for me isn’t the battering Burnley gave us that Tuesday night. Or Baker’s fantastic injury time penalty against Brighton. No, it’s the revelation that the board and management team are ‘surprised’ at the spending power, and strength, of teams in The Championship. Andrew’ Call Me Andy’ Cullen has admitted that they’re finding life in this league ‘difficult’.
Your Franchise Needs You
Your Franchise Needs You

I’ve followed this club since 2005, and since then Pete Peter ‘Winkie’ Winkleman has constantly told me, yes me personally, that the club simply must be in The Championship. Quite simply must! It therefore seems a tad remiss of him to somehow, after banging on about it for the last eleven years, to fail in his research where The Championship is concerned.

I’ve always been of the opinion that the club should spend more on the playing staff than on the infrastructure. I know that view isn’t exactly popular on certain fan message boards. The general consensus being that Pete has to be prudent, with a whole raft of Bolton and Wigan themed warnings put forward in defence of the tight-arsed argument.
I’m not asking for the club to go Tonto, and bet the farm on signing Agbonlahor or better still Benteke, but surely a blind man could have foreseen that going up a league with a significantly weaker squad might be problematic. But apparently not.
We have a truly wonderful stadium. State of the art. You’ve only got to have followed the club for a couple of seasons to know the standard of the average football stadium in the lower leagues in this country. But seriously! Ask the person sat behind you at the next game if the Nandos, or the Primark store around the stadium enhance their football experience, or would some better players do the job instead!