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.
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’.
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!