Tag Archives: Relegation

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.

Match Report – Dons 1:4 Brentford – 23/04/2016

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’re relegated.

cropped-MooCamp-plastic-fan.pngWe 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.

Bootsie, Radar and friend.
Bootsie, Radar and friend.

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.

COYD.

Brando.

 

Match Report – Wednesday 0:0 Dons – 19/04/2016

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.

Leppings Lane
Leppings Lane

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.

Wednesday on a Tuesday
Wednesday on a Tuesday

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.

COYD

Brando.