Written by Connor Lawson
MK Dons have had a turbulent season. They started off with high hopes of a promotion winning campaign under Scot Robbie Neilson, and they now find themselves in the League One relegation zone, six points from safety.
To find the real root to this problem, you have to take a trip back to 3rd May 2015, when MK Dons were still in League One, but had just been promoted against Yeovil into the Championship for the first time.
An important summer followed, and Karl Robinson, the manager at the time, set about the recruitment process, except their wasn’t really anyone to help him as a result of the tragic death of chief scout Andy King, and his replacement being the chairman’s son, like when the manager’s son was captain of your Sunday league team.
Winkelman simply did not pump enough money into the club, and it isn’t like it was hard to come by, considering the £5m sale of Dele Alli, the prize for promotion, and the Rugby World Cup in Milton Keynes in that same year.
A disappointing season followed and, by April 2016, MK Dons had been relegated back to League One. The focus was on rebuilding, as well as mounting yet another promotion push for the following season.
This wasn’t going according to plan at all and, by October, Karl Robinson was sacked with the club 19th in League One after a 3-0 defeat at home to Southend.
Robbie Neilson replaced him in December and managed to finish the season with his new side in 12th, with fans optimistic for the season ahead.
So, the 17/18 season arrives with high hopes for MK Dons fans, but it was simply a downward spiral and, in January 2018, Neilson lost his job and was replaced by Dan Micciche, which brings us to now.
The Micciche era is still young, but it is crying out for something other than failure, as Micciche has lost all of the five games he has been at the helm for, including a 1-0 loss away to relegation rivals Oldham.
The irony of the situation was optimised on Saturday 17th February, when former manager Karl Robinson returned to Stadium:MK with League One play-off contenders Charlton, and won 2-1, leaving his old club in 22nd and in a considerably worse situation than when he left in 2016.
So, where do MK Dons fans point fingers? Is it at Micciche? Is it at the players? The answer to that is both parties mentioned there have to take some blame, but the blame mostly lies with one man; Pete Winkelman.
The man who has been there from the start has always talked about his ‘vision’ for the club going forward. The so-called ‘vision’ involves a successful Championship side, with big home attendances and welcoming big clubs to SMK.
Let’s take a look at the reality. A mid-table League Two side, with home attendances of 5,000 and welcoming clubs like Forest Green Rovers to SMK.
Relegation is looking like a genuine possibility to most MK Dons fans, in fact more of a probability. The fact is, Winkelman has to take the blame for the awful situation the club finds itself in.
Now, before I decide to criticise Winkelman, let me just address some of the positives that I am sure I will be bombarded with should I fail to address them.
Winkelman is definitely an MK Dons fan, with the interests of the town at heart, without a shadow of doubt. It is rare that you will find a chairman travelling on the same train as away fans to a game, and interacting with them, so he deserves credit for that.
He also deserves credit for all that he has done. He has built an undeniably fantastic stadium, and a fantastic MK1 complex. With restaurants, big name retailers, a huge supermarket, a 4D cinema and an arena attached to the ground. It has huge, huge potential without doubt.
However, and this is where the negativity starts, that potential will be completely wasted on a side competing in the lowest level of the Football League.
Winkelman has been consistently unable to pump enough funds to build a successful club. That isn’t really a criticism of him, as I am not suggesting for one second that he is extremely wealthy and should throw all his cash at the club.
What he needs is extra investment from somewhere. He needs someone with big money to help build the club into a successful one. It is so common to see investors with large amounts of money throw some of it at a club from the lower leagues, so why can’t Winkelman take this approach?
It is clear he doesn’t have enough money to fund his ‘vision’ no matter how much he talks about it. That was all too clear with the appointment of Micciche. He is inexperienced, and unable to take the club out of this position. By all means, if he makes me eat my words then fair enough, but I’ll be glad to if it means I don’t have to visit Grimsby next season.
In short, Micciche was the cheap option for Winkelman, who should’ve looked for an experienced manager who knows what he is doing to try and get the club out from between a rock and a hard place.
Winkelman simply has to realise how financially damaging League Two will be. There will be less season ticket holders; there will be less away supporters; there will be less TV rights and there will be less people to use to MK1 facilities.
Not only that, but who on earth is going to want to come to a club that is going backwards? Perhaps a good recruitment team would swing it, oh wait, MK Dons don’t have one of those either.
It really is a dire situation for the club, but I don’t have any sympathy for Micciche, or the players, or Winkelman. I have sympathy for the fans.
Specifically those fans who travel all over the country watching the side play this season. The ones who went as far south as Plymouth and who will go as far north as Fleetwood this weekend. They deserve so much better than a team who don’t care, and ultimately deserve better than League Two next season.
So, this is the message to Pete Winkelman and Dan Micciche. Sort it out. MK Dons are not a League Two side, and relegation would be embarrassment of the highest order. To the players, over the next couple of months, the fans need maximum effort at all times, because although you might not be there in League Two, the fans will be, so don’t let us down.