There is undoubtedly a sense of excitement around Milton Keynes. The Rugby World Cup comes to the city in October and more importantly Karl Robinson’s side begin their first season in the Championship.
However it’s not all good news for Dons’ fans here is some bad news for Dons’ as they must remember they have lost the services of both Will Grigg and academy graduate Dele Alli. The former who scored 20 league goals last season (along with that audacious chested finish against Manchester United) completed his move to Wigan Athletic for a fee believed to be £1 million. A fee Dons’ simply couldn’t compete with. Alli meanwhile joins up with Tottenham Hotspur after being loaned back to MK Dons in January for the rest of the 2014-2015 campaign. The young midfielder has impressed in pre season and looks set to be involved in Maurcio Pochettino’s first team plans.
Manager Karl Robinson is clearly operating on a shoestring budget and he has made no secrets about how much he has to spend compared to other Championship sides and has a real job on his hands after losing two of his best players. So with his business cap on the 34-year-old has had to be clever with his acquisitions.
First through the door is Welsh striker Simon Church. He’s spent his career in the Football League and has had five different loan moves and will be looking to find a home in Milton Keynes. Although not a prolific goal scorer he brings Championship experience – this surely will be vital to help Dons’ avoid relegation. To go alongside such experience, MK Dons have also secured the services of highly rated Southampton youngster Sam Gallagher, who joins MK Dons on a season long loan giving Robinson adequate back up options. If there is one trait you can associate with Robinson, it is his trust in young players and his ability to help them develop.
Along with Alli, the manager has also given first team debuts to George Williams now of Fulham and Brendan Galloway who now plays for Everton as well as defender Harry Hickford and midfielder Giorgio Rasulo who both remain at Stadium MK. The production line of talent doesn’t end there. 19-year-old striker Kabongo Tshimanga scored 42 goals in 25 games for Mike Dove’s u18s and has been with the first team for pre season, whilst Ben Tilney, Dom Palmiero and Scottish youth international Connor Furlong have all featured for Robinson in friendlies.
Two of the more interesting signings at MK Dons come from Real Madrid, yes you read that correctly two signings from Real Madrid – two teams of which you would never expect to see in the same line unless it be a pre-season friendly. First up is Peru international Cristian Benavente who had been playing under Zinedine Zidane with the Real Madrid Castilla squad. He’s been given the tag of the “Peruvian Ronaldinho” – no pressure then Cris! Benavente has eight caps for Peru and is an attacking midfielder. This transfer in particular has been seen as a massive coup for Robinson as according to reports the 21-year-old was linked with Premier League clubs in the shape of West Brom and Liverpool. The second signing from Madrid is Sergio Aguza, this time a Spanish midfielder who has also featured 46 times for Zidane’s Castilla side and in the process has scored seven goals. He also appeared on the bench twice for Carlo Ancelotti’s first-team last campaign.
Neither had the talent to secure a first team spot for the La Liga giants but that’s noting to be ashamed of. It goes without saying the possession based, fast tempo football that MK Dons adopt reflects the philosophy that Zidane implemented for the Castilla, so expect to see both Aguza and Benavente shining for Robinson.
The flair has well and truly been added to the MK Dons cauldron and now they’ve added a former World Cup goal scorer and England international into the mix. Matthew Upson is approaching the end of his career and at 36 is even older than the manager! Upson suffered an injury-hit spell at Leicester and struggled to break into the first team but you simply can’t forget that despite his problems last season, Upson has over 450 professional games of football under his belt with the majority of them appearances coming in the Premier League. A calm figure in the heart of the defence Upson will surely be a vital part of the Dons’ side.
That leaves two young wingers firstly once of Bayern Munich, Dale Jennings made his move to MK Dons permanent after spending part of last season on loan with the club. Another returning face is Rob Hall who extends his loan deal at Stadium MK until the end of the 2015-2016 season.
Whilst Robinson has lost his two key figures from last season he’s replaced them with a mixture of youth and experience, as we all know the Championship is a tough division the Dons’ will need to grit their teeth and be up to the task. Can they stay up? Only time will tell but there is one guarantee I can give you, they will give 100% in every single game they play in and will be attractive to watch.
Article written by: @callumread