The Championship is not an easy division and many enormous clubs have come down into the second division and were widely assumed to go straight back into the Premier League. This is also the case for the newly promoted sides, who are always expected to find themselves in a relegation battle and fighting to remain in the second tier. In more recent years however, we have seen many a side come flying into the Championship from League One with a head of steam and continuing their form from last season and see themselves in a promotion battle when many were writing them off for reasons such as a lack of funds or quality on the pitch.
The example that springs to mind for many would be Bournemouth who in just their second season in the Championship won the title and are now playing their first season in the Premier League. Brentford also enjoyed a very successful first season back in the second tier and reached the playoffs and will hope to go one better this year. This is the sort of model that every team that comes up hope to follow – Bournemouth and Brentford play slick, attacking football, looking to play through teams and it is a system that is proving to be effective at this level.
In Karl Robinson, Dons have one of the youngest managers going – second only to Alex Neil in fact. However, despite his tender years in management terms; Robinson is the longest serving manager in the Championship by almost two years and this provides a good base of operations for MK Dons. The former Liverpool academy coach is in similar territory to the likes of Eddie Howe and Alex Neil in that he also saw his playing days come to an end for one reason or another somewhat prematurely and very quickly made his way into the coaching and management scene. Robinson is the youngest person to ever acquire a UEFA Pro License at just 29 – the same age that he took the reins from Paul Ince at stadium:mk.
MK Dons also have an exciting squad at their disposal which contains the likes of talismanic captain Dean Lewington, David Martin, Ben Reeves, Dean Bowditch, Carl Baker, and Jordan Spence among others. The Dons have also used the transfer market quite well over the summer break adding the talents of Dale Jennings, Joe Walsh, and Real Madrid Castilla captain Sergio Aguza as well as internationals in the form of Simon Church, Cristian Benavente, and the heavily experienced Matthew Upson. The ability of this team was in little doubt at the start of last season as they put Manchester United to the sword in a thumping 4-0 victory in August 2014. Karl Robinson’s men went on to comprehensively beat a number of other teams on their way to 101 league goals in 2014/15 campaign and have wasted no time showing their goal-scoring abilities this term as they put 4 past Rotherham on the opening day.
Many would expect MK Dons to finish in the relegation zone this season as they would struggle to come to terms with the standard in the Championship – but Karl Robinson has stated that they see this as a motivation to go out and prove the doubters wrong. Following their opening day win over Rotherham; Robinson said “The fact we’re the team that are tipped to go down and finish 24th in the league is tremendous motivation for us, we know where we’re at financially. We don’t need anyone else to tell us that we’re at the bottom, but we are, and we just push that to one side and do our business, we are where we are today because of our work ethic and our togetherness.” This is exactly the sort of togetherness that is required for a promoted side and the Championship isn’t necessarily a league where you need to spend millions to be successful, as has been shown by the likes of Bournemouth and Reading in the past.
It will be a tough campaign for MK Dons as they make their first appearance in the Championship, but should they keep their heads and closely follow the examples of other young managers with teams lacking in experience when it comes to the higher reaches of the game – they might surprise a few people this season as they are a side that can score plenty of goals and cut teams open for fun. The Championship has a reputation for being a league in which anyone can beat anyone on any given day and it will be interesting to see how MK Dons fair in their first campaign in the second tier.
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