This season, the one after relegation again right down to League Two in Could, began with such promise for MK Dons.
The vastly skilled Graham Alexander, appointed in late Could, mentioned he would work “each single minute to offer the MK Dons supporters a group that had been profitable” and, initially, he stayed true to his phrase; 4 wins from the primary 5 earned him the Sky Guess League Two Supervisor of the Month award.
Then the rhythm dropped, and drastically so: WWLWW grew to become LDLDLDL – and from first-place they dropped to sixteenth.
“We now have unbelievable methods of capturing ourselves within the foot,” exclaimed Alexander after a 2-2 draw at house to Barrow on October 14, the place they shipped two targets in second-half stoppage time.
“It is nothing to do with luck – ‘I hope our luck adjustments, I hope somebody sprinkles some magic mud over us’ – we have got to cease believing in fairy tales,” he added. Two days later, after simply 16 video games in all competitions, he was gone.
Inside 24 hours, Mike Williamson had arrived at Stadium MK. The previous Newcastle defender had spent nearly four-and-a-half years at Gateshead, guiding them to the Nationwide League North title in 2021/22 and the FA Trophy remaining the next 12 months.
On the Gateshead Worldwide Stadium, he had constructed a repute for his enticing, possession-based model of play, which garnered reward from Toon boss Eddie Howe after a pre-season pleasant final summer time.
It was clear from that very first interview in Milton Keynes that profitable was excessive on his listing of priorities, as was kickstarting an “evolution”.
That appears to be taking form already. Eight wins from his first 12 video games have propelled MK Dons into the play-off locations – even so, he isn’t taking the credit score.
“It is a reflection on the boys and nothing greater than that,” he says, chatting with Sky Sports activities after being named Sky Guess League Two Supervisor of the Month for December, when he oversaw 4 wins from 4.
“They’re an ideal group to work with. They’re actually receptive, need to be taught and develop and the outcomes are a pure reflection of their performances.
“We’re very process-driven and we need to continue learning and creating. We imagine the outcomes will come off the again of that, in addition to a greater understanding and interpretation of what we try to realize.”
The distinction in model – and thus fortunes – between Williamson and his predecessor is made clear by a better have a look at the numbers.
Below the brand new boss, they’ve conceded 34 fewer pictures from contained in the field, accomplished nearly 2,000 extra passes and are actually averaging 60 per cent possession, versus 48 per cent beforehand.
They’ve additionally saved twice as many clear sheets and are averaging nearly one level extra per recreation. All of that having performed one recreation fewer.
“I do not suppose it is largely right down to my strategies as a result of you possibly can see durations of the best way we need to play and management video games, however we’re nonetheless fairly distant and I feel the lads know that,” Williamson continues.
“They convey chemistry, they’re an unbelievably match group, a bodily sturdy group and we have got many good footballers within the constructing. We’re attempting to do all the pieces we will by maintaining requirements excessive to enhance the focus and understanding.
“We have all obtained to be on the identical web page as a result of the best way we play takes a number of focus, consideration and depth, nevertheless it’s mentally fatiguing. Everybody’s searching for the utopian Man Metropolis, Liverpool, Brighton model of play and it is simpler mentioned than finished.
“The evolution is that the understanding retains getting cleaner and you’ll see the result of what we’re attempting to do and never essentially simply the factors tally or the reflection of the outcomes.
“You’ll be able to truly see the will to play a sure approach and we expect the outcomes and performances will enhance off the again of that.”
That feeds into his general, people-centric philosophy, too.
“We need to play a sure approach and that takes buy-in from everybody. Across the coaching floor and in my workplace, there is no actual hierarchy, there is no egos.
“If somebody’s obtained one thing to say all through the membership and we expect it’ll add worth, I am open to listening.
“I am very a lot about creating the particular person and if the particular person is available in and enjoys his time right here, the participant will enhance as a by-product of that. I like the psychology of soccer and people and our behaviour and all of it begins with the particular person.”
MK Dons’ stand up the division has occurred so rapidly that it seems to have gone below the radar considerably. Not that Williamson is concerned.
“No – I do not know the place the radar is and I am not too within the radar,” he says with a smile.
“We have got three video games at house in per week arising; three very, very massive exams and troublesome challenges for us. I do know it feels like a cliche, however I realized throughout my time at Gateshead that it is greater than a cliche.
“You have to preserve your deal with the following recreation, so in the event you begin wanting on the kind desk and ifs and buts, you’re taking your focus off what’s proper in entrance of you.”
Evidently, ideas of the play-offs and promotion are removed from his thoughts.
“It is in all probability not what individuals need to hear, however I am not within the final recreation of the season – that can maintain itself.
“You come right into a soccer membership and convey completely different strategies and also you’re judged on the result of it. That’s the place we’re measured, however our focus is on the method . I additionally know followers aren’t going to simply accept dropping week in, week out after I’m speaking about bettering the method. It is truly obtained to replicate within the outcomes.
“I’ve obtained to some extent the place I’ve began to essentially perceive that each problem is a chance and that stress is a privilege. Once we lose a recreation, it isn’t all doom and gloom, it is a possibility to enhance and I attempt to get the lads to grasp that.
“We need to win – as human beings, we need to be the perfect – and for us it’s about how we go about that and the factors tally will maintain itself. The league desk won’t ever lie on the finish of it, so we’ll simply get our heads down and deal with what we will management.”
MK Dons’ subsequent 5 Sky Guess League Two matches
- Morecambe (h) – January 20, 3pm
- AFC Wimbledon (h) – January 23, 7.45pm
- Gillingham (h) – January 27, 3pm
- Barrow (a) – February 3, 3pm
- Accrington (h) – February 10, 3pm
That mentioned, the long-term goal is evident. MK Dons have been within the Championship this time eight years in the past and reached the League One play-off semi-finals in 2021/22 – they’re itching to get again.
“If you happen to communicate to the chairman and administrators right here, they see this as a sustainable Championship membership,” says Williamson.
“I am not going to cover away from expectation or the place we see ourselves, however my job proper now could be to arrange the perfect I can for Morecambe at house on Saturday.
“The stadium is implausible, the workers are unbelievable and genuinely good persons are working behind the scenes and on the pitch. All goals are to realize that, however we will solely obtain that if we focus our consideration on Saturday.”
MK Dons have seemed for stability within the dugout ever since Karl Robinson left the membership in October 2016, with seven everlasting managers or head coaches having been and gone ever since.
In Mike Williamson, they may simply have discovered the proper tonic.