MK Dons could face a steep learning curve before Robbie Neilson's ideas begin to bear fruit

Mike Holden by Mike Holden / 18 July 2017, 14:02

Mike Holden (@Ratings_Mike) previews Robbie Neilson and MK Dons ahead of the upcoming 2017/18 League One season.


The arrival of Robbie Neilson last December ushered in a sea change as MK Dons veered away from six years of philosophy-based football under Karl Robinson towards a more pragmatic outlook, treating each game on its own merits. The January window came and went with little movement but judgement day at the beginning of May brought a cull of big names. Results had improved as the Dons jumped from 1.05 points per game to 1.54 but Neilson evidently expects greater buy-in from fresher, hungrier faces.


Neilson is an introvert who likes to keep his cards close to his chest. He is known in the Scottish media for being uncomfortable with lengthy interviews where reporters might dig too far beneath the surface. From that, we can easily deduce that he’s an ideas man rather than a people person and chairman Pete Winkleman talks in reverential tones about his intuitive mind. Neilson, he says, is a man with a very clear vision, instantly aware of the possibilities whenever an option is presented to him.


"This place (stadium:mk) was built for the biggest leagues in England, so it’s important we get there. Our job is to build a team that can get us there and keep us there. Right now, we need a bit more balance. We need variety in our squad to play in different ways. It’s important we take our time and get the right people here. One of the biggest mistakes you can make in football is bringing in the wrong players."


There was no shortage of promise in Neilson’s first five months at the helm but five stalwarts of the club have departed over the summer and you don’t just ditch a thousand club appearances overnight and expect the new arrivals - nearly all untested at the level - to pick up where the old guard left off. There’s a purpose about Neilson that suggests he knows what he’s doing but logic says the Dons face a steep learning curve before his ideas begin to bear fruit.

Prediction: mid-table

Robbie Neilson


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