Milton Keynes Dons, the team that was formed off the back of Wimbledon’s league place in possibly the ugliest formation of a football club in British footballing history. Rightly or wrongly though, they’re here now and after years of League One football they continue to clearly disappoint owner Pete Winkelman as his promise of Premier League football looks a long way away.
I should admit before I go into detail that I’m against MK Dons and their formation, it was wrong and should never be allowed to happen again, but I’m not here to bash their formation and how it came about. I’m merely stating how their supposed potential really hasn’t been realised and the controversial move hasn’t exactly produced the exciting results that Pete Winkelman was so desperate to prove.
When Wimbledon’s football club was moved to Milton Keyes and changed their name, badge, colours etc, the man behind it, Pete Winkelman, foresaw a promising future with a, and I quote, ‘frenzy’ being born in Milton Keynes, Premier League football and huge amounts of fans attending Stadium MK on a regular basis. Sounded interesting on the surface and perhaps unrealistically adventurous but neutrals like myself were, perhaps with gritted teeth, keen to see if a buzz was created and if his project would flourish. Well, put simply, it hasn’t.
Milton Keynes are now the definition of promotion flops in League One, failing to reach the Championship on numerous occasions, nowhere near attracting the sort of crowds Winkelman predicted and, on the whole, haven’t used Wimbledon’s league place wisely. We shouldn’t forget that Wimbledon’s Dons are now in League Two, just one league behind MK, and that’s after starting from scratch and working their way up from the bottom of the English football pyramid. We all know the remarkable story but people rarely compare their fortunes alongside MK Dons’. Fact is, AFC Wimbledon have been far more successful and have certainly developed a ‘frenzy’ Pete Winkelman so evidently craves. Perhaps you simply can’t buy or create passion and expect large numbers of fans to get behind it, home and away, on a regular basis?
Milton Keynes Dons’ last home match against Crawley Town saw a mediocre crowd of 8,877 fill out the rather soulless, echoing dome that is Stadium MK. This is a stadium that has a capacity of 30,500. Fact is, football matches aren’t going to fill it because the people of Milton Keynes simply haven’t fallen in love with the team that represents where they’re from. Concerts, rugby matches and other events will sell it out though as that interests the wider masses; something Winkelman will certainly welcome but nowhere near as much as a large, sellout football crowd.
Attend Stadium MK now and the home fans will hardly sing, show anywhere near as much enthusiasm or love for their club as the majority of other fans do and you’ll see an MK Dons side that continue to disappoint and constantly look set for League One mediocrity season after season. It’s no different this campaign, with MK sitting in eight place, well off the place-offs. There’s nothing for MK Dons fans to sing about, apart from the odd chant at opposition supporters who tend to sing a lot louder than the home crowd do.
Obviously League One football doesn’t attract massive crowds like Premier League football would, but the club aren’t meant to be in League One. They’re failing to progress and grow and with it, enthusiasm for the club simply isn’t there. Winkelman went to all the trouble of moving a London club to Buckinghamshire and rebranding it for the people of Milton Keynes, but the people of Milton Keynes simply aren’t warming to the club.
Most MK Dons fans will tell you about their wonderful youth system, their potential should they get into the Premier League and the fact they’re building something for the future, with young kids attending more games than any other age group (partly down to free tickets), but what they fail to acknowledge is the fact that without a sustainable model and progress on the pitch, nothing truly remarkable will be achieved there. Crowds need to improve, the team need to start performing better and general interest around the club needs to increase for any real ‘frenzy’ to be acknowledged. Until that happens, MK Dons are just that club that have attempted to build something special off the back of Wimbledon’s league place, but have failed horrifically.
By Vincent Jada – Port Vale fan