THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Friday 8 May ~

Do MK Dons deserve respect? Some people think so and their numbers appear to be growing. John Still, the manager of Dagenham & Redbridge, was interviewed by Sky prior to last Saturday's final round of matches in League Two. If his side went up through the play-offs, Still said, they could potentially face five trips to big clubs next season. He then ticked off the names – the three sides relegated from the Championship, plus Leeds and MK Dons. In the event, Still was to be denied his wish as Dagenham lost their vital final game to Shrewsbury. It could be that being the manager of Dagenham & Redbridge, an entity assembled from the parts of four clubs, may give you an odd perspective on what constitutes a proper football team. But Still's outlook is far from unusual, as we may get to see over the next couple of weeks.

Scunthorpe will acquire temporary fans around the country tonight when they take on MK Dons in the first leg of their League One play-off, just as Shrewsbury did when they played the team widely known as "Franchise" at the same stage, but one level further down, two years ago. Shrewsbury's manager at the time, Gary Peters, had played for Wimbledon in the 1980s and spoke out against the club's relocation to Milton Keynes in the build-up to the match. This was a rare case of a football insider expressing their opposition to the Dons' existence. When Peters' team went on to win the tie, some optimists may have wondered if it would be the beginning of a slide into obscurity for Milton Keynes – surely the local interest in the club, whipped up by an expensive PR campaign, wouldn't be sustained over a long spell at the fourth level? Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to find out as Paul Ince's side easily won promotion last year.

It may still be the case that the club will go into decline if they get stuck at the third level but right now they are only three games away from the Championship. At least one influential football writer would love to see them step up and he invokes the dreaded "political correctness" in explaining why their critics are wrong. Patrick Barclay of the Times is a former resident of Milton Keynes, which is now apparently "a proper football town", their club contrasted with Wimbledon who "could never pull a crowd". It will be interesting to see how Sky's commentary team describe the club during their play-off coverage but I'm prepared to bet that we will hear a lot more about this notion that MK Dons are now a club in their own right who are gaining acceptance within football. This is a virus that urgently needs to be contained. Come on Scunthorpe, or Millwall, or Leeds. 

Comments (4)
Comment by pebblethefish 2009-05-08 13:24:21

Surely Scunthorpe are one of the best supported sides in the country at the moment? I'd support pretty much anyone if the alternatives were Leeds, Millwall and the team that don't exist.

Comment by historyman 2009-05-08 22:55:24

Can somebody please explain to me what the difference is between MK Dons and the franchise club known as Arsenal FC?

When Sir Henry Norris forcebly relocated Woolwich Arsenal north of the river to Islington in 1913, it was seen by many fans at the time as a 'franchising' of the local football team. Perhaps if the Woolwich Arsenal fans had been organised enough to form an 'AFC Arsenal' side, we'd now be treating Arsenal as 'the team that doesn't exist.'

Does it not matter 96 years later? Will MK Dons fans 50 years from now still be punished for the sins of their fathers?

Comment by Jonny_Bananas 2009-05-09 19:23:17

About two years ago I was introduced to my prospective cousin-in-law and his son of about 7 with the greeting "We are MK Dons fans." My initial response (at least a subliminal raised eyebrow) probably gave away my feelings on the franchise situation but I have got to know them fairly well over time. The son attends the club's junior training scheme, gets tickets to games for him and his father and when my team, Crewe, played there recently I managed to go along (without contributing to the MK coffers I might add!)

Firstly, the stadium is nice and comfortable (mini-Emirates apparently) with the prospect of growth depending upon progress yet with the absence of any soul, but no different to those at Bolton or Reading. The supporters are very vocal and are seemingly keen on football (even if, when chatting, it is rather like talking to a neo-Arsenal fan, unaware of life before Wenger) and talking up there prospects of a Premier League place in the not too distant future. The team however, whilst finishing third this season, looked a long way short of being able to compete in The Championship, managing to throw way a two goal lead against the bottom tier bound Alex, two points dropped that would have ultimatley taken them above Peterborough in the final reckoning.

Whilst I respect the opinion of anyone to support the team of their choice, the whole MK Dons project is, like so many things in the city and in the 21st century, built upon over the top marketing and advertising. I keep hearing how Milton Keynes was 'crying out' for a football team and how there was a real support just waiting. I am far too polite to ask why none of these supporters went to see Milton Keynes further down the pyramid but I doubt many of them would have even been aware of the existance of football in Buckinghamshire prior the fanchise.

Several years ago there had been talk of Luton moving to a new ground in Milton Keynes to draw on the potential within the city but now, with the Hatters and also Northampton slipping down this season, floating support from surrounding areas is going to slowly migrate towards MK anyway. All football fans who had a love for what Wimbledon achieved should hate MK Dons for what they are but, to hate MK Dons is to hate football in the 21st Century. The chances of any club 'doing a Wimbledon' without severe financial backing is now an impossibility. To mourn the passing of Wimbledon is to mourn the sale of football's heart to the marketing forces that now run our sport.

Comment by madmickyf 2009-10-11 07:36:13

There'll be no tears shed in Northampton or Luton if this team ever goes belly up. How they can still call themselves the 'Dons' after dumping Wimbledon for MK still puzzles me. Why don't they adopt a new nickname, how about the 'plastics' or the 'concrete cows'? Everyone knows that AFC Wimbledon are the true 'Dons'.

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