Last season we played them away and won despite the obligatory Cattermole red card. This season we’ve drawn them at home. Sunderland owe it to the fans to make a decent stab at the Capital One cup for a change. Can we notch our first win of the season, a good confidence booster before the trip to Palace, of will we fail yet again? John Brockwell, who chairs the MK Dons Supporters’ Association shares his thoughts with us, covering the old Wimbledon/Milton Keynes controversy, Karl Robinson’s progress as the league’s youngest manager and MK Dons’ prospects for the coming season …
Salut! Sunderland: One win and two away draws, as I write (and now a third draw, so still unbeaten – ed), plus the Capital One cup victory at Northampton to set up our tie. Do you sense it’s going to be a good season?
At least we’ve survived the first four games without getting a player red carded in each as we did last season! There’s always optimism around the start of the season since Martin Allen changed the club from being relegation fodder to a winning mentality.
This season I sense that our support has got a lower expectation than in previous seasons. Maybe it’s because the club aren’t being as bullish this season. My own feeling is that having a younger team than last season we will have the excitement of youth and the unpredictability that is normally associated with it. The old saying of ‘you can’t win anything with youth’ was shot to pieces a few years back, it’s maybe the time for the fact that you can to be highlighted once more.
Mick Harford, answering questions here before we met in the same competition last season, spoke highly of the club, the chairman and the ambition. How far do you think MK Dons can realistically go and has Karl Robinson lived up to his promise as a bright young manager?
MK Dons are set up to progress. As a club we need to at least be a Championship side to fully utilise the impressive infrastructure that we’ve assembled over the years.
Karl has stamped his style of play on the whole club. He’s ambitious and driven but really needs to add a promotion to his CV.
Do you feel the past controversies are now safely behind you and that MK Dons are broadly accepted as a proper club with its own identity, or does the Wimbledon exiles factor still get in the way?
Football supporters have notoriously long memories hence the circumstances of the move will always be a part of the personality of our club. It’s unfortunate that the press have continued pushing only one side of the story and despite a lot of the facts regarding the move being in the public domain they have steadfastly ignored any facts that oppose the accepted view. The many Wimbledon FC supporters that travel up to Milton Keynes are, for the most part, shy of the press for fear of retribution locally.
That aside our academy and style of play are drawing praise from the many quarters. Our club is well known for a being a family friendly club with a huge amount of supporter involvement.
Were you pleased or disappointed to draw us again?
Historically we don’t travel away in numbers as we hold the league’s record for percentage of junior supporters hence a long midweek journey will mean that many will not be able to attend. I know that many would love to experience your stadium hence the fact that we are playing during the week is disappointing. On the plus side we have a small band of supporters based in Scotland who are looking forward to a short journey to a match.
I imagine our poor recent record in the cups, and our unspectacular start to the season, will give you confidence that an upset is entirely possible.
Cups have a habit of throwing up strange results. Playing away at QPR last season we’d never have expected to be four nil up but we were. I’d hope that we give a good account of ourselves and that it’s an enjoyable match for both sets of supporters.
Do you have any thoughts about Sunderland – the club, the fans, the region – and about the job Harford did in his short stay (though his connections with the “other Wimbledon” are stronger)?
I had the pleasure of giving Ian Todd (co-founder of the SAFCSA London & SE branch) a tour of our stadium before our last encounter. I’ve a lot of respect for the progress that’s happened due to Sunderland supporters’ involvement with the game.
Mick’s input is up for debate. He was an approachable guy for the supporters but seemed to be invisible on the bench on match days hence many questioned his influence at the club.
As far as Mick’s connection with the team currently playing in Kingston-on-Thames goes, we have a director on the board that’s been a director of the club for over 30 years plus back room staff, coaches and players not forgetting supporters that were all at Selhurst and even Plough Lane hence the ties to MK could be said to be equally strong. Don’t believe everything that you read in the papers!
Who are the players in your current squad who could make it at a higher level, and how high?
I’d hate to pick any out. Over the years a few of our players have made it to the Premiership and it’s great to see their careers progressing.
If you are looking for ones to watch, George Baldock is a little terrier and will never give up the chase for a ball, Ian Mcloughlin is a character and according to the press young Dele is attracting attention.
What have been your highs and lows as a supporter?
MK Dons winning the JPT at Wembley and being promoted as Champions from League Two has got to rate as the high point. Credit goes to the Morecombe supporters who made the last game of the season a fantastic atmosphere and stayed behind after the match to applaud the league champions.
Over the years, like most supporters, I seem to have experienced more lows that highs! To list them would require a longer article than this.
Can you stick your neck out and name the clubs to be promoted from League One this season. If MK Dons not among them, where will you finish?
Early season gut feel says Wolves, Peterborough and Brentford for promotion. I’d like to think that we’d get into the play offs and make it to the final.
You have a wealthy owner but does the extraordinary money sloshing about at the top of the game excite or appal you?
When did we change hands? It’s a myth that we have a wealthy owner. Pete Winkelman has to be creative in the ways that he raises money for the club working collaboration with businesses and the local council, sharing his dream and inspiring others. His view is about sustainability and the whole club is built up with each part of the business looking at ways to add value to enable investment.
The money at the top of the game is increasingly making the leagues less competitive. For instance can Sunderland honestly ever expect to win the Premiership? Wolves are nailed on certainties to gain promotion from our league as the parachute payments they receive will dwarf any other clubs investment in their squads. The money coming into the game needs to be shared to enable competitiveness back into the game.
Which single feature of modern football most inspires you and which one causes you most annoyance?
I started attending matches in the 70s in London. It was a time when violence was part and parcel of the experience. It’s fantastic that the psyche has changed and both home and away fans often meet up and chat over a pint.
I’m annoyed that the authorities still treat many supporters as if we are still in the 70s. For instance it’s common to stand at matches which annoys both stewards and other supporters who wish to remain seated. The common sense European solution is tried and tested, safe standing areas, where supporters stand in their allocated seated area with the addition of a safety rail. A lot safer than the current situation and removing conflict but the authorities still don’t seem to have the will to enact this solution.
Guess the Score at https://safc.blog/2013/08/safc-vs-mk-dons-guess-the-score-goals-galore-or-banana-skin/. If it’s a big enough score, and you get it first before kickoff, there may be a prize …
Will you be at our game? If not how will you keep tabs? What will be the score?
Sorry – I’ll be a plastic for this one as I’m in Bristol on the day for work. If I’m near a computer I’ll have the BBC site and two of our forums open watch the various comments. If I was nearer home I’d be listening to the commentary via the radio.
* John Brockwell on himself: I’ve been the chair of the Supporters’ Association for eight years. I’m also a trustee of MK Dons Sports & Education Trust. A few years back I was on the National Council of the Football Supporters Federation hence I know of a few of the issues your fan base have suffered over the years. Besides raising money for various aspects of the club and working with the club on supporter issues we also get involved with away supporters experience of our ground/stewarding and our away supports experiences. Our biggest “coup” was getting a £14 cash refund for our supporters on the turnstile at Huddersfield a couple of season back.
My history? My father didn’t support any one team and he’d watch any match that he could see as a neutral enjoying the game. Being born on an “island” off the Kent coast I had no local team and adopted my father’s view of the game. When we moved back to our family’s roots in London I was pressed at school to support a team – I picked the team that they all hated to spite them (Man Utd)! At that time Wimbledon were trying to get into the league and our local papers were full of the story. As we lived a few miles from Plough Lane I adopted them as my non-league team and followed their progress over the years. It was natural to become a season ticket holder when they moved to Milton Keynes where I now live.
Interview: Colin Randall
Fancy leaving a comment? Not sure what you have to say fits this post? Go to the new feature – https://safc.blog/2013/07/salut-sunderland-the-way-it-is/ – and say it there.