Every now and then we receive a Trash Talk from someone and we are mightily impressed, today is one that really fits the bill. We are therefore indebted to 23 year old Edward Walker who is of course a Brewers fan for this super effort, in fact it’s so good and detailed we have sent a copy to Russ for his consideration. Once again many thanks Edward, stay safe and good luck to you and the Brewers for the rest of the season.
We are now at the Business end of the season; how do you assess how your season has gone so far and what are your hope’s for the run in?
The season so far has really been a tale of two halves. The first under Jake Buxton honestly can’t be described as anything other than awful. Just two league wins and 13 points collected in total, no clean sheets and the most goals conceded of anyone in the division. It was incredibly tough on Buxton though from the beginning as he entered a season as a rookie manager without a great deal of experience alongside him on the touchline, which is really what you’d want an inexperienced manager to have. Burton unfortunately look destined for an early relegation under Buxton and the difficult decision had to be made to let him go. Fans at Burton have nothing but admiration for Buxton though and I’d love to see him get another crack at management somewhere lower down the pyramid.
Within a few days of Buxton being dismissed, the return of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was announced with Dino Maamria coming in to assist him. The reaction to the announcement was certainly mixed, but the inclusion of Dino Maamria providing experience as an assistant offered encouragement.
The sample size is still relatively small for Hasselbaink and Maamria, but it has so far been very positive. Burton have become a team that looks competitive again, got back into the mix with the rest of the teams looking to avoid relegation, and the hope is that Hasselbaink and Maamria can continue the good momentum they have currently been on and carry the team out of the relegation zone.
Where do you think your club will finish up in the league this season?
With Burton Albion looking a new, much more competitive side under Hasselbaink and Maamria, confidence is certainly there amongst the fanbase that the club can get out of the bottom four and secure safety.
In an ideal world, they’d be able to climb away from the bottom four before the conclusion of the season and secure safety with games to spare, but that is easier said than done.
It’s not guaranteed to be an easy ride for the rest of the season, but I’m backing them to secure safety with a 20th place finish.
What has been your best result this season, and of course your worst?
I think most fans would pick the 1-0 home win over Hull City on 6th February as the best result. Hull have shown themselves to be one of the league’s strongest sides this season, possessing a squad loaded with top quality talent, and a history of always beating Burton Albion whenever they have previously met.
The win over Hull City was a vintage Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink performance, one that Burton fans saw plenty of during his first spell here. A solid defence display that limited the opposition’s ability to create high-quality chances, and a late goal to take the lead and seal all 3 points. The winning goal came from debutant Jonny Smith as well, a winter transfer signing from Bristol City, and fans are very excited to see what he can bring to the team during his time at the club.
The worst result take your pick from the first half of the season! The sucker punch of conceding a 99th minute equaliser at Shrewsbury Town is one that I can remember hurting, in turn conceding an 88th minute equaliser against Crewe Alexandra, but a 3-1 defeat at home to Northampton Town in November is the one that I really didn’t enjoy. An incredibly important-looking fixture that Northampton were in control of within 90 seconds…
Has your club talked about season tickets for the 21/22 season? How are they navigating the possibility of no crowds or reduced capacity?
I haven’t seen any talk about season tickets yet, especially since no one is quite sure what division Burton will be playing in next season!
I’m hopeful that with the roadmap the government have recently produced, there is a good chance that come the start of next season, football stadiums will either be allowed to have full capacities for matches again, or at least be close to being allowed full capacity.
Burton Albion in truth are a club who rarely fill their whole stadium so I’m hopeful that every fan who wants to come to the Pirelli Stadium will be allowed to during the 2021-22 season.
Which opposition team that you have played has impressed you the most this season?
It would have to be Lincoln City. Michael Appleton’s team is what every football fan wants their team to be, an exciting, fluid side that’s predominantly full of young players that will only get better with time. They’ve got themselves fully in the mix to earn promotion to the Championship this season, and with so many of their young players looking at and above League One level, I really don’t think they’d need too much work in order to adapt to the second tier should they reach it.
Lincoln beat Burton 5-1 on Boxing Day at Sincil Bank, and it was impossible not to be impressed with how ruthless they can be on the attack. Jorge Grant is a particular favourite of mine, a brilliant playmaker in midfield.
Which player has stood out for your team this season, and which player has come through the ranks and looks a real prospect?
I’d have to choose two, one from Jake Buxton’s team that’s no longer at the club and one who has really caught the eye since arriving under Hasselbaink and Maamria.
Under Jake Buxton, Burton’s best player was arguably Sam Hughes, a centre-back on loan from Leicester City. Hughes showed himself to have all the qualities you want from a modern defender, a warrior at the back with excellent aerial presence and enough agility to let him read the game and block passes or shots at their source. He unfortunately suffered a serious injury against Doncaster Rovers in December which would leave him out of action for the rest of the season, and he’s returned to Leicester City to undergo his recovery.
Hasselbaink and Maamria have signed a whole host of new players since arriving on New Year’s Day, and the pick of them for me so far has been Josh Earl, a left-back on loan from Preston North End. Earl has got all the qualities to compete with any opposing winger. He’s big, strong, fast, intelligent, makes great use of his long limbs to tackle or clear the ball, and is equally adept in possession when pushing on forward down the left flank. He’s immediately caught the eye since signing and made the left-back position his own here. I suspect Preston North End will be incredibly encouraged by his progression from now to the end of the season.
In terms of a young prospect, I would have to go with Ciaran Gilligan, a first-year pro who caught the eye when given a large amount of game time by Jake Buxton. Gilligan is more of a deeper-lying midfielder who looks to try and break up play and distribute the ball either out to the flanks or further up field. He’s very new to senior professional football but there are signs that he could become an important part of this team in the next few years.
Are you happy with the business you conducted in January transfer window? Who did you recruit and what are your initial impressions? Or was keeping certain players more key?
Burton fans are very, very happy with the January transfer window, it’s arguably been the most productive in recent memory. Hasselbaink and Maamria’s focus has been on improving all areas of the squad and decreasing the average age of the side. They have signed a new player in every single position, which has left the squad in a much larger and healthier state ahead of what I suspect will be a heavy fixture pile-up until the season is done. Loan signings like centre-back Hayden Carter from Blackburn Rovers, Josh Earl from Preston North End and Sean Clare from Oxford United have already shown their worth to the team since signing.
Additionally, fans have been really impressed with the long-term planning that has been shown by the club. Burton have signed young players in Jonny Smith, Tom Hamer and Terry Taylor on long-term deals, and these players should prove good and valuable to the team no matter what division the club are playing in next season. It hasn’t been that often that Burton’s transfer window has focused on the very long term alongside the short-term, but that’s exactly what the recent January window was.
It became quickly clear that Hasselbaink and Maamria want to have a real go at getting out of the bottom four but are also starting to build a side that should be decent whether Burton are playing in League One or League Two next season.
Which MK Dons player stands out to you as a game changer in our clash?
Scott Fraser, for very obvious reasons.
Having spent the previous two seasons at Burton, where he’d quickly become a huge favourite amongst the fans, it always looked like Fraser was destined to leave the club at the end of his contract last summer. Having stood out amongst League One’s midfielders for the last 24 months, I really thought he was off to the Championship, and there was seemingly interest from second tier clubs as well as some aiming to be top of League One this season.
I exactly know how MK Dons have got him; I wonder if the then-present salary cap limited the number of clubs who would be able to bring him in?
Nevertheless, he’s now at Stadium MK and as expected, he’s bossing the division.
His best goal scoring season so far, albeit he wasn’t on penalties at Burton Albion like he is at Milton Keynes Dons, but it’s little surprise to anyone at the Pirelli that Fraser is catching the eye and playing such a pivotal part in how MK Dons play.
What style of play can we expect to see from your team?
Under Hasselbaink and Maamria, Burton are a team that look to pick up wins with clean sheets. The focus isn’t as much on providing attacking football, but on providing defensive solidity that limits the amount of high-quality chances that an opponent create.
Their preferred formation is usually a 4-2-3-1, where the two deeper-lying midfielders both have excellent engines that allow them to commit to all phases of play all game long. With solidity provided mostly by the back four and deep-midfield two, the front four commit as part of an offensive press and are encouraged to turn to goal and hit the opponent on the counterattack the moment they gain possession of the ball.
Burton are a team that have often won games by a narrow margin and have often won that game late on with the use of fresh, impact players from the bench.
Have you ever been to Stadium MK, if so, what’s your opinion on it?
I really like Stadium MK, it for me is a venue fit for the topflight and fit to host International matches. It gets a lot of hate from other fanbases because in truth, it is currently too big for MK Dons considering their stature and the division they’re currently in. It’s clearly though a venue that has been designed to hold a topflight club, which I’m sure MK Dons would one day love to be.
I’ve been there a couple of times, though not for a few years now, and I’d like to go back when the opportunity rises in the future.
Where do you think the MK Dons will finish in the league table?
I find MK Dons really hard to judge. As a footballing side, their so impressive, arguably the best in all of League One, but their results this season haven’t always reflected that. You can be pretty certain about MK Dons controlling possession in most if not all games, but not necessarily doing enough of note with that possession.
I don’t really fancy them for the play-offs when compared to others in this league, but I do reckon they could break the top half. 11th would not be a bad finish to build on with what is clearly a project in the making.
From what you have seen, who are your tips for the league title, promotion, and relegation?
Who honestly knows? You had to anticipate League One being incredibly close to call this season and it’s so far been that. It does feel like even the lowest ranked teams do look capable of taking points off of those up at the top.
Right now, I would personally fancy Peterborough United for the title and Lincoln City for promotion, with AFC Wimbledon, Bristol Rovers, Swindon Town and Wigan Athletic for relegation, but you pretty much guarantee I’ll be feeling different about it a month from now!
Can you give us your match prediction?
It’s only the 4th meeting between Burton Albion and Milton Keynes Dons and so far the Brewers haven’t tasted defeat to them. Fans would certainly love that to continue, but I think the main hope for most is that Scott Fraser is kept quiet against his old club.
Hasselbaink and Maamria’s record in home games hasn’t been as strong as their away ones so far, but I still get the feeling they can pull this one off. It’s highly likely that MK Dons will control possession of the ball, but as other results have shown, that doesn’t prevent them from being seen off by teams that are competent in both defence and attack. I’m fancying a narrow Burton win here.
Burton Albion 1 Milton Keynes Dons 0