By Fan of the Year – Jon Harries
Well, that was quite an eventful week on and off the pitch at Stadium MK, wasn’t it? The final pre-season game ended in defeat with plenty of positives to take. Thursday saw two signings, the return of midfielder Josh McEachran and the loan signing of Tottenham Striker Troy Parrott, and the excitement amongst the fans heading into the new season was raised. Add the trialist signing of Tennai Watson that was announced early last week, and suddenly, the play offs were a distinct possibility. Then on Friday night after a few days of rumours, reports on social media by trusted journo Peter O’Rourke suggested that Swansea had an interest in Russell Martin and this after Martin stated on Friday morning that “I’m in my tracksuit and going into training today with the guys and will be on the bench Saturday afternoon”, adding “ignore the noise, trust the process”.
Saturday morning the club confirmed the reports that Swansea had made an approach for our manager, although any discussions about his future would take place post Bournemouth. It was still a topic of discussion at the Vitality ahead of the League Cup fixture although at the start of the game it looked like we would be competitive, by the end of the game the performance and result were insignificant in the circumstances. Martin was straight down the tunnel at FT and maybe then we knew what would happen. At 6pm Sunday it was confirmed Russell Martin and his backroom staff were moving to Swansea City a week before the L1 season gets underway. Sporting Director Liam Sweeting released a video in which he said “the process had already started” looking for the man to replace Martin. That didn’t stop fans who were both angry and hurt and showed their dissatisfaction in how everything had unfolded and quite rightly so. It looks to have been very poorly handled by Martin, and done with very little class or integrity, but no one person is bigger than the club and we move forward, together as one.
Saturday afternoon is the start of what looks like a very competitive and even League One campaign. We begin away at newly promoted Bolton Wanderers who secured automatic promotion after an outstanding run from January onwards. Manager Ian Evatt was a man under pressure with expectations of Bolton running away with the L2 at the start of last season. That didn’t look possible in December with the club languishing lower mid table. Cue the investment in January and suddenly it clicked. They were wandering up the table and eventually got the job done.
Matt Gilks and Joel Dixon will be competing for the number one shirt. Gilks will be remembered by Dons fans for that incredible save for Lincoln at Stadium MK when the Imps secured promotion. CB Ricardo Santos got in the L2 Team of the Season and new recruits Will Aimison and Declan John provide valuable experience at this level. In midfield they have creativity and guile in abundance, Kieran Lee is a little terrier allowing other people to express themselves. Antoni Sarvecic is the captain and provided vital goals last season, Dennis Politic has returned from long term injury to bolster the wide positions. Up front Xavier Amechi could be one to watch in the future whereas Eoin Doyle has been there and done it although at the time of writing it remains to be seen if he plays. Reports suggest he had Covid issues over pre-season so full fitness could be an issue.
Josh Sheehan is the man in focus. The former Newport midfielder enjoyed a great L2 season being the lynchpin in their push for the playoffs.
Able to play as a 10, CM or DM he possesses many qualities. His range of passing and shooting is his main attribute but the rotation in midfield makes him difficult to pick up. He will face an old advisory in Scott Twine who was sent on loan to the Exiles and was running his own goal of the season competition whilst there.
Watson – O’Hora – Darling – Baldwin – Harvie
Twine – Kasumu – O’Riley
Parrott – Eisa
I imagine if Fisher proves his fitness in training, then he will be back in from the start, Franco has done well shot stopping but he looks uncomfortable when distributing the ball and is probably not quite ready for this style of play just yet. Parrott is another with a fitness question mark, but he could be that physical presence up front that’s needed to support Eisa.
I predict a 2-0 away win with Eisa and Parrott opening their accounts.