Many Thanks to Cambridge United fan Alex Jones for taking part in this week’s edition of the ever-popular Trash Talk. Alex points out the huge differences in pitch size between SMK and the Abbey Stadium and feels the Dons could feel cramped on Saturday.
1 – Can you give us a surprising fact about your club that very few people would know?
Legendary forward Wilf Mannion is the only ever Cambridge United player to be inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame. He played for the U’s in the 1950’s, when the club were in non-league, just a few years after fighting in World War Two.
Ironically, we currently have goalkeeper Will Mannion under contract at Cambridge, but there’s no relation at all!
2 – With about two months left in the fixtures calendar, where do you see your club ending up in the League 1 table, and in the same manner where do you think the Dons will finish up?
MK Dons fall into the ‘best of the rest’ category for me, so they take third place behind the two obvious automatic promotion favourites. As for Cambridge, anywhere between 11th and 16th will do nicely. We have a horrendous run-in that will undoubtedly see us slide down the table a bit, so I’d probably have us finishing in 15th, comfortably clear of the relegation zone.
3 – Rotherham look nailed on to go up, with possibly Wigan in second, the rest is a bit of a lottery. Who is your tip for the two teams having a day out at Wembley in the playoff final, and the ultimate winner?
I think MK Dons and Oxford United will almost certainly take up two of the playoff spots, but beyond that it gets a bit difficult. Sheffield Wednesday have been performing much better recently than they were in the first half of the season, so I’d back them to take the third spot. The fourth is really hard, but I think Ipswich Town are hitting form at the perfect time to sneak into the last playoff place.
Honestly, any of those four teams could win promotion, but MK Dons seem to be performing at a slightly higher level, so I’ll go for them beating Oxford in the final and winning promotion to the Championship.
4 – At the other end of the table the race for survival is also on, who do you think will get relegated?
This one is much easier. Crewe Alexandra, Doncaster Rovers, and Gillingham are beyond saving, and I think all three will go down, while the likes of Lincoln City and Fleetwood Town have enough quality to avoid the drop. So, either Morecambe or AFC Wimbledon will end up joining them.
Wimbledon’s winless run has me concerned about them, and I think Morecambe carry much more of a threat going forward, so I’m saying that Derek Adams will manage to lift the Shrimps out of the bottom four.
5 – Much has been said about the price of football, especially with some of facilities on offer, what’s a fair price of entry at this level in your opinion?
This is a popular topic of conversation for Cambridge fans as Ipswich are charging our fans £27 to £30 for an adult ticket, which is simply insane for League One.
I understand the idea of smaller teams charging more for bigger games, such as local derbies or when the likes of Sunderland visit, but I don’t think an adult should ever have to pay more than £22 for a ticket to watch third tier football. Similarly, more clubs should implement pricing strategies for students and young people. After all, they’re the future and shouldn’t be priced out of watching their local team.
6 – Recent weeks has seen several incidents of crowd trouble, with fans running on the pitch and striking players, offensive chanting, fighting outside of grounds, and it almost feels like a return to the problem days of the 70’s & 80’s. We think that social media is at the heart of this, what’s your take on it?
Possibly. I think social media certainly plays a part, but I think Covid-19 shoulders much of the blame. Fans were stuck inside for months on end, unable to watch their teams play, and I think some have just forgotten how to behave. We don’t live in a society where films like Green Street and The Football Factory should be re-enacted in real life, but a minority seem to think otherwise.
I think it also relates to fans booing players taking the knee, and general abuse towards the Black Lives Matter movement. It does genuinely feel like we’re back in the 70’s and 80’s at times, and that’s maybe an issue with society and politics in general rather than just football. But that’s a conversation for another time!
7 – All fans love an away day; can you tell us the best and worst grounds you have visited and why?
As a journalist, I don’t get to go in many away ends! The only one I’ve done in League One this season is Portsmouth. We’re also yet to go to the likes of Sheffield Wednesday (at the time of writing), Ipswich and Sunderland.
MK Dons have the nicest press box in the division, with comfy seats and a great view, but I know most Cambridge fans hate it as an away day due to the lack of pubs and the fact it’s so far from the station. It’s hard to dislike Lincoln, because the ground is so near the centre of the city and there’s always an amazing atmosphere.
Fleetwood Town would be near the bottom for me because it’s so far away and having to get the tram to the stadium took forever. The pitch also rivals Burton Albion’s as the worst in the league. Crewe also loses marks because the press box is right at the top of the massive stand, which is exhausting when you’re constantly going up and down.
8 – Can you tell us the style of play we can expect to see from your team?
We’ll almost certainly end up playing a 4-2-3-1, as we have for pretty much the entirety of the 2021/22 campaign. Injuries to Joe Ironside and Jack Iredale have disrupted our rhythm a bit, albeit that the former is now fit again.
We usually play quite a direct style of football, focusing on Ironside holding up the ball to allow the supporting players to push up on the counter. That’s why our wide players, like Sam Smith, have so many goal contributions this season.
We like to play on the counter with fast, free-flowing football. That can often be our worst enemy, however, as best seen in the game against MK Dons at Stadium MK back in November where we were far too open and got carved to pieces.
9 – Can you give us a player from each team that you feel will have the greatest influence on the result of the game?
Scott Twine is the obvious answer. The man tore Cambridge to shreds in the reverse fixture, scoring that stunning free kick too. Keeping him quiet will be crucial to the U’s getting something out of the game, but that’s easier said than done. Harry Darling also seems to be in incredible form, which is timed perfectly with his return to The Abbey.
James Brophy had a torrid game that afternoon at Stadium MK but has improved massively since then. If he can get the beating of Tennai Watson out wide and exploit the space down the left, that could be one of our main outlets.
10 – Thanks for taking part, all we need now is your prediction for the game?
Cambridge have little to play for at this stage, while MK Dons are still within touching distance of the automatic promotion places and will fancy their chances of tracking down Wigan Athletic.
The U’s really struggled on the colossal pitch at Stadium MK, but the one at The Abbey is incredibly narrow, and that could certainly cause some issues for MK Dons, but it’s hard to predict anything other than an away win on current form.
Cambridge 1-3 MK Dons.