Released and Re-signed? – Goalkeeper Edition:

By Luke Payne, Feature Writer

MK Dons fans will be aware that Graham Alexander recently became the new head coach at the club. Dons had previously been waiting for the new boss to be confirmed before making any moves in terms of building the squad for next season. With this huge step out of the way, it won’t be too long before the signings start coming in.

This new series will look at potential new players that were released by their clubs or offered new contracts that they haven’t signed yet. Each edition of this series will cover a different position on the pitch, starting with goalkeeper. The inspiration for this series actually came when Morecambe announced their retained list and shot-stopper Connor Ripley was on it. However, he won’t even feature on this list as he’s spent most of his career up north and there have been more realistic players released since. Here are seven players that Alexander could look at to replace Jamie Cumming:

1) Luke Southwood:
Despite claiming that there were more realistic options available, the first name on this list is probably the least likely and the most optimistic. 25 year old Luke Southwood was released by Reading having been at the club since his youth. He spent the 2022/23 season on loan at Cheltenham where he featured in all 46 league games, amassing 16 clean sheets in the process.
In addition to all of this, he’s an international for Northern Ireland though he’s only managed one appearance so far in a friendly 3-1 win against Luxembourg. It seems unlikely that he’ll drop into League Two but if it’s at all possible, signing Southwood would be a real coup for the club and could easily result in a big money sale down the line.

2) Jamal Blackman
Despite picking up 10 clean sheets in 38 league games for Exeter, Jamal Blackman was released by the Grecians at the end of the 2022/23 season. The 29 year old has playing experience in a number of leagues, including the Championship, League One and MLS. He is a victim of Chelsea’s youth system so he spent many seasons out on loan at various clubs before eventually leaving the London side permanently in 2021 having never played a game for their first team.

Given his journeyman style career so far, Blackman would probably welcome a chance to settle and stay at a club for more than one season and where better to do that than Stadium MK. He hasn’t dropped to League Two since 2016/17 where he was on loan at Wycombe but if he wasn’t wanted by Exeter then perhaps he’ll take the fall and look to rise again with a side aiming for promotion back to League One.

3) Chris Maxwell
One thing Dons are short on is experience and one man that has just that in his locker is Welsh keeper Chris Maxwell. He was released by Blackpool following their relegation to League One having made 28 Championship appearances but only keeping 5 clean sheets. The 32 year old has played for a range of clubs including Preston, Fleetwood, Wrexham and Scottish side Hibernian.

At his age it seems unlikely that he’ll get another big move unless it’s to be a back-up keeper for another Championship side. However, the one thing that makes this signing dubious is that he’s only spent one and a half seasons playing for southern sides, during loan spells for Cambridge and Charlton respectively. A northern team could probably get him to sign on the dotted line before he considered a move down to Milton Keynes.

4) Josh Vickers
The next player on the list is somewhat of a wildcard due to the fact that he has actually been offered a new contract by his current club. Josh Vickers’ contract expires this summer but Rotherham are keen on keeping their back-up goalkeeper for another season in the Championship.

Some Dons fans might remember Vickers from the promotion chasing campaign where he started 20 games in League One for a very strong Rotherham side. Since then, he’s fallen out of favour due to the incredible form of Viktor Johansson. This opens the door for lower league teams that need a quality starting keeper. Now aged 27, Vickers will want first team football so it might be possible to sign him from under Rotherham’s noses with the promise of the number one spot at MK Dons.

5) Dimitar Mitov
This particular keeper was listed as a sensible signing for the Dons by one of the great minds of football Twitter, Tom Williams (@tomhwilliams23). Dimitar Mitov’s name was one that caught this writer’s eye as well following the announcement of Cambridge’s retained list. The Bulgarian shot-stopper has been with Cambridge since 2017 but will now be leaving the U’s having managed 6 clean sheets in 33 league appearances.

It hasn’t been his best season but he does have a quality performance in him. For example, he was the man between the sticks when Cambridge went to Newcastle and won 0-1 in the FA Cup in January 2022. A drop to League Two could be exactly what the 26 year old needs to keep his career on track.

6) Lukas Jensen
Danish keeper Lukas Jensen is one of two keepers released by Burnley alongside Will Norris. The latter had a very successful loan spell at Peterborough for the second half of the season so Jensen, who spent the season on loan at Accrington, might go under the radar as a potential signing. The 24 year old kept 10 clean sheets in 29 appearances for a poor Accrington side.

However, he did find himself sitting on their bench from October to early February and unusually managed to get sent off twice in a row in March, in fixtures against Ipswich and Portsmouth. Both reds were for taking out a player from a goal-scoring opportunity so there’s evidence to suggest that he’s still quite a raw talent. If he’s coached properly, he could be a very good keeper to bring up the football league.

7) Alex Cairns
The final keeper on this list is the experienced Alex Cairns. The 30 year old has been a mainstay at Fleetwood since 2016 but fell out of favour following the end of the 2021/22 season. He was loaned out to Salford in January 2023 but only managed 3 clean sheets in 22 appearances. League Two football seems inevitable for him based on that form but he does bring a lot of League One experience.

It would be an underwhelming signing but also a relatively safe one given his experience in the league above. Location would likely be the downfall of this move as he’s spent his entire career playing for northern teams. However, one last shot at getting back up to League One could be enough to tempt him to move down south.

Special Mentions and the Verdict:
There were a number of other players that could have been included in this article such as Doncaster’s released keeper Jonathan Mitchell, departing Forest Green man Luke McGee and the previously mentioned Connor Ripley formerly of Morecambe.

Christy Pym also deserves a special mention. He doesn’t qualify for this list as he’s not been released but he has been transfer listed by Peterborough having spent the last 12 months on loan at Mansfield, picking up 13 clean sheets in 42 games. His price tag would be fairly low and he’s a proven League Two keeper.

To conclude, the dream signing from this list would obviously be Luke Southwood but tempting him to fall into League Two seems like a very difficult task. Josh Vickers would be a fantastic pick-up but he may be content battling for the starting spot at Rotherham. Speaking on realistic terms, it would be great to see Dimitar Mitov sign or even Lukas Jensen if Alexander thinks he can get the best out of him. Mitov is the perfect mix of experience and ambition so he is the pick of the bunch for the starting goalkeeper position.

Thank you for reading the first edition of released and re-signed. Let us know your thoughts on which goalkeeper you would like to see sign for The Dons and keep your eyes peeled for the next edition!

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