By Luke Payne, Feature Writer
We’ve done the right-backs, now here are the left-backs! This is a trickier position to cover because Dons already have a starting quality left-back in Daniel Harvie. With that being said, some of the options on this list will still be of a very high standard as there is always the possibility that Harvie leaves in the transfer window. He also hasn’t had any real competition since Matthew Sorinola left the club in 2021. Here are seven players the Dons could look at signing for left-back:
1) Luke Garbutt
The first couple of players on this list are unlikely to sign if Daniel Harvie remains at the club simply because they offer too much quality. For example, it would be incredibly difficult to convince someone like Luke Garbutt to join the club, especially if he has to compete with Harvie for a place in the side. Garbutt has spent a lot of his career in League One and has been in the championship with Blackpool for the last two seasons. He only managed 8 league appearances in the 2022/23 season so The Tangerines decided to release him.
Garbutt is a proven talent at a higher level with teams such as Fulham, Ipswich and Wigan on his footballing CV. It would take a very high wage to bring the 30 year old down to League Two at this stage of his career.
2) Joe Bennett
Joe Bennett has spent most of his career playing in the top two divisions of English football. He’s featured for Aston Villa, Brighton, Bournemouth and Cardiff amongst others. There’s no doubting the quality he possesses. However, he is starting to age and drop down the football league pyramid. Now at 33, he’s been released from Wigan after making 15 league appearances as they were relegated back to League One.
Even now, it seems too soon for Bennett to drop to League Two and he would probably require a huge wage for him to ignore League One offers.
3) George Friend
George Friend is another left-back that looks set to drop down a league after many seasons in the championship with Birmingham and Middlesbrough, even spending a season in the Premier League with the latter. However, this past season he’s only managed 6 appearances for Birmingham, most of which came as cameos in the final few minutes of games.
Having now been released by the West Midlands side, Friend will likely start to drop down the divisions. That is, if he doesn’t decide to call time on his career at age 35. Given his experience, he could still get League One offers but it wouldn’t be all that surprising if he comes straight down to League Two.
4) Jack Sparkes
This next suggestion is probably the least likely of the lot, given that he’s chosen to leave Exeter to seek new opportunities. Jack Sparkes has spent his entire career so far at Exeter, only departing a few times to go on loan. The 22 year old has enjoyed an impressive season in League One, picking up 5 assists and a goal in 35 appearances.
His decision to leave Exeter suggests that he’s waiting for a championship offer or at the very least an offer from a promotion chasing League One side. This makes it highly improbable that Sparkes would move to a League Two side but if you don’t buy a ticket, you don’t win the raffle!
5) Aaron Lewis
Aaron Lewis had a fantastic season with Newport County. He picked up 7 assists and a goal in 39 appearances, prompting The Exiles to offer him a new contract. At the time of writing this article, he hasn’t yet signed a new deal, meaning that there is an opportunity to nip in and sign him before he commits to Newport for another season.
The 24 year old seems to be growing in importance to the Welsh side with every passing season, but his performances will start drawing interest from a higher level. The promise of a promotion push might be enough to convince the Welshman to move to Milton Keynes but it’s unlikely that he would want to compete with Daniel Harvie.
6) Cameron Borthwick-Jackson
Cameron Borthwick-Jackson has had an unusual career so far. He came through the youth system at Manchester United and for a while it looked like he could’ve become a first team player there. After a few unsuccessful loans he found himself playing for Oldham in League Two. A successful spell there saw him move to Burton in 2021 but after making 22 league appearances in 2022/23, he will be on the move again after getting released by The Brewers.
Now at 26, he might need to drop a level to find his feet again so a move to League Two would make sense. Borthwick-Jackson has never played for a southern club but a move to Milton Keynes competing for a spot in the first team could be the step he needs to keep his career on track. At the very least he would be a capable deputy for Daniel Harvie.
7) Matt Penney
Matt Penney is the most likely signing on this list. The released Ipswich man spent the entire 2022/23 season on loan, firstly at Motherwell where he racked up 16 appearances including 1 assist. His loan expired in January and he spent the rest of the season on loan at Charlton where he only played 5 league games. His spell in the Scottish Premiership was successful so there’s clearly a good player in there somewhere.
He’s a higher risk option, but a fresh start in League Two could be what the 25 year old needs to find his feet in English football. It seems unlikely that he could displace Daniel Harvie from his starting spot, but he would provide a more natural back-up option to use ahead of Zak Jules.
Special Mentions and the Verdict:
It seems like most sides wanted to keep their left-backs this year as there are very few that are both available and of the right playing standard for MK Dons. There were a number of players that are out of contract and have been offered new deals but most of them play in higher leagues or are long-serving players to their current clubs.
The dream would be getting Jack Sparkes or Luke Garbutt but a more realistic scenario would be fighting to keep Daniel Harvie at the club and signing a capable back-up player such as Cameron Borthwick-Jackson or Matt Penney. Based on the lack of appropriate options in the released market, if Harvie were to leave the club, Alexander would need to spend some of the transfer budget on a quality left-back.
Thank you for reading the left-back edition of released and re-signed. Which left-back would you like to see join the club if any? As usual, I hope you enjoyed the read and keep your eyes peeled for the next article!