By Luke Payne, Feature Writer
The next edition of this series sees us move on to the midfielders. I’m grouping together the centre midfielders with the attacking midfielders and the defensive ones due to the flexibility a lot of players have in those roles. However, I will be trying to match the various types of players we need including a holding midfielder with good passing range and a creative goal-scoring midfielder.
Graham Alexander has been quick off the mark and has already signed one of the player’s that likely would’ve made my list. Alex Gilbey is a fantastic pick-up, but who’s going to join him at the club this summer? Here are seven out of contract midfielders. The Dons could look at signing:
1) Alex Pattison
The first player on this list perfectly fits the profile of a goal-scoring midfielder. Alex Pattison scored 9 goals and assisted another 5 in 36 league games for Harrogate. He’s clearly a strong player for League Two level as he scored 9 the previous season as well. The 25 year old is quite versatile but is clearly more suited to an attacking midfield role.
Pattison decided to leave Harrogate at the end of the season, likely hoping to play in a higher league. He does have a little bit of experience in a higher division, having played sporadically for Wycombe in the Championship and League One. There’s a good chance Pattison will get a League One move but he might be tempted to stay in League Two if he’s offered a good wage and a chance of promotion in his first season at the club.
2) Danny Mayor
Sticking on the theme of attacking midfielders, some Dons fans might recognise the name Danny Mayor. He is a League Two promotion specialist and was a key member of the Bury side that got promoted alongside MK Dons in 2018/19. He has two other League Two promotions to his name as well, for Bury in 2014/15 and for Plymouth in 2019/20. As if that wasn’t enough, he was a part of Plymouth’s squad this season for their League One promotion campaign. He managed 30 appearances, scoring 1 goal and contributing 5 assists.
Mayor has now been released by Plymouth, but he offers a lot of experience in an attacking midfield role. He will have plenty of suitors but he would also be a perfect mentor for the likes of Conor Grant and Dawson Devoy so if there’s a chance to sign him, Dons should go all out to secure his signature.
3) Daniel Crowley
The final attacking midfielder on this list is Morecambe’s released man, Daniel Crowley. There’s a good chance Morecambe wanted to keep hold of him as he played in every game since he signed for The Shrimps in January. However, their financial problems left them with 6 senior players at the club, which means Crowley is free to look elsewhere.
The 25 year old played 21 games in League One, scoring 2 goals and assisting 5, a solid return in half a season for a relegated side. He also has a reasonable amount of experience at a higher level, playing for the likes of Birmingham in the championship as well as Hull in their League One promotion campaign. Crowley even had a couple of spells in the Netherlands with Eredivisie side Willem II. It would be incredibly difficult to bring him down to League Two, but it’s not impossible.
4) Dennis Adeniran
This next suggestion is also quite optimistic, but there is a method in the madness. Dennis Adeniran has never played as low as League Two, but he also never nailed down a starting place at his previous clubs. He has Championship experience with Wycombe but has spent the past two seasons with Sheffield Wednesday. In the most recent campaign, he appeared 22 times in the league for The Owls, scoring 2 goals, both of which came against Accrington.
After Sheffield Wednesday were promoted via the playoffs, Adeniran was announced as one of the players departing the club. A drop to League Two could make sense for the 24 year old as he would likely welcome a chance to be in the starting line-up every week. However, bottom half League One sides could probably offer him the same promise.
5) Ryan Tunnicliffe
One of the bigger names released by Dons was Josh McEachran. If Graham Alexander doesn’t get him back under contract, then a new experienced midfielder will be needed. Tunnicliffe fits this profile perfectly. He has a lot of experience playing in the Championship and League One for clubs such as Fulham, Millwall, and Luton, amongst others. He played 30 league games for Portsmouth in the 2022/23 season, scoring 1 goal and providing 3 assists.
Tunnicliffe could probably still do a job in League One, but a drop to League Two could see him emerge as one of the better players in the division. He would enable the likes of Alex Gilbey to play higher up the pitch, knowing that the defence is being covered. If McEachran signs a new contract, then this suggestion probably wouldn’t happen.
6) Conor Grant
For those of you thinking that Conor Grant already plays for The Dons…there’s another one! This Conor Grant has spent the last few seasons at Plymouth but was released following their promotion to the Championship. He only played 9 league games this past season, picking up 1 goal in the process. However, he was a regular for The Pilgrims the season before, where they finished a respectable 7th in League One.
The 28 year old operates in a deeper role than the Conor Grant we know and love, but he would be a capable player to have. Perhaps the biggest problem would be differentiating between the two Conor Grant’s! On a more serious note, a League Two move would make sense for Grant given his lack of game time in the last 12 months. However, Graham Alexander might not want to risk signing him as Ethan Robson and Matt Smith are already on the books.
7) Taylor Perry
Most of the players on this list have plenty of football league experience as the lack of quality experienced players was one of the biggest reasons for Dons’ downfall in the 2022/23 season. However, if The Dons were to gamble on a less-experienced player, then Taylor Perry should be high on that list. The 21 year old spent the season on loan at Cheltenham, where he played 34 league games, scoring 2 and assisting 1.
Parent club Wolves decided to release Perry, having never made an appearance for their first team. He’s still a raw talent like a number of the players in The Dons’ squad but with a full League One season under his belt now, he should be more than capable of playing well in League Two. With that being said, Cheltenham will probably have their eyes set on bringing Perry back as that was his second loan spell with The Robins. They’re clearly fans of Perry, so tempting him to go elsewhere could be tricky if Cheltenham decide they want him back permanently.
Special Mentions and the Verdict:
There are countless midfielders available on a free this summer, and there were plenty that could’ve made this list instead of the ones chosen. Players such as Kieran Lee (Bolton), Curtis Thompson (Wycombe), Henri Lansbury (Luton), and former Don Jonny Williams (Swindon) all fit the roles that Graham Alexander needs to fill. There’s no excuse not to have a top quality midfield with all these players available for free.
Alex Pattison would be a dream signing given his goal-scoring record in League Two, but Danny Mayor would be the pick of the bunch based on his track record in getting promoted from this league. If The Dons can sign either of those two to play in an advanced role with Alex Gilbey in support, then the chances of promotion would go up dramatically. Ryan Tunnicliffe would be the pick for a holding midfielder if Josh McEachran doesn’t sign a new contract.
Thank you for reading the latest edition of released and re-signed. Next time, we take a look at the wingers, so keep your eyes open for when that article comes out. Hopefully, you enjoyed the read and let us know which midfielder/s you would like to see sign for The Dons!