MK Dons, formed in 2004 from the ashes of Wimbledon FC, began playing their football at the National Hockey Stadium under the guidance of Stuart Murdoch, but poor results would lead to his dismissal in November of the same year and the appointment of Danny Wilson in his place.
The experienced Wilson was in charge during the Dons’ most turbulent spell as a Club, escaping relegation from League One on the final day of the season thanks to Gareth Edds’ 84th minute winner against Tranmere Rovers.
The following campaign, the Dons ran out of fight as they were relegated to League Two, and Chairman Pete Winkelman replaced Wilson with Martin Allen as the man to get the Dons out of the basement division.
There were promising signs early on for Allen’s team but a poor second half to the season saw the Dons fall into the play-offs where they were eventually beaten 2-1 by Shrewsbury Town.
Despite failing to get the Dons out of League Two, Allen caught the eye of Leicester City and he was appointed as their new manager in May 2007.
Former Manchester United midfielder Paul Ince arrived in Milton Keynes to take charge, in the same year they moved into their new home – Stadium MK.
Ince’s arrival in 2007 coincided with the Dons’ most successful season as they went on to win their first piece of silverware - the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy - by beating Grimsby Town 2-0 at Wembley, before going on to win the League Two title and clinching promotion back to the third tier.
What’s more, the Dons equalled the record of 18 victories away from home that season. Ince’s success caught the attention of Blackburn Rovers and his departure to Ewood Park was quickly followed by inspirational captain Keith Andrews.
The next in line at the helm of Stadium MK was Roberto Di Matteo and the rookie boss guided the men from MK to their then-highest ever finish - third in League One - but once again they missed out on promotion in the play-offs, losing on penalties in the semi-final to Scunthorpe United.
There was further change for the Dons in the summer of 2009 with Di Matteo leaving to take over at West Bromwich Albion, paving the way for a sensational return by Ince, who had departed after four months at Blackburn.
But it was to be an ill-fated return for Ince, with the Dons unable to reach the play-offs, and that led to the former England captain resigning at the end of the season.
His assistant Karl Robinson took charge of the final four games of the campaign and despite the side being hampered by injuries and suspensions, the Liverpudlian was able to guide the Dons to a 13th place finish, and his work at the end of that season did him no harm as he was promoted to manager just days into the close-season.
At the time of his appointment Robinson was just 29-years-old, making him the EFL’s youngest manager. He appointed John Gorman as his experienced number two and their partnership, although off to a slow burner, would see the Dons reach the play-off semi-finals only to be beaten by their rivals Peterborough United, leaving the Dons with aims of reaching the Championship at the fourth time of asking in 2011/12.
The Dons started that season with a bang as they climbed to the top of League One by the end of August. In fact the Dons spent the entire season in the top six, ensuring they booked themselves another chance at promotion by reaching the play-off semi-finals for the third time in four years.
On the way Robinson’s side became the entertainers of the lower leagues, scoring more than 100 goals for the first time and earning rave reviews for their stylish brand of football. However, once again the play-off hurdle proved too much for the Dons as they bowed out to a 3-2 aggregate defeat to Huddersfield Town.
Assistant manager Gorman retired from coaching at the end of the season but Robinson showed great ambition as he appointed Mick Harford as his number two, with former England and Arsenal striker Ian Wright joining as a first-team coach ahead of the 2012/13 campaign.
The Dons continued to create history as they reached the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup, beating rivals AFC Wimbledon, and Queens Park Rangers in the process, for the first time. Despite their success in the FA Cup, the Dons failed to reach the League One play-off places for the first time in three years.
Robinson opted for a change to his backroom staff ahead of the 2013/14 season, appointing the experienced Gary Waddock to the position of Head of Coaching with Harford and Wright both departing.
However, a number of injuries to key and influential players prevented the Dons from finishing in the top-six for a second consecutive season, despite some impressive come-from-behind victories and memorable individual performances, in particular from 17-year-old Dele Alli in his first season as a professional and midfielder Ben Reeves, who collected four awards at the End of Season ceremony.
Robinson was, once again, forced to re-shuffle his backroom staff following Waddock’s departure to Oxford United, appointing Richie Barker as the new Head of Coaching in June 2014 following a short stay as an assistant to the Liverpudlian for the final six games of the previous season.
In their first full campaign together, the tandem of Robinson and Barker led the Club to its first-ever promotion to the Sky Bet Championship. The Dons, who totalled a whopping 91 points and scored over 100 goals, finished the season in second place after a dramatic final day in which they needed to win and hope rivals Preston North End failed to beat Colchester United – Robinson’s men thrashed Yeovil Town 5-1 at Stadium MK, while the Lilywhites were beaten 1-0 by the U’s in Essex.
The campaign will be fondly remembered, not only for promotion, but the real emergence of teenager Alli, whose incredible form earned him a move to Premier League outfit Tottenham Hotspur. Loanees Benik Afobe, Will Grigg and Lewis Baker also made impressions during their time at Stadium MK.
The Dons enjoyed a dream start to life in the Championship, winning their first match in the second tier 4-1 away at Rotherham United. However, after a disappointing second-half of the season, the men from MK1 weren’t able to retain their status and in late April their fate was confirmed.
Robinson and his side endured a difficult start to their first season back in Sky Bet League One and with the team lying perilously close to the relegation places in late October 2016, the decision was made to part ways with the Liverpudlian after a six-and-a-half year spell.
Head of Coaching Barker took temporary charge of the side for a short while before former Heart of Midlothian boss Robbie Neilson was appointed as the Club’s seventh manager in early December.
In his first two home matches in charge, the Scotsman led the Dons to victories against fiercest rivals AFC Wimbledon and former boss Robinson’s Charlton Athletic and over the course of the next four months guided them back into the top half of the Sky Bet League table, providing plenty of optimism ahead of the 2017/18 campaign.
- Runners-up (2014/15)
- Champions (2007/08)
- Winners (2007/08)
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