There was a familiar face in Milton Keynes yesterday as former Dons star Nicky Rizzo returned to the City he once knew as home.
The Australian winger, who spent three years with the Dons between 2004 and 2006, is back in the country with an Elite Australian Under-15 squad, whom he now looks after following his retirement from the game.
Rizzo’s youngsters played the Dons’ Under-16s yesterday in a friendly at Bletchley’s Manor Fields but the former Dons star found time to visit stadiummk, see a few old faces and catch up with MK Dons Player for an exclusive interview.
Explaining the reasoning behind his visit, the 34-year-old said: “I’ve brought over a group of Under-15 boys who have come over from Sydney. They’re quite elite boys who have aspirations of becoming professional footballers - they’re very talented.
“This trip has been set up to get them out there, get them in the shop window and to see if they’re good enough because being good in Australia is one thing but being good in the UK is completely different.
“I’ve got my own private Academy in Sydney and I’ve got a fair few kids who hopefully I can start developing to bring them over to England.
“It’d be fantastic to know I’ve developed a kid and for him to progress and maybe even play for MK Dons, I don’t know. There’s obviously a connection between me and Milton Keynes and if there are any elite kids I’d love to bring them over.”
Signed by Stuart Murdoch in October 2004, Rizzo went on to make 60 appearances for the Club during his three seasons at the National Hockey Stadium, establishing himself as a fans favourite due to his tireless work out on the wing.
And the former Liverpool trainee, who is visiting the country for the first time since leaving the Dons, had nothing but kind words to say about his former Club and former supports, who still remember him fondly to this day
He added: “I have very fond memories (of my time with the Club). I had three great years here and I had a great relationship with the fans - I’d say they were probably three of my best years, which is why when the opportunity came about for my boys to play against MK Dons and to tell them this year I played, I took it.
“I’ve stayed in contact (with some of my old teammates) and I actually saw Aaron Wilbraham just the other day. I still also speak to Paul Mitchell, Clive Platt, Gareth Edds and Ben Chorley, the list goes on and on. To have that many friends from one team that you still keep in contact with is pretty special.
“I think it’s fantastic where the club is today although I’m sure the Club would love to be in a higher division because I know Pete’s got high aspirations. Nothing, though, would give me more pleasure than to see MK Dons jump through the divisions into the Championship and into the Premier League.
“It would make me even more proud to say I was part of MK Dons’ history as a player and I sincerely hope one day it happens. I’m sure it will, it will just take time.”
MK Dons Player’s interview with Nicky will be available to view later today.