Executive Director Andrew Cullen discusses the Academy and standing at Stadium MK in his latest programme notes...
Thank you for attending our second game in a week here at Stadium MK. After a season’s absence we are delighted to have Peterborough United back here for a Sky Bet League One fixture and we extend a special welcome to all their supporters, players, staff and directors. Over the years there have been some cracking games between the two clubs, with plenty of incident. We have witnessed tense promotion clashes, dramatic play-off games, several stand-out goals scored by players from both teams and, of course, who will ever forget those incredible nine-men heroics at the last league game played between us here at the very end of 2017.
Posh have strongly recruited over the summer and have the expectancy of a sustained challenge at automatic promotion to the Championship this season. A win away at Southend United on Tuesday came after an impressive performance at home to Ipswich Town last weekend where they were unlucky not to take all three points after conceding a late injury-time equaliser.
There was a real buzz around Stadium MK on Tuesday evening following victory against a fine Lincoln City outfit. The disappointment of conceding late against Wycombe Wanderers three days earlier was dispelled with a resolute, determined performance in the latter stages of the game which saw everyone give their all to secure three very valuable points against a club which has real momentum and, who themselves, will have high aspirations this season.
Both our goals were scored by Academy graduates, adding to the stunner scored by another of our own, David Kasumu, in Kingston last week, and all in a fortnight which has seen two other former Academy players, George Baldock and Kevin Danso, start the new season on a Premier League teamsheet, Dele Alli called up again by England, and the aforementioned George winning plenty of plaudits after a Man of the Match performance on Sunday in Sheffield United’s win over Crystal Palace.
The Academy continues to be an important component within the Club’s long-term strategic plan. Our new Academy Manager, Jon Goodman, has spent much of the summer reviewing our current structures and processes and has developed some exciting plans to take the Academy forward and on how the Academy can create an even closer relationship with the first team. Central to our long-term planning is the development of a set of objectives and measures, some of which have been designed to work smarter at identifying the best young footballing talent in Milton Keynes and provide them with the coaching and skills, so that local dreams and aspirations of holding down a regular first-team place at MK Dons can be truly realised.
Thank you to all those supporters who continue to directly support the Academy Supporters’ Draw with the payment of the optional £1 per month supplement on Season Tickets. Since the launch of this initiative in 2014, over £150,000 has been raised by Season Ticket holders. On Tuesday, we rewarded two winning supporters in the summer draws by paying back the price paid for their Season Ticket and the August draw will take place at half-time today, giving all participants a chance to win the same prize.
The last 10 minutes on Tuesday witnessed outstanding vocal support. Emanating from the Cowshed, the noise quickly spread to other areas of the ground and genuinely did play a crucial role in getting us over the line. Such encouragement is helping to establish a competitive advantage supporting the players when they most need it and we all really appreciate the efforts being made to increase the atmosphere in the ground.
Some supporters will be aware that there is a focus from the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA), who licence stadia, to encourage supporters not to persistently stand throughout games. Failure to do this can result in the SGSA choosing to exercise their right to closure large sections of grounds and, in higher divisions, restrict capacity. This is not a big problem at Stadium MK, as a few years ago, with the help of the MKDSA, we established “The Walk” which saw stewards in the Cowshed at a couple or so points during the game, move up and down the aisle, with supporters taking that cue to remain seated for a few minutes for the duration of “the walk”. This considerably helped our position with the SGSA. We recognise that supporters will stand during periods of excitement in any game and with the support of the Cowshed we will be continuing “The Walk” this season. We would be grateful if those in the Cowshed would in turn support the stewards and allow us to demonstrate to the SGSA that we can manage our obligation to everyone in a safe and pragmatic fashion.
After today, we embark on three more trips on the road. On Tuesday we travel to Southend United for our Carabao Cup Round Two tie and then next Saturday we journey up the M6 to Accrington Stanley, who like ourselves have suffered the inconvenience of a suspended fixture with Bury. On Tuesday 3rd September we travel to Stevenage for the first group game in this year’s newly-branded Leasing.com Trophy. We are then back at Stadium MK to face AFC Wimbledon on 7th September with an earlier than usual kick-off time of 12 noon as the Sky Sports cameras are in town for a live televised game.
Thank you all for joining us today and hopefully we can stage another exciting game, featuring plenty of the edge of the seat excitement which has shaped our season to date.
Enjoy the game!