Russell Martin had a unique vantage point to assess his side’s performance in their practice match with Coventry City.
The MK Dons manager – formerly a player, of course – donned his boots for the first time in 10 months and featured at centre-back for the first 45 minutes of Saturday’s pre-season encounter at Stadium MK.
“It was so valuable for me to be on the pitch and really feel the game,” Martin told iFollow MK Dons after the game. “Obviously, we haven’t got the numbers we want at the moment either but that wasn’t the main reason why I did it.
“We spoke about it as a team on Friday and whilst I still have the ability – just about anyway – to be on the pitch, we saw it as a chance to get a different perspective on the game, and really feel and see what we’re facing.
“Being on the pitch is the best place to be to really get a feel for what’s going on so that was an invaluable experience for me.”
So what did Russ see from his players?
“It was really encouraging,” he commented. “It’s frustrating and disappointing to lose, of course, and we don’t want to concede goals like we did, but, at this stage of the season, it’s not about that and overall, I’m pleased.
“We are having to play a lot of young guys against tough opposition so it’s going to be tough. For them, it’s a steep learning curve but they’ll learn with us and continue to develop. We have to patient with them.
“In terms of the guys we expect certain things from, I thought they were excellent. They dominated the game for large periods, against a team who were the best team in the league last season.
“For me, pre-season wasn’t about playing teams where we’d have a lot of the ball and win four or five nil – that’s pointless. They’ve been set a challenge and, largely, they’re rising to it.
“Every week, every game, I feel like we’re getting closer to where we want to be. Our standards are high and it’s going to take us a bit of time to get back to those standards, but we’re getting there step-by-step.”