FANS have been calling for it, the player himself has spoken of his desire for it, and now finally, Izale McLeod has completed a sensational move back to MK Dons.
The 28-year-old striker signed an 18 month deal with Dons on Thursday morning following his release from Portsmouth on New Year’s Eve, returning to the club where he made his name, and still holds the record as all-time leading scorer.
Having taken part in his first training session with his new team-mates, McLeod said he was delighted to be back at the club – but an awful lot has changed since he left for Charlton in 2007.
“It didn’t take much convincing,” he said. “I spoke to Karl (Robinson), myself and my agent spoke to the club, and it was clear that it was something both parties wanted.
“I’ve missed it here. It’s a club that’s close to my heart, it’s where I live, it’s where I’ve brought my kids up. It’s an amazing feeling to be back.
“It’s completely different to when I was here before. Then we were at the Hockey Stadium, and we trained full-time at Woughton on the Green. A lot has changed, but there’s still a great bunch of boys who have welcomed me here with open arms.
“Dave (Martin) and Dean (Lewington) were here when I first arrived, so it always helps to have familiar faces around. But I sort of know all the boys because I’ve played with them, against them, and know them from around Milton Keynes.”
But while surroundings may have changed for McLeod – whose last appearance at stadium:mk came in the line-up of club legends at half time in Dons’ 2-1 FA Cup victory over AFC Wimbledon – he believes that he too has changed and improved as a player since he left.
McLeod said: “I’m an all-round better player than when I was here before. I was 19, I was young and raw – always a goal-scorer and quick, but my all-round game and my understanding of the game is much better.
“I think I’m a bit different to the strikers who are here. I mainly want the ball over the top, chasing the ball, getting in the box and scoring goals. My goal-scoring record is pretty good, so I think that’s why the manager has brought me in. And we all want that push for promotion.”
He may be made to wait for his chance to add to his 54 strikes for the club though as McLeod is cup tied for the game against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough on Saturday. And he isn’t sure whether an existing suspension could rule him out of the Bury fixture a week later too.
“I can’t wait to be honest. When you go somewhere new, you want to get on with things. I did my first training session with the boys today, and I feel good.
“It’s frustrating because they’ll train and travel up to Sheffield for the game, but I’m cup tied! But that’s football. I think we’ll find out in the next few days whether my suspension can count on Saturday.
“The club’s leading goal-scoring record doesn’t weigh on my mind. It’s something that’s there. Now I’m back and it’s a record I hope I can add to.”
That is certainly what his manager hopes too. Robinson heaped praise on his new signing, who he says is taking a wage cut to return to the club he calls home.
Robinson added: “He’s a different Izale than the one that left, and he’s a better Izale. He’ll bring goals. He was one of the leading goal-scorers in League 2 last year in a poor Barnet side, and you only have to look at his record this year to know he’s a goal-scorer.
“We found it hard to deal with him here. He’s quick too, and gives us pace in behind when we need it. And when you’ve got Alan Smith, Ryan Lowe and Izale McLeod, they all offer different strengths.
“He knows the ambition of the club, he knows the difference and the progression, and I hope he can add to the quality.
“We’ve tracked him for a while. But he’s taken a hit to be here, and should get his plaudits for that, and it’s something I won’t forget for a while. I’m looking forward to working with him.”