MICK Harford is keen to get his work at MK Dons under way after a long summer break, and says he’s been well drilled on the club’s need for automatic promotion this season.
Since being unveiled as Dons’ new assistant manager in the middle of May, replacing the retired John Gorman, Harford has found himself thrown into the recruitment drive to get players into the club.
With Karl Robinson in Spain until the end of the week, Harford has been in ‘constant contact’ with the manager, players and agents, but admits that he is desperate for the existing squad to return on Monday, July 9 so he can finally get to know them.
“I’m quite nervous about meeting the players,” Harford said. “Signing at the end of last season means I’ve had a long time to get to know the place, and the people in and around the stadium, but I’m looking forward to the players coming back next week.
“It’ll be an exciting time. It’s been a long pre-season, with the club finishing the last campaign later than most, so they’ve got an extra week off.
“But then it’s going to get busy very quickly with pre-season training, the tour of Ireland, and the friendlies before the season kicks-off.”
The new season is shaping up to be one of the most important in Dons’ history, with chairman Pete Winkelman saying last week that the play-offs were not an option for the club come May 2013.
And Harford shares the chairman’s drive and desire, citing automatic promotion as an absolute must for Dons this season after the League 1 play-off disappointments of recent years,
“Automatic promotion is the aim of course,” he said. “That is the challenge set by the chairman.
“But our budget is still well below that of the teams we will be fighting at the top of the table. We haven’t lost any players during pre-season, and that’s so important for a small squad like ours and will bode well for the fight for promotion.
“The game that sticks out in my mind is the Huddersfield game at the Galpharm Stadium. We outplayed them but all the damage was done in the first leg – we don’t want to go through that again.”
While he hasn’t had to worry too much about Dons’ existing crop of players looking for moves elsewhere this summer, Harford has been speaking with the potential new recruits that Robinson has earmarked for his squad for next season.
And having watched Dons on several occasions last term in his former role with the FA, Harford thinks he knows exactly what Robinson is looking for.
He said: “I’ve been talking to players and agents, and Karl while he’s out on holiday. We’re working hard to get the right sort of player here to work within our system.
“I came to watch the team quite a lot last season in my job with the FA, so I feel I know what sort of player would work effectively within the squad.
“It’s a style I really enjoy watching and I’m looking forward to having an input into. It’s a style of football that’s unique and that many will try and copy I’m sure – like Spain on an international level.”