No-nonsense Neilson is ready for a promotion push

Robbie Neilson
Robbie Neilson

This time next season, Robbie Neilson doesn't want to be discussing the forthcoming League 1 season with MK Dons - he wants to be in the Championship.

Eight months into his tenure at Stadium MK, the Scot stands on the brink of his first full campaign with Dons and there is only one aim.

"The aim is to get automatic," he told the Citizen this week. "And if not we'll aim for the play-offs and do it that way. The ultimate aim is to get into the Championship. That's the reason we're here, that's the reason we've attracted such good players - the hunger of the club to get there."

Neilson is no-nonsense. His interviews are concise, to the point, direct, his attitude is matter-of-fact. He doesn't speak in riddles, metaphor or cliche - he doesn't have time for that. His drive and determination since arriving at Stadium MK has seen familiar faces go and new faces installed, respectfully, but looking beyond sentiment. And now, he has a team he built himself, not a framework from the previous regime.

"It's a different group," he continued. "When we came in, there were some really experienced pros, some guys who had done tremendous things for the club, but I feel now we've got a different, younger, hungrier team who want to progress and have another go at getting into the Championship.

"When we came in we were fighting fires, for want of a better expression, and then the season ended. We worked over the summer so when the players came back we were ready and could hit the ground running."

It took Dons seven seasons to finally escape League 1 back in 2015, going up as runners-up to Bristol City. With three opportunities, three places in the Championship waiting to be snapped up, Neilson admitted he isn't interested in how his side gets there, or making bold predictions as long as they do.

He said: "I don't want to say we're going for the title, but the big thing is promotion. This is a Championship team, if not higher. The aim is to get out of the league. Automatic is the best way to go for it, but we've got players who are hungry enough to do that."