Dons were in a bigger mess than Oakley had anticipated last season

Matt Oakley
Matt Oakley

Confidence appeared high when Matt Oakley followed Paul Tisdale to Stadium MK last summer, but the assistant manager admitted it was a lot harder than it looked to get MK Dons into shape.

Oakley followed Tisdale after seven years at Exeter City, joining recently relegated Dons in League Two, aiming to guide them back into League One. While the end of the story was a happy one, Oakley has since told the Citizen the task at hand was much more difficult than the new management team have made out.

"It is different to last year – when we came in it was a difficult time," he said. "Lots of people were potentially leaving, with lots potentially coming. It has been an easier time this year, we've got momentum, we believe in ourselves – it's a good camp to be in."It was really tough, and obviously we wouldn't have let you know that! We needed to give a feeling of confidence, but it was not easy. Before we came in, we had to do an analysis job of what we were coming in to, but there were a lot of bad standards and mistakes within the squad we could see in matches but we hadn't worked with the players yet.

"When we got here, we saw we had some really good players too, but had perhaps let the side down the year before. But we strengthened, came together, we built relationship and we made a really good start.

"It was a big change for Paul, leaving after 12 years and myself for seven, coming to a place that had suffered two relegations in three years. There were a lot of negatives in and around the club. We had to build relationships with the squad to see what we've got, trying to get one or two that we knew in to steady the ship. We did that, and had a great season."

This time around, Oakley admitted it has been a much easier pre-season campaign to plan for. With the majority of the side staying at the club, and a lot of business done before training began, Oakley said things are looking good for their return to League One.

All smiles - Oakley, right, with Mel Gwinnett, Pete Winkelman and Paul Tisdale

All smiles - Oakley, right, with Mel Gwinnett, Pete Winkelman and Paul Tisdale

He said: "(Last year) Our start was very basic in what we were asking to do. We got going in October, we played some really exciting football then. But then we came into December, had a few injuries and we had to adapt again. Credit to the team and to Paul for needing to do that, and we got on track again.

"You never know what's coming. We'd love to be in that October, November period, playing free-flowing football, scoring lots of goals, but we might lose the first five games, and we'd need to do what it takes to get it going. It might be that we don't have the ball for long periods. If it's good football, great, the fans will love it. If not, they won't, but we might win some games and we'll win the fans around again."