Impressive Ilunga earned his Dons debut in training

MK Dons 0-3 Rochdale

Sunday, 9th May 2021, 5:23 pm
Updated Sunday, 9th May 2021, 5:26 pm
Brooklyn Ilunga

Brooklyn Ilunga might have been a surprise inclusion on the MK Dons substitute's bench on Sunday for the League One finale against Rochdale, but it was a spot he deserved said his manager.

The 17-year-old had been training with the first team throughout the week, having played for the U18s for the rest of the campaign. But with injuries to Cameron Jerome and Charlie Brown ruling them both out of the last game of the season, Ilunga was not only named on the bench but was also handed his first team debut, replacing injured Matt O'Riley with 21 minutes remaining.

Making a good account of himself, Ilunga played up alongside Will Grigg, though neither frontman were offered a lot to work with. His debut though impressed manager Russell Martin.

Jay Bird in action

He said: "Jon Goodman spoke really highly of him and he's been really good in the youth cup games this season. He plays a few positions - wing-back, up front, can play at the top of midfield.

"He has real energy, and has trained really well. You've got to earn your place to get into the team and to get on the pitch which he has, as has Jay Bird."

Bird has made more and more of an impression since returning from his knee injury. After a few unused substitute appearances, Bird came on against Fleetwood and was also given 21 minutes against Rochdale.

Martin added: "The way Jay has trained in the last few weeks has been so much better than he was before. When you're injured for a long time, you can come back in and ease yourself in, but he's over that and done well too."