Martin delighted to see his Dons squad back together again

Russell MartinRussell Martin
Russell Martin
"We've only seen each other over Zoom over the last few months so it has been great to reconnect"

Having his players back in training, albeit in small groups, has been a huge relief for Dons boss Russell Martin.

The squad returned to Woughton in three sessions on Monday ahead of the 2020/21 season scheduled to start on September 12, working on base-fitness and basic ball work before a return to full-contact football next week.

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Strict protocols are already in place at the training ground to ensure players and staff are kept as safe as possible, but even though the whole group has not been back together as a unit since March, Martin was delighted to see everyone in person rather than on a computer screen.

"It is great to be back, to see everyone," he said. "We've only seen each other over Zoom over the last few months, so it has been great to reconnect. We've got a week of this before we can kick onto some contact stuff – proper football – next week. I've done too much running over lockdown – my calf has given up on me! I did plan to do a little bit, but it was nice to stand from the middle and shout at them!

"It has been a long day with three separate sessions, all going through the safety protocols, coming in at separate times, but it has been great to see the guys back. They're all in a great position, physically, after such a long period of time off. And we could have forgiven them for coming back a little bit out of shape but we've been able to start on high-intensity stuff quite early."

For Martin, who took over last November, this pre-season is the first time he can project his plans of how MK Dons should look without the pressure of games. And he believes the next few weeks will be key in shaping his side for the next campaign.

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"It will be vital for us," he continued. "Speaking to the coaches, it felt like we were coming from behind last season. We didn't have a good points total, we had injuries, we were trying to get match fitness and we were trying to bring in a new style of play. But now it's different. We've got a bit of time, not a lot, but a bit of time to get to where we want to be.

"It has been a long slog in terms of planning and preparation. We've got a clear plan, and hopefully, we can improve on last season and keep getting better."

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