Martin's messy departure still leaves Dons in a better place than when he took over

Dons head into their League One campaign manager-less with a week to go

By Toby Lock
Sunday, 1st August 2021, 6:05 pm
Russell Martin
Russell Martin

Russell Martin has left MK Dons for Swansea City.

Signing a multi-year deal at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday, Martin's record in Milton Keynes saw him win 30 games of his 80, losing 31.

The Championship side left it desperately late to swoop in for Dons' leading man - less than 24-hours before their Carabao Cup clash with Bournemouth. Martin leaves Dons just seven days before the League One season gets underway, with arguably one of the toughest starts in the division facing them.

Not just leaving Dons without a manager, the club must now find a replacement not only available to do the job, but one who will be able to continue in the vein the squad has been designed to play.

His departure draws a line under a bizarre few days though. Having initially claimed he had no contact with the club on Friday morning, he later told the Citizen he had twice rebuffed approaches from the Welsh side before accepting their call when the official approach was lodged late on Friday evening.

Perhaps his intention to appease Dons supporters as he contemplated his future, his mixed messages left something of a sour taste in the end for the fans, particularly those who travelled to Bournemouth on Saturday for what would be his final game in charge. Not waving to the fans as he usually would, he went straight down the tunnel at the Vitality Stadium, where he gave his final address to the squad he built and would soon be leaving behind.

For the duration of his tenure, Martin has faced critics of the style of football his side has been set up to play, from managers, pundits, fans and the like. The players in his side though seem genuinely excited to be a part of it, and a late change now leaves them deep in the lurch as they look for a manager who is not only capable but willing to play as extremely as the squad is now set up to do.

It's the first time since 2009 Dons have had a manager snatched from under their noses by bigger clubs coming sniffing. Then, it was Roberto di Matteo after he narrowly missed out on promotion to the Championship making the jump to the second tier with West Brom. Since then, Paul Ince, Karl Robinson, Robbie Neilson, Dan Micciche and Paul Tisdale were all sacked by chairman Pete Winkelman.

The club though does feel like it is in a better place for having Martin ring the changes for 20 months, having taken over from Tisdale in November 2019. Now with a clear philosophy, style and mentality, Dons were heading into the 2021/22 season with optimism. The departure though means a huge cog in that machine is now missing, and replacing it will be tough.

But with players flocking this summer to be a part of the new Dons experiment, perhaps a manager will find the project equally as attractive so close to the start of the new campaign.