The end of the line for Paul Tisdale at MK Dons
Paul Tisdale’s tenure in charge of MK Dons has come to an end.
After 73 games, a promotion and a money-spinning tie against European champions Liverpool, picking up just one point from a possible 27 was ultimately the breaking point for chairman Pete Winkelman, who pulled the trigger on a fourth manager in three years on Saturday night following the 3-1 defeat to Tranmere Rovers.
Tisdale was the longest serving manager in the Football League when he left Exeter in June 2018. Back-to-back play-off final defeats with the Grecians left him war-torn and, by his own admission, heartbroken. But he bounced back immediately with Dons, made an offer too good to turn away.
Dons too were in a bad place – two relegations in three seasons left them down in League Two. Tisdale, for all intents and purposes, was the right man at the right time. Things went well for the first few months before the first bump in the road. Despite hitting top spot, a torrid run of form through December and January saw them drop out of the play-off spots.
But a turnaround of five wins on the spin, hauled them back into promotion contention. With a spot in the play-offs secured, the final day dramatics and a win over Mansfield saw them secure automatic promotion.
But, speaking with hindsight, that now seems like a nail in the coffin for Tisdale and his staff. Though he brought in seven players in the summer, and though four were considered to be attackers or strikers, the lack of goals at this level has been the killer blow. Long term injuries to Joe Mason and Ben Reeves – two of the men added in summer – ruled them out for the opening months, while Rhys Healey would later go on to suffer a thigh injury which would rule him out for much of this torrid period. In fact, since Healey’s injury before kick-off at Blackpool – Dons’ last league win - Dons haven’t won a game.
Sam Nombe too, a product of the academy, was the next in line after impressive performances in cup competitions early in the season. But he too suffered a long term injury, leaving Tisdale with Jordan Bowery, who only scored seven goals in League Two last season, and a stuttering Kieran Agard, who has not found his feet in League One yet.
Performances though have not helped Tisdale’s cause to remain in charge. From the poor against Burton Albion, to the flat at Rochdale to the downright bizarre against Fleetwood, where Dons opted to defend from minute one without a mind to attack, nothing Tisdale has tried has worked.
Saturday’s defeat to Tranmere, another promoted club, also struggling to score goals and win games in League One ultimately left Winkelman with little option.
Few will have a bad word to say about Tisdale when the dust settles. A clever football man, perhaps too clever for the team he had at his disposal, but one who knew the realities of the industry, and ultimately the cost you pay when things go wrong.