Family atmosphere is helping Dons on and off the pitch

Paul Tisdale (right) shares a joke with Danny Butterfield (left) and Matt Oakley (centre)
Paul Tisdale (right) shares a joke with Danny Butterfield (left) and Matt Oakley (centre)

The festive spirit and cheer was clear among the MK Dons squad on Thursday ahead of Lawson D'Ath and Paul Tisdale meeting with the media.

With the players and backroom staff enjoying Christmas dinner together, there were howls of laughter and lighthearted ribbing going on as the 30+ group spent time together.

The jovial spirit is something which has been apparent all season long, with the off-the-pitch environment clearly having influences on the pitch as Dons sit pretty in second spot in League 2.

"Everyone was together," said D'Ath. "It was nice to have a Christmas meal together like a big family. You want that family feel around the club, everyone on the same wavelength and enjoying each other's company. If the club is like that, there's a good environment and it will only benefit us on the pitch."

That environment is something manager Tisdale said was an immediate front-runner in his list of changes when he first arrived at the club in June.

He said: "We spend a lot of time together, so it's important they all get on. We can't all be friends, it's a group of 30-odd, plus a load of other staff, you can't all be best of friends but you can get on and respect each other, come into work and enjoy yourself. They know the boundaries.

Lawson D'Ath in good spirits

Lawson D'Ath in good spirits

"We had our Christmas lunch, they were all very jolly, but they know as soon as it's over, it's time to work again. I'm really pleased with how they have reacted. After two relegations in three years, it was one of the first things to put right – the camaraderie and the environment. They can make such a difference."

While attendances have dropped at Stadium MK this season following relegation to the fourth tier, Tisdale says the off-field environment is allowing his side to express themselves more freely on the field, bringing in better results. And he believes if results continue to go favourably for his side, some fans will begin to come back.

He continued: "It's a by-product of making sure everything is in order off and on the pitch. And when the players start playing better, you can add the more exciting things and that brings fans back through the doors.

"I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by how many season tickets we had sold considering the last few years. That gave me a lot of confidence that there is a base support here.

"Hopefully we're building something now. The players aren't encouraged to think like that, but if you think correctly, you will act correctly. When the players play freely and enjoy it, it happens."