Keeping a close eye on the Dons youngsters out on loan

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Dons’ loan players are still very much a part of the fold at Stadium MK

MK Dons are keeping a close eye on their youngsters out on loan, but do not want to recall them and stall their careers before they have even started.

Brooklyn Ilunga (Hemel Hempstead) , Ronnie Sandford (Hertford Town), Junior Gramfi (Bedford Town) and Jack Davies (Concord Rangers) are just a few of the academy names out on loan down the footballing pyramid, getting regular football away from Stadium MK.

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But they are also still regulars in Dons training sessions too, with their non-league outfits often part-time, with training sessions in the evenings after many of their players have finished their day jobs.

It means Liam Manning and his coaching staff remain in close contact with the players while getting updated on their progress.

“It's constant,” he said. “They still train with us. And then on a Saturday when they play, we get reports sent to us to see how they've performed.

“They're on a hybrid programme - they'll train in the evening's with their loan club but in the week will train with us. The loans help bridge the gap quite nicely between U18s and the first team. National League South, where most of the guys are, is beneficial to us so we get the best of both worlds.”

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Ilunga has been the most prominent of the youngsters in the first team, having appeared 10 times for Dons since making his debut in May 2021. Both he and Gyamfi have made appearances in the Papa John’s Trophy this season too.

And Ilunga’s performances for Hemel Hempstead Town, in National League South, have impressed Manning but he admits calling the 19-year-old back too soon, before first team opportunities are readily available to him, would be a mistake.

The head coach continued: “Brook is a great example of someone who has gone out and performed really well. We monitor it, but we don't just want to pull him back and stall his development. You want to see him in a place where he can flourish and then when the time is right, we'll make that call.

“We have a duty to the medium and longer term of the club with these younger players. Junior made his debut last week and got man of the match, Callum Tripp has been in and around it, we've got Brook and Jack Davies - we're trying to continue their development in an appropriate way.”

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