Manning warns against high expectations as his new MK Dons side beds in

“I’m excited by the potential of the group, but I’m wary it will take a bit of time as well”

Liam Manning has warned against overambitious expectations following MK Dons’ third place finish last season.

Dons have undergone huge changes this summer, with 14 players leaving the club - including top scorer Scott Twine - and 13 more replacing them.

With that level of change and transition, Manning says he has had to keep a lid on expectations of going one step further from last season, knowing his side are starting with a clean slate, particularly when it comes to on-field relationships, experiences and understanding.

“In my head I know what we should push for, but we need to see how the group goes along the way,” he said.

“I'm excited by the potential of the group, but I'm wary it will take a bit of time as well.

“We've got a large number of new players in the squad, so it might take time for them to gel and for everyone to understand that. We've done some good work in recruitment but that doesn't mean it will immediately happen.

“You saw last season we had to go through some things for it to happen - looking at Shrewsbury and Doncaster away, even Cheltenham where we snatched a point. And then Wigan away where we weren't great but we won. We took a lot from those experiences.

“We've got a group of high potential but the performances aren't there because we're unknown. Sometimes you need to play well and lose, play badly and win, concede a goal in the last minute. You need those experiences as a group to do what we did at the end of last season to string together results.”

And of course it will not be just themselves Dons are competing with, but the rest of the division. Once again, League One is shaping up to be one of the most competitive years in the third tier, with Dons one of the lower spenders.

Captain Dean Lewington added: “The big teams have gone out and strengthened - when you're signing left-backs for over £1 million it puts things into perspective where we are in the chain of things. It will be a very competitive league.

“It might be a split again between the top 10 and the rest, and in that top 10, there will be a lot of ex-Premier League teams and very big Championship teams.

“It will be tough but we're confident in what we do, our style of play and in terms of the players we've brought in.”