“Going down from the Championship was the worst thing to happen to us in the last 10 years, so it is unthinkable to get worse than that," Pete Winkelman said in January when he hired Dan Micciche. Well, it's about to.
Dons' simply dreadful defeat on Saturday, going down 4-0 to Southend, almost spells relegation for certain to League 2, and the man at the helm has been 'relieved of his duties' after just three months in charge.
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Always keen to do things the 'MK Way', Micciche's appointment, as much as Winkelman said it wasn't a gamble, was a huge one. With Dons dropping into the relegation zone and sacking Robbie Neilson on that bitterly cold January night in Northampton, they needed someone who had experience and know-how to get a low-on-confidence, beaten-up side out of the trouble they found themselves in. Micciche couldn't do that.
The first five games were defeats and Dons slipped deeper and deeper into the mire. The gap, at one stage, read seven points to safety. Micciche finally picked up his first point - a 0-0 draw away at Rochdale: hardly one to write home about though. Another point away from home came four days later at Fleetwood when a wasteful Dons let slip a lead to tie 1-1. There, in an impassioned speech in front of the fans at the Highbury Stadium Micciche promised Dons would stay up.
READ MORE: The final chance for The MK Way
But there was something of a mini-revival on the horizon. Dons were beginning to play football Micciche's way. There was more purpose in what they were doing, more direction, an aim you could actually see from the stands. And finally the win came - a Tuesday night win at home, beating high-flying Rotherham 3-2. There was hope again, especially when it was followed up by beating fellow strugglers Bury, and though they drew with Blackpool, the club's first ever win at Gillingham saw them out of the relegation zone for the first time in the Micciche era. It wouldn't last long though. The good run of form would turn out to be a blip.
Losing to Blackburn, who went top as a result, was probably unfair on Micciche's side who deserved a point from the clash, but what followed drew a line in the sand. A 5-1 thrashing away at Wigan, a wasteful 2-1 defeat at home to Doncaster Rovers and then Saturday's hopeless 4-0 drubbing by Southend mean even winning on Tuesday night away at Bradford might not be enough to save MK Dons from relegation to the bottom tier of the Football League.
Micciche is a nice guy and unfortunately nice guys rarely do well in football. Upset at criticism, eager to please and unwilling to really get at his players after poor performances, his was an approach which simply didn't work with the club in the position it is in. It might have worked had the club been midtable, or had he been the number two to a more experienced man at the helm. Micciche needed time, but time wasn't a commodity he had. His was a short term (albeit half a season long) mission and he has come up very short.
It is a dramatic fall from grace for MK Dons. Not three years ago, the club was locking their sights on the Championship. Bold predictions of 'Premier League in ten years' were banded around and the club was on the up. But reality bit, and it bit hard. Perhaps under-investment, certainly poor recruitment and a catalogue of bad decisions have seen three managers leave in a little under 18 months, with Micciche lasting just three of those. The sad irony of it all is the club's ten year plan has seen them return to where they were this time a decade ago - League 2.
The time of doing things differently has come to an end.