New training ground will be key in keeping youngsters at MK Dons

Young Dons Oran Jackson and Ben Tilney
Young Dons Oran Jackson and Ben Tilney

Academy prospects are more likely to remain at MK Dons if they have the chance to rub shoulders with the first team on a regular basis, and having an all-encompassing training ground will help that, according to manager Robbie Neilson.

Members of the Milton Keynes Council cabinet will meet next Tuesday to discuss plans to sell land near Newport Pagnell to Dons to build a new training facility.
At the moment, the academy sides use the Woughton on the Green pavilion as their base, while the first team operate largely out of Stadium MK - using Woughton solely to train on before returning back to the ground.

Plans to build at Tickford Fields

Plans to build at Tickford Fields

For Neilson, he believes the cohesion between the first team and the academy sides is imperative in making the younger players feel a part of the club, and recognising a distinct pathway between playing in the academy and getting a chance in the first team.

"That's probably the main thing for us," said the manager. "The first team deals with itself, but we don't spend a lot of time with the U18s because they're not based here in the stadium, they're based in Woughton. It makes it difficult to interact with them and bring them over to train with us.

"We have to plan way ahead, because they're in education in the mornings, so we'd have to get them out of that to train with us. It's just little things like that which will help develop them.

"When you see us all together, it's a big part of keeping players here. They have to feel a part of the club and the first team. If you don't have that, and the big clubs come calling, it's a no-brainer for them to go because they don't feel a part of anything here."

While the club have the infrastructure in and around the stadium, Neilson believes a training ground will also add to their selling power, being able to attract bigger players with better facilities.

He said: "It's the next step for the club. I've seen the plans and fingers crossed it all goes through. It'll be great for the club but also for the city. We don't spend a lot of time on the pitch at Stadium MK, we spend all our time on the training pitch so we need it to be as good as it can be.

"It helps in terms of recruitment as well. If you can bring players in, show them around, you've got a great opportunity to get them. We've got everything else - we're in a good location, we're near London, near airports, we've got a great stadium in a lovely city. The next step is the training ground."

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