Pressure’s on Karl’s Kids to keep it going

Pic: Lee Scriven
Pic: Lee Scriven

It’s not just a new brand of football at stadium:mk that has everyone cooing at the moment - it’s the new breed of players.

While Premier League outfits are fighting over proven strikers in their mid-to-late 20s, Karl Robinson has gone against the grain even for teams in the third tier by proving the kids are alright.

On Saturday in the 1-0 victory over Crewe Alexandra, Dons’ attacking quartet was made up of Jason Banton (20), Dele Alli (17), George Baldock (20) and Patrick Bamford (19).

With Tom Flanagan, Brendan Galloway and Ben Reeves all likely to get their fair share of starts too, it’s the dawn of a new era at stadium:mk.

The re-focus of the club is something Karl Robinson has been keen to introduce for several years.

His drive to bring young players from Premier League sides has seen the likes of Angelo Balanta and Adam Smith to the club, but now it seem that the first batch of players to have come through the Academy in the ‘Robinson era’ are ready to be thrown in at the deep end.

The manager’s feelings on young players has always been the same - if they’re good enough, they’re old enough.

George Baldock, whose brother Sam was the first legitimate product of the youth system in Milton Keynes, said on Saturday: “You’ve got to look at the work in the Academy, it’s phenomenal.

“You can see the likes of Dele Alli, and Giorgio Rasulo for England too.

“The manager gives young players the opportunity to go out and play.

“This team is going places, it’s a great club to be part of. The quality of young players in training is ridiculous. It’s an exciting time.”

And the fans certainly seem to have embraced it too. Saturday’s chorus of Pink Floyd’s famous line ‘leave our kids alone’ had many people chuckling into their matchday programmes, but the sentiment rings true.

Plenty of the country’s top clubs have been sniffing around Alli since his explosion onto the scene against Cambridge City last season and the manager categorically stated that his new star isn’t for sale, though a bid of seven figures would surely have him reconsidering that statement.

But like every footballer, the young charges will have to get used to spells out of the team.

Though Dons’ squad is thin on the ground, the youngsters, particularly those in the front quartet, have proven stars in Luke Chadwick, Dean Bowditch and Daniel Powell waiting in the wings to pounce and take back their places in the first team should they show any signs of performance drop off.

“We have to make sure, at the right time, that they come out of the team to protect them,” said assistant Gary Waddock. “They’ll need to understand that.

“They have to be good enough. A number of them have shown already that they are.”

Waddock added that neither he nor Robinson are put off by a player’s age when it comes to picking the team.

He said: “I don’t think the staff or the manager here are frightened of putting the young players are in while others are.

“But there’s no point in having an academy if you’re not going to use them.

“They’re not the finished article by a long way. And they have work to do, but the staff here will develop them and make them better players.”

Saturday is arguably Dons’ biggest test of the season as they travel to Preston - what better place for Karl’s Kids to prove just what they’re capable of?