DONS boss Karl Robinson launched an incredible attack on the Premier League clubs and football agents he thinks are destroying the “beautiful game” in the immediate aftermath of his side’s 6-0 demolition of non-league Nantwich on Saturday.
A crowd of just over 4,000, including 700 Nantwich fans, watched Dons turn on the style to record a predictably easy win against the Cheshire side from four divisions below them.
But after seeing a couple of the club’s young gems make cameo appearances to wow stadium:mk, Robinson took his opportunity to explain what he’d seen at Dons’ academy game earlier in the day.
The U18 side welcomed Bristol City to town and the Dons boss said he was ‘sickened’ by what he saw.
“I went to watch our youth team this morning and I’m making a complaint,” he said. “It was a disgrace – I’ve seen something in this industry that I won’t accept. I want to make a point of it.
“There were three agents there going round trying to sign the kids of 14 and 15 years old. I’ve got them on tape and it will be done properly. Four Premier League clubs were there watching our players illegally. It’s a disgrace to our industry and I’m going right to the FA – right to the top. It made me sick.”
Robinson said the incident left him with a sour taste in his mouth, and it was even more poignant given that two of the academy’s brightest young stars got their first taste of senior football against Nantwich – both already becoming a hit with Dons’ fans and writing themselves into the club’s history books.
At just 15 years old, Brendon Galloway became the club’s youngest ever player to take to the field in a competitive game when he came on as a substitute late in the game, and George Williams became Dons’ youngest ever goal scorer when he netted goal number six in added time at the end of a pulsating second half.
But Robinson says more needs to be done to protect talented young players from being targeted by football agents and scouts looking to sign them up to top flight clubs.
“It wasn’t nice. It was almost like they were at a cattle market,” said Robinson. “And they know now – because of this new rule that’s come in – that they can get these players at a minimum price.
“So that now means there are more vultures to come and try to get them, but I’m going to speak with the FA. We deserve the chance to keep them and work with them. I want there to be a massive investigation.
“I went to watch England play Wales at Cheltenham and saw an agent hide before a car waiting to see a player and then sort of trap the father. It wasn’t nice and I’m going to be speaking with the FA next week. Seeing these kids play today reminds you how beautiful the game can be at times, but the romance of it was taken away from me this morning.”
The game against Northern Premier League Nantwich seemed to fail to catch the imagination of Dons’ fans, with only a hard core of just over 3,000 turning out.
But those who did make the effort were certainly glad they did as Dons produced an exhibition of attacking football. In fact, it was more like an open training session for most of the second half. But only after a fairly even opening half an hour.
Nantwich had navigated their way through four qualifying rounds to reach the first round proper for the first time in their 127-year history, and were keen to make the most of their big day out — giving the hosts one or two scares before Dons’ quality eventually told and they cruised to victory.
Goals from Mathias Doumbe, Dean Bowditch, Daniel Powell, Jay O’Shea and Williams made it a relatively easy afternoon’s work for Robinson’s side who now take on League 2 Barnet at Underhill in the second round in early December.
The Dons boss named a very strong line-up with only captain Dean Lewington and Stephen Gleeson the surprise non-inclusions in the squad.
Although there never looked likely to be a shock, Nantwich began the game very well, causing Dons one or two problems in the opening 10 minutes, but the Northern Premier League outfit failed to test keeper David Martin.
And once Dons got into their stride there was only ever going to be one winner. Bowditch and Angelo Balanta both tested Nantwich keeper Jon Brain in the first 20 minutes as the visitors held firm, throwing bodies in the way of any threatening effort on goal.
In fact the way that Nantwich fell behind on 27 minutes was slightly cruel on the visitors. After struggling to get out of their own half for long periods, the non-leaguers hit Dons on the break and forced a corner. The delivery was sweet and met well by a Nantwich head, with the ball flying only inches over the crossbar.
However, within seconds Dons had forced them straight back onto the backfoot and won a corner of their own – Mathias Doumbe powerfully heading home
And less than two minutes later it was 2-0 to the League 1 side when Balanta played in Bowditch in the 18-yard box and the Dons striker held off a couple of defenders before placing the ball into the bottom corner.
It was all one-way traffic by this stage and Nantwich were lucky to only go in two down at the break. However, there was one moment of concern for Robinson when the visitors countered quickly and only a good block from Doumbe prevented Martin from being called into action – the Dons boss letting his defenders know his feelings about it in no uncertain terms.
Dons got their third goal early in the second half when Bowditch fired home perfectly from a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area, but by this time the game was little more than a training session for the hosts.
After a bit of a revival from Nantwich which saw them briefly venture into Dons’ final third, Powell netted neatly low past Brain after a swift counter to make it 4-0 with what proved his final touch of the game as he was replaced by O’Shea.
It was 5-0 on 75 minutes when substitute O’Shea calmly fired out of Brain’s reach with hardly a Nantwich defender in sight. And that cued the introduction of the Dons youngsters – Williams, 16, and Brendon Galloway, 15, being given a runout with Charlie MacDonald and Luke Chadwick making way.
Both broke Adam Chicksen’s record of being the youngest Dons player to take to the field. That record now belongs to Galloway at 15 years, seven months and 26 days. However, Williams would break his own record before the game was up.
To their credit Nantwich never let their heads drop and seemed determined to snatch a consolation goal, even at the expense of conceding more at the other end.
It never came though and instead the biggest cheer of the afternoon was saved for Williams who was put through and rounded Brain to tap into an empty net in style, becoming the club’s youngest ever scorer at 16 years and two months old, sparking great scenes of celebration.
That was the perfect way to finish a thoroughly entertaining and emphatic first round win, with Williams, Galloway and unused youngsters Leon Lobjoit and Bamidele Alli sent to receive the ovation of the home faithful.
The game really couldn’t have gone much better for Dons, and Robinson couldn’t have been any happier with the performance.
He said: “I thought the players’ attitude was excellent. We were a credit to the professional industry and Nantwich conducted themselves very well too – they didn’t try and foul anybody or kick anybody, they tried to pass it too.
“It was two sets of 11 men going toe-to-toe with one ball, so the outcome is very unpredictable, especially in the FA Cup.
“Bowditch, Balanta were excellent and Tom Flanagan, Adam Chicksen, George Baldock and Mathias Doumbe were. Mathias showed why he was the player of the year last year and he’s not played much this year. We have great strength in depth.”
But the Dons boss reserved special praise for his two youngsters who helped to make it a memorable day for fans.
“Brendon was excellent in midfield and didn’t give the ball away. He made one or two tackles and can physically cope with it. He has a great future in the game and he’s only 15.
“Williams showed his quality really well. Forget the goal, he held the ball up very well like he’s in his mid 20s. And to go around the keeper like he did is exceptional.”