Training facilities cost Dons third top international

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PETE Winkelman was left ruing an opportunity missed after MK Dons came close to hosting a third top international fixture at stadium:mk earlier this month.

The Republic of Ireland’s 2-0 friendly victory over Italy last Tuesday – which featured a goal from former Dons skipper Keith Andrews – was played at the Maurice Dufrasne Stadium in Liege, Belgium.

Although stadium:mk was in the running to host the game, the major stumbling block came – in Winkelman’s opinion – due to the lack of a ‘first class’ training facility in the city. But that is something he says he wants to change very soon, after seeing more than 25,000 Ireland and Italy fans descend on Liege.

The Dons chairman has openly admitted in the past that when the club moved to Milton Keynes back in 2004, the emphasis was put on building a stadium rather than a training ground.

“We were so close to being able to host Italy and the Republic of Ireland,” said Winkelman. “But the lack of training facilities for the teams is what cost us.

“We could have had the large Italian community coming to Milton Keynes from Bedford and the Irish community from Luton too.

“Stadium:mk has already hosted international friendlies, but if we want the bigger teams then we will need to invest in the facilities they need.”

A deal to build further retail units on the stadium grounds was announced last month, with the money being used to fund building work on the unfinished upper tier. And work could start inside three months, according to Winkelman.

He said: “We’re still working on the stadium and we hope to get building again in September.”

Stadium:mk is no stranger to international football, having hosted two pre-FIFA World Cup friendlies in 2010. The first saw Nigeria take on Colombia behind closed doors, before Ghana – who went on to reach the last eight in South Africa – played Latvia in front of more than 8,000 fans.

Winkelman insists that he will continue to push for top football to come to town, and is aiming for Milton Keynes to be known as an ‘International Sporting City’.