Variety is the spice of MK Dons' academy

The young players are learning various different styles of football in the academy

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The academy at MK Dons wants to follow the first-team’s philosophy of football, but is intent on honing versatile players capable of playing in numerous systems.

Having worked under four different head coaches in the last 12 months, the academy has been working on developing the youngsters in the system who can play various styles of football to best reflect their potential careers in the professional game.

Seeing the significant differences between styles under Graham Alexander and Mike Williamson in the recent head coach switch at the club, academy manager Ben Smith said helping the young players understand not only different playing ideals but also working with different coaching methods too is a fundamental part of their role in developing future stars in Milton Keynes.

“It's important for the academy to have an identity within the club. We try and create young people who are adaptable,” said Smith. “Throughout their careers, they'll have different managers and they have to adapt to what is being demanded of them in the game. Our boys need to be adaptable, and so do the coaches.

“We now might need to teach a different tactical edge that the manager might be looking for.

“Our fundamentals are to produce adaptable players, and that's important in developing career, whether it's here or at another football club, but also being adaptable when they stop playing.

“We want good learners, who can take on information quickly, and that can put that into practice. They can go from working with the U18s to the first-team, and having first-team demands put on them and getting it quickly.”