Selling the crown jewels must have a pay-off for MK Dons fans

Rhys HealeyRhys Healey
Rhys Healey
As Rhys Healey follows Alex Gilbey out the door at Stadium MK, Dons fans need some good news soon

It is the news MK Dons fans had been fearing all summer long – Rhys Healey has been sold.

Right now, we could trot out all the footballing cliches to justify either side of this argument: everybody has a price, can't stand in his way, prepared for everything, the club comes first and so on. And yes, all of them make sense, all of them are valid. But with a little over a week until the start of the new season, those phrases do not really fill fans with enthusiasm.

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It has been a strange few months for the entire world, not least MK Dons. If you were asked to name the key men in Russell Martin's side at the end of last season, the players he would perhaps look to build a side around for the new campaign, chances are you'd name one of Jordan Moore-Taylor, Joe Walsh, Callum Brittain, Conor McGrandles, Alex Gilbey or the aforementioned Healey. Only one of those names will be given a Dons squad number for the new season, and he only re-signed for the club earlier this week.

Of course every manager has to put his own mark on a side, bring in his own players and establish a side in his own mould but chances are, Martin will have had Healey firmly in his plans for the next 12 months.

The 25-year-old's move to Toulouse makes huge financial sense. The fee Dons have earned for the deal, especially during this current crisis period, will go a long way to helping the business side of things. With clubs desperate for all the pennies down the back of the sofa, Dons' big ticket item will help them keep the lights on, help keep people in work, and will help Martin attract some worthy replacements. But will it attract what they have lost in Healey?

“He scores every week,” the Dons fans would sing about the striker, and he rarely let them down. Netting 12 goals in 21 games since signing from Cardiff last summer, it's fair to call Healey the jewel in the crown, and the first pricey asset in their squad since Dele Alli left in 2015.

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The fact alone that Healey drew a big transfer fee proves the sort of player he is, and shows he will be nearly impossible to replace like-for-like. And it is that fact that will frustrate Dons fans the most. Having already lost their player of the year, losing Healey too is a monumental blow to the expectations the fans will have had heading into the new season. From having a side which may have battled for the play-offs, that now looks a tough task the way the squad currently lines up. And after some difficult seasons in recent memory, it doesn't fill anyone with much excitement.

On the flip side of the argument though, you do have to roll out those footballing cliches. Even without the coronavirus crisis forcing football clubs to count their pennies, a massive bid for a Healey, no matter whether a crown jewel or not, will have probably seen him on his way out of Stadium MK. Now throw in the extenuating circumstances of redundancies, budget caps and the long-term survival of the football club, it's a deal that makes perfect sense. If short term pain means still having a football club in a few years time, the bigger picture surely dictates it's a good move.

Watching a football match isn't about business acumen though, it's about what you watch on the pitch for 90 minutes, and in the immediate aftermath of Healey's departure, the season ahead looks as bleak as the weather across Milton Keynes on this Thursday evening.

There is no doubt that Martin et al will have been furiously scurrying for a replacement as soon as they knew Healey would be heading over the Channel, and there is time – the window closes in October - and even some cash to seek one out before the season starts. The money they have earned needs to be seen on the pitch though.

Given the calibre of players to have left Milton Keynes this summer though, it may need three or four big name signings to extinguish the flames of discontent.