The deafening roar before the storm - Dons' hectic week prior to kick-off
For some, the final week of pre-season is quiet. For MK Dons, it was anything but
A week before the season kicks off might ordinarily pass without much incident - but MK Dons like to do things differently. Not satisfied with a friendly against Premier League giants, they also signed three players and endured the rumour mill circling around the services of manager Russell Martin Quite a week.
The challenge facing them at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday in the opening round of the Carabao Cup seems to have gotten lost in the wash somewhat, the start of the season proper. Martin's name was touted as one of the favourites to take over at Swansea City after Steve Cooper departed earlier this month. No formal approach has been made at this stage for the Dons boss and speaking on Friday morning, Martin distanced himself from the rumours.
"Nothing has changed for me," he said. "I've become accustomed to ignore the noise over my career, there's always noise. We've worked like dogs to get ready for the season and we roll on.
"If something official ever happened, you'd all know very quickly. As far as I'm concerned, we're here doing the job, I really enjoy it. I'm planning on being here for a long time, but in football you never know."
Meanwhile, there has been the little matter of the season beginning, of course. The trip to Championship side Bournemouth for the first round of the cup will be marked as a celebration for many travelling Dons fans, especially now the country has been somewhat let off the leash to enjoy their lives again. The Cherries are strong favourites to book a spot in the second round but the occasion will not be lost on the supporters, who have had to wait since February 29, 2020 - 517 days - to watch their side on the road.
Those football-hungry fans - 15,000 of them - were given a treat midweek in the form of not only Tottenham Hotspur visiting Stadium MK, but the return of one of the city's favourite sons - Dele Alli. The 25-year-old played against the team which helped make his name for the first time since he left the club in 2015, skippering Spurs and getting on the scoresheet as Tottenham ran out 3-1 winners over their League One opponents, who in turn were captained by a much-fancied academy product in David Kasumu.
With all the rest of the 'noise' as Martin put it going on, it could be easy to overlook the THREE signings Dons made this week as well. Defender Tennai Watson had been on trial with the club for a few weeks after leaving Reading and made a significant impression on the boss, enough to sign him based on his pre-season performances.
Josh McEachran too returned to the fold after his decent showings towards the end of last season. His bout of Covid has prevented him from taking much part in Dons' pre-season preparation for the new season, but will benefit from his 14 appearances last season to at least be up to speed with what his role will be in the side.
And Troy Parrott - a well-liked Tottenham academy product - was sat on the bench on Wednesday night at Stadium MK, but skipped the bus-trip back to north London in favour of signing a loan-deal with Dons. Not just an untested youngster, Parrott is a Republic of Ireland international too, bolstering Dons' now brimming attacking line following the capture of Mo Eisa and loan signing of Max Watters.
Given the amount of talking that has gone on this week, it is now finally time to let it happen out on the pitch. Perhaps the game with Bournemouth will matter little in the grand scheme of things for Dons this season, but the start of the season is the start of the season after all.
Imagine taking the week off...