Steven Schumacher

Schumacher's MK Dons Preview

Sync Fixtures

When manager Steven Schumacher takes his place on the Argyle at MK Dons, in his 45th game in charge of the Pilgrims, he will no doubt get a few flashbacks.

On a Wednesday night last December, live on Sky television, Schumacher made his managerial bow, thrust into the limelight following previous manager Ryan Lowe’s exit two days prior.

The Greens went into the game having lost three league games in a row, but performed admirably to earn 1-1 draw on the night, and so Schumacher’s tenure had begun, with a battling point.

His 39 games in charge in the league, including that one, have seen 23 wins, six draws and ten defeats, at a rate of 1.92 points per game.

Some ten months or so on from that baptism of, if not fire, then something scoldingly hot, but Schumacher has kept the flames burning, and Argyle have scorched to the top of Sky Bet League One so far this season.

Looking back on that first game, Schumacher said: “I remember being nervous, butterflies in my stomach, being thrown in at the deep end, live on Sky. A lot had happened in the previous 48 hours. I remember going into the game excited, looking forward to the challenge.

“We played ok in the first half, quite well second half and came out with a good point from a good game.

“It’s flown by. It’s been a rollercoaster, a few highs, a few lows, but I’ve enjoyed it.

“Every week that goes past you get more experienced. I think the first six months I was true to myself, I kept how we played, the methods that we used. We changed a few things from when Ryan was in charge, of how the week looked, but nothing too drastic.

“I enjoyed the second half of last season, then this season I felt as though we needed to get a bit smarter, because we all know how the last five or six games of last season went, when we played against the top teams, MK Dons being one of them.

“We got to work over the summer, did something about it, and now we’ve got a couple of different ways to play. I would say it’s still evolving, and I’m continuing to learn as a manager.”

It was Milton Keynes who famously denied Argyle a play-off spot on the final day of last season. The Dons then fell at the first play-off hurdle themselves, and after a summer of upheaval in Buckinghamshire, with just three wins from their opening games leaving them 22nd after approximately a quarter of the season played.

Their most recent game saw them lose 1-0 at home to Bristol Rovers on Tuesday night, which marked a third straight league defeat.

Manager Liam Manning drew plaudits last season for the attractive style of football MK employed, and while this season has not yet fired for Dons, Schumacher believes the spark will come – just not yet, hopefully.

He said: “I’m really surprised to see where they are in the league because they were third in the division last year, and arguably the best to watch. If you look at the turnover in the players, maybe that is a reason why they have had a slower start. It just takes time for players to gel.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they get it going because Liam is a good manager, a very good coach. I know his assistant Chris Hogg really well. They’ll be working really hard to put it right, and I’m sure they will.

“I’ve watched a fair bit of their footage back, and their games have been really close, like nearly all games in League One are. They are not getting battered by anyone, they are in the games. The game on Tuesday night, against Bristol Rovers, they were in the game, it was a penalty decision that separated the outcome.

“They are only one good performance away from clicking into gear and getting that confidence back. It’s our job to make sure that good performance doesn’t come on Saturday.”

Argyle won 3-0 at home to Accrington Stanley last Saturday, a fourth straight win and an eighth win in nine games. They have not been in action since, which has given Schumacher and his team time to work on some issues that, despite the emphatic-looking scoreline, the game presented.

He said: “Occasionally when you get these clear weeks, I try to go back and review what we have done in the previous three or four games, and say ‘what do we need to work on’. I thought our performance against Accrington, certainly early on the game, wasn’t good enough with the ball. That’s been the focus this week, trying to look after it a bit better, play with a bit more care and pass the ball a bit faster. We turned the ball over too many times against Accrington.

“We’ve had time to work on things, go over it and speak to the players about what we expect of them. Hopefully we’ve got some fresh legs ready to go on Saturday. It’s going to be a good game.

“We’ve sold loads of tickets – again – which is brilliant. We want to go a put a good performance on for our fans.”

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