Here Ben Tilney talks about his career to date at MK Dons and his time on loan at Brackley. This first appeared in The Red & White on 23 September:
At 20, left-back Ben Tilney has a big footballing future ahead of him. With MK Dons since the age of 8 coming through the club’s junior and academy ranks into the first team squad, Ben made 12 appearances for the first team last season including 11 starts. He even scored on his debut away at Newport County in the cup and quite a special goal it was too firing in from 20 yards!
After a successful two month spell at St James Park at the end of the 2015-16 season when Ben featured in the dramatic final day win against Tamworth that maintained Saints’ National League status, he has returned on a long loan adding even more quality to Kevin’s squad.
After just minutes of game time off the bench, Ben started the game against Kidderminster Harriers. “I was buzzing,” he says. “They are a full-time side but we played well. We kept another clean sheet and took our chances. I was pleased to play and enjoyed the wing-back role as I like to get high up the pitch so the role suits my game.”
It is not long before we are talking about his experience at MK Dons and that goal! “I won’t score many from left-back so to get one on my first team debut was special,” he purrs. In no time he has the video playing on his phone. “It’s been viewed a few times because it is a cracker. We were 2-0 behind then I got the equaliser and we went on to win 3-2.” And it is true, it is a cracker. Picking the ball up around the half-way line he drives to the edge of the penalty area and unleashes a shot into the top corner providing quite a memory.
Football at The Dons has been a part of Ben’s life for almost as long as he can remember. “It is intense. We train every day, literally every day. We go in on Sundays and were in on Christmas Day. Everything is highly organised and professional and we are very well looked after but a lot is demanded of us also. If you are not delivering you know you are out. That includes training. A poor training session means I know there’s no chance of being selected for the team. There is huge competition for every position. The routine depends on when the games are and the day of the week. Lots of time is spent preparing for the next game in terms of knowing our opponents. Typically we might start at 9.30am with some injury prevention work in the gym. A meeting might follow studying clips from the most recent game and preparing for the next one. Later we will start training. These sessions are usually short but intensive and some of it will be spent in our small groups with specialist coaches depending on your position. We will typically do possession and passing drills and focusing on our shape. We might finish with small group games or often an eleven-a-side game with one team set up as we expect our next opponents to play. We might get away at around 3pm. On the day before a match things will be lighter in terms of training with more time spent on preparing for the specific opposition.”
“Unless it’s a very local game we always stay overnight,” he adds. “This can be helpful in being relaxed for the match but it also takes you away from home for a lot of time and means spending time in hotel rooms.”
Ben contrasts the culture he has grown up with at MK Dons with his experience at Brackley and concludes very favourably. “It is a big culture shock at first,” he admits. “But there are really excellent players here who understand what it takes. It’s a good standard of football and it is enjoyable. There seems to be a good balance for the players and that suits some allowing a mix of football and another job. Training here is very good. It is sharp just like I am used to and I can’t praise what we do in the sessions here too highly. The difference is obviously that the time in training here is limited compared to at a full-time league side where the intensity and detail are considerable. That’s really noticeable when we have a midweek game.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly Ben is highly complimentary about The Dons. “I know how some people feel given the history,” he says. “But is really is a great club trying to reach into the community. The stadium is fantastic and the plans for the new training ground look amazing. Pete Winkelmann does not do things by halves. He is such a charismatic figure and is always around the club. It means so much to him. After a game he comes into the dressing room once the manager has spoken to us and shakes us all by the hand and speaks to us individually. He knows us all and you can see how much he cares.”
Ben has a great deal to offer his new loan club and seems genuinely excited to be back and enjoying his time at Brackley. With a long and tough season ahead there is no doubt supporters will be seeing a lot more of Ben Tilney around SJP.