It’s no fluke that MK Dons’ up-turn in form has coincided with the return of Rhys Healey from injury. The club’s fans were treated to a glimpse of what the former Cardiff City man offers in the first half of the 2018/19 season and must have thought they’d won the jackpot when he signed a permanent deal at the start of this campaign.
MK Dons Should Do All They Can to Keep Rhys Healey
No Healey, No Form
After scoring the winner in the Dons’ first game of the season against Shrewsbury Town, it looked as though Healey was going to go on and have another good spell with the club. A thigh injury in September, though, kept him out for a lengthy period, and the Dons’ form suffered as a result.
MK Dons went on to win the game against Blackpool in which Healey dropped out of the squad, but after that, they went on a torrid run of 12 games without a win – and only two of those being draws. Paul Tisdale lost his job nine games into that run, and it took new boss Russell Martin four games before he registered his first win.
Healey returned in Boxing Day’s 2-2 draw at Southend United and then went on to score in impressive home wins against Portsmouth and Bristol Rovers. A little blip followed but after that his form rocketed and it has sent the Dons into a position where they are almost certainly clear of League One relegation.
Leading the Way
It’ll be no shock that Healey leads the way in terms of top goalscorers at the club. He currently sits on 12, while midfielder Alex Gilbey (five) and injury-hit forward Joe Mason (three) make up the rest of the top three (Mason being tied with youngster Sam Nombe).
In terms of the club’s strikers, it’s obvious as to why Healey is being courted by other clubs and the rest aren’t. As aforementioned, Mason and Nombe are joint-third in terms of goalscorers, but with three each, they’re not major contributions. As well, Mason has been struggling to shake off the injuries that saw him take the step down to League One level in the first place, and Nombe is still a young player making his breakthrough.
Other forwards in Kieran Agard and Jordan Bowery have hardly had a look-in since Healey’s return. Both have just two goals each this season – only one more each than manager Martin, who found the net once before retiring from playing to become the boss. It looked likely that both would be shipped off in January, but Salford City had their bid rejected for Agard and Bowery’s form seems to have left him in a place where nobody is interested.
It’s not just at the club, though, where Healey is top of the class. The 25-year-old has scored a goal every 120 minutes in League One this season. This is the joint-best goals per minute ratio among strikers with a minimum of eight goals at this level.
Given that the frontman has spent the best part of this season injured, it’s astonishing to see the stats that he is producing. Unfortunately for MK Dons, though, that doesn’t come without its problems.
Interest in Rhys Healey
According to Football Insider’s Pete O’Rourke, a host of clubs in the Championship are plotting a move for Healey in the summer. There’s no indication as to who these clubs are at the moment, but given their relatively mid-table position, could there be a chance Cardiff have realised they made a mistake in letting him go?
That would certainly be a big step up for Healey (although, don’t forget he went on to get Premier League minutes for the Bluebirds last season having started the campaign in League Two). It’s more likely that sides towards the bottom half of the table would be looking to swoop in – perhaps those that avoid relegation or maybe one of the three League One sides that seal promotion to the second tier.
Dons Must Learn From Previous Mistakes
MK Dons haven’t been in this sort of position for a while. It’s not since 2014/15 that they had such a talismanic striker when Will Grigg fired them to promotion while on loan from Brentford.
The difference this time, though, is that the ball is firmly in MK’s court. Grigg was never their player to sell, they just would not stump up the money to sign him on a permanent deal, even though it was absolutely affordable. It proved to be a terrible error, as a lack of goals was a major contribution to their relegation in the next season.
This time, the Dons are in control and can effectively demand what they want. The high number of clubs interested will only drive the price up, but should they even consider letting him go?
It’s been a good few years now without a prolific striker, so why cash in now? It appears likely that the goals are still going to come and Rhys Healey would remain the first name of the team sheet throughout his entire spell at the club.