SOME people have predicted that the end of the world will come this month, but MK Dons’ defeat at Brentford on Saturday was not a sign of the impending apocalypse, writes Toby Lock.
It has been a quite spectacular few weeks for anyone involved with MK Dons. From the disappointment of October came a fresher, more determined looking team for November. Then the FA Cup draw had everyone’s chins wagging, while the results kept on coming and Dons reaffirmed that they were indeed not just promotion hopefuls, but potentially title-worthy.
From without a win in five to one defeat in 10 is quite a swing in the space of a month, and one that has seen Karl Robinson nominated once again for the League 1 Manager of the Month award, and that is of little or no surprise.
Up against Robinson for the monthly gong are Saturday’s victorious manager Uwe Rosler from Brentford, with Eddie Howe from Bournemouth rounding out the nominees. The trio will no doubt be gathered around their television sets come Friday when the results are revealed.
The difference between the Karl Robinson of October and of early December the was plain to see when he came into the post-match press conference at Griffin Park - gone was the visibly down-trodden manager who blamed himself for the defeat against Crawley, replaced with one who seemed disappointed but overly concerned with the speed-bump in the road that was defeat away at Brentford.
The reaction has been similar on the whole among the fans too. The great run recently has almost afforded Dons an off-day, and frankly, it wasn’t even a particularly poor performance at Griffin Park and no one incident was to blame for the loss.
Robinson’s early season prediction that League 1 wouldn’t be a walk in the park for any side this campaign may have surprised many, but it seems that putting a run of results together is indeed catapulting teams up the standings and into contention for promotion.
“It’s the hardest league to be in at the moment,” he said. “Teams with money are well below us, and we’re still competitive.
“Obviously, we’re in touching distance, and I would’ve taken that at the beginning of the season.
“Of course, we probably should have had more points, and that’s a frustration, but I’d take where we are. It puts us in a very strong position at the moment.
“The beauty of this league is that you almost don’t have to worry about the other games – if you win yours, chances are the others are beating each other. We are looking forward to the turn of the season.”
And that turn of the season usually results in a month of speculation, weeks of rumours and ultimately, the anti-climax of transfer deadline day.
As has been the club’s line for several years now, money is tight at stadium:mk and the likelihood of a marquee signing worth hundreds of thousands of pounds looks a long way off.
But while Robinson and his backroom team are notorious for pulling something with next to nothing, his remit is more likely to be to fight off competition for his hottest stars.
“I think everyone knows that it’ll be a case of me stopping money coming in rather than throwing money about!” Robinson said.
“There will be a lot of people interested in what we have here, but it’s up to us to keep doing what we’re doing. We’ve set our sights on getting out of the league.
“Are there players I want to bring in? Definitely. There are players I’d love to have here, but I don’t know if they’ll come to fruition because they might not fit in our price range.
“Clubs are asking for too much money. We have a sustainable budget, and one which is competitive to an extent.
“We need to be careful and not throw money away. Some clubs in League 1 can throw £500,000 at someone – it’s amazing how they can do it, because it’s impossible for us.
“It’s much easier doing this job without the financial spreadsheet that you’re supposed to stick to.”
Of course it is easy to get ahead of yourself and begin to count your chickens before they’ve hatched. The unbeaten run may have come to an end but there is no reason why the good results can’t keep rolling in.
There is no sense of panic at stadium:mk that the club isn’t top of the pile by 10 points at this stage, but they know that, as they approach the business end of the season, the hard work starts here.