DONS’ play-off second leg against Huddersfield Town summed up Dons’ whole season, according to manager Karl Robinson.
Going out 3-2 on aggregate, despite a 2-1 win at the Galpharm Stadium last Tuesday, put paid to Dons’ promotion dreams for another season, with fans, players and staff facing the prospect of League 1 football again next season.
But Robinson is keen not to dwell on what might have been, having already announced his new-look backroom team of Mick Harford and Ian Wright to replace the retiring John Gorman.
Looking back on the season though, he felt that the play-off affair reflected the season well.
“That last game sums up our whole season,” he said. “We were the best team, classy, gritty, determined, full of heart, we had great support and had the right tactics. We just didn’t get the luck we deserved to get over the line. That best reflects our season.
“There were more highs this season than in any other and we were more unified than ever before. I’m gutted, I’m a bit lost and I’m bored!
“We’re better than them (Huddersfield) and that’s what frustrates me. We fought to the end and I was very proud of them at the end. I’m so glad we went out on that performance.”
In the aftermath of the game, Robinson was seen consoling his devastated players in front of the 900 Dons fans who made the trip to West Yorkshire, before giving his own teary wave – something some quarters believed to be a wave goodbye.
But the man himself said there was nothing more to it than an emotional thank you.
“I was waving to my mum and dad in the crowd,” he said. “I lost my auntie a few weeks ago and a few things got on top of me. I was just waving to my family and it got taken out of context – like I was waving goodbye! I’ve learned that lesson, I’ll never wave at the end of the season again!
“Emotionally, it all got on top of me on Tuesday. I just believed that we could do it, knew they could do it, and I couldn’t believe that it had been taken away from us.
“I don’t show emotion like that. I get angry, but I don’t cry. I was alright, and then I saw Stephen Gleeson and Lewie in absolute bits and I realised how much it meant to them. When they showed that emotion, that’s when it got to me. They put their heart and soul into this club and they’ve let nobody down. It showed how close we are as a group of people.”
One of the teary-eyed players who had to be consoled by Robinson was midfielder Gleeson. Earlier in the season, the 23-year-old admitted that he may be forced to look elsewhere for football if Dons weren’t promoted to the Championship, with his current deal expiring at the end of June.
Last week, five players agreed deals to extend their stays at stadium:mk – Adam Chicksen, Tom Flanagan, Ian McLoughlin, George Baldock and Jay O’Shea – with a fresh offer extended to Gleeson in a bid to keep him at the club.
A similar situation transpired last season when Peter Leven’s contract was due to expire, and the midfielder chose to see out his deal, favouring a move to League 2 side Oxford United.
But Robinson is adamant that with a little convincing, Gleeson could yet be pulling on the Dons kit once again next season.
Robinson said: “I’ve had a really good chat with him. I’m very confident. He wants a few things stated in order to sign. He broke down in tears after the game, he was in bits because he really cares about this club.
“People are misguided by him. He looks like he’s moody, doesn’t care and only does it for himself. He’s one of the most caring and considerate men I’ve met.
“He gets wrapped up the fact that he cares so much – sometimes he shows it in the wrong way. I’m sure if I’ll be here at the end of the summer, so will Stephen Gleeson.
“It’s exactly the same with Alan Smith – if I’m here, he’ll be here. Me and Smithy get on really well. I foresee a lot of good people still being here next season.”
One player who will definitely be with Dons next season is fellow midfielder Luke Chadwick, though his summer may be a little disrupted thanks to a recent knee operation.
He has struggled with injury since February which has limited his participation in the latter part of the season. And after several scans and trips to see specialists, the 31-year-old underwent successful surgery this week.
Head of Sports Medicine Simon Crampton said: “On Wednesday he had surgery with our specialist in London which was very successful.
“The surgery was a straight forward procedure which lasted less than 10 minutes and we’re very happy with the outcome.”