MK DONS welcome a relatively unknown Nantwich Town side to stadium:mk this Saturday in an FA Cup first round tie, but Karl Robinson is very familiar with his opposite number.
Dons boss Robinson was on the books as a YTS player at Swindon Town when they were managed by Jimmy Quinn – now boss of Northern Premier League side Nantwich.
But Robinson’s memories of the 51-year-old are not good ones as it was at the County Ground that he suffered the back injury which prevented him from standing a chance of a professional playing career.
Robinson said he was treated badly by former Northern Ireland international Quinn after suffering the injury, going on to play for a host of non-League clubs in his native north west before being given a chance at the Liverpool youth academy from where his managerial career took off.
“The manager is the one I had at Swindon when I had my back problem – Jimmy Quinn. I fell out with him because I thought the way he treated me was nothing short of poor,” said Robinson.
Quinn is in charge of his eighth club, with just a promotion out of the Conference via the play-offs with Shrewsbury Town on the list of his achievements so far.
And after a nightmare spell at Bournemouth he disappeared off the football radar for three years before resurfacing at Nantwich in March this year and ‘The Dabbers’ now sit half way up the Northern Premier League table – one place above FC United of Manchester.
They have negotiated their way through four qualifying rounds to reach the first round proper for the first time in the club’s history, beating Nuneaton Town in front of just over 1,000 fans at the fourth qualifying stage last month.
But Robinson says their run in this year’s competition will come to an end this Saturday, and he may even give a few youngsters a chance to impress in Dons’ first step to a potential Cup glamour tie against one of the big boys.
“For me, it’s very good. My roots are in the lower leagues, but it’s one we should win, comfortably,” he said.
“We obviously look at the financial implications of that plum tie against a Manchester United or Liverpool away and that will help pay for a lot of things during a season.
“I know we’re not going to win it, but we can all dream one day of the players walking up those steps and picking up that world famous trophy. It’s so distinctive, it’ll never lose that aura.”
Not only does Robinson know his rival in the opposite dugout well, but his brother Craig plays for a team in the same division as Nantwich and has been giving him some useful tips on how to play against them.
Ashton United are struggling at the wrong end of the table, but held Quinn’s men to a 1-1 draw on Saturday while Dons were seeing off the challenge of Rochdale with a 3-1 stadium:mk win, lifting them to fourth place in League 1
Of all this weekend’s Cup ties, Dons losing to Nantwich would be just about the biggest shock possible. The Cheshire outfit do have something of a reputation as being a cup team though having won the FA Vase in 2006, beating Hillingdon Borough at St Andrew’s in the last final to be played away from Wembley Stadium.
However, even with former Crewe striker Rodney Jack in their side, Nantwich should cause Dons few problems. In fact they are the lowest ranked side Dons have ever played in a competitive game.
“Darren Potter has played with an injury all season and he will be out, but I want to play a strong team,” said Robinson.
“Otherwise we don’t play for two weeks. If I think a player needs protection, then they might miss out, but otherwise you’re playing. I want to win it and I want to leave nothing to chance. But we want to win it convincingly.”
That said, Robinson is expected to name three U16 players on the bench for the game as he has one eye on next Saturday’s League 1 trip to Colchester.