A week to separate men from the boys

Samir Carruthers
Samir Carruthers

Weeks don’t come much harder, or more far-flung than the one facing MK Dons, but it’s something they’ll need to get used to if they are to become on of the Championship establishment.

Not only will Karl Robinson’s side be travelling six miles short of 800 in the space of three days, but they’ll be charged with taking on title favourites Middlesbrough and big-spending Burnley, keen to make an instant return to the Premier League this season.

Josh Murphy

Josh Murphy

Still very much the new kids on the block, little is expected of Dons in the two fixtures.

In fact, leaving Turf Moor next Tuesday night with no points to speak of from their weekend’s work wouldn’t raise surprised eyebrows from any quarter, including Robinson himself.

“Every week is a challenge in the Championship,” he said.

“Nothing is expected from me or my players.

“If we lose both games, no-one will come out and say we’re expected to beat the likes of Middlesbrough and Burnley, or Leeds, Derby, Southampton who we play in the next few weeks.

“This is who we have to compete with each week.

“The travelling will be hard. It’ll be five hours to Middlesbrough, and five back on the coach. And then a further four to Burnley.

“We’re bottom of the food chain in this league, but the hunger and appetite of my players is bigger than it has ever been before.”

Their reputation as a team at the ‘bottom of the food chain’ is one they’re keen to dispel.

While Robinson regularly reminds anyone who will listen of his budget - or lack thereof - he feels it is a decent smokescreen for his side’s true potential.

And though they’re a little way off it yet, their ambition to become one of the established Championship sides is born out of games like those Dons will face in the next few days.

Robinson said: “We want to be recognised as a Championship team, and a consistent Championship team.

“We believe we can punch well above where we ‘should’ be. We have that belief as a group. Our mentality is really strong at the moment.

“It has been an amazing start. People think we haven’t played anyone big yet, but when you see who the teams we’ve played have then played, it covers a lot of the league.

“It’s important we realise the task at hand. We’re not far away.

“There are a lot of positives to take from the start of the season.

“The players have told each other they’ll dedicate their lives to the next season.

“We know we can compete and we’ll work as hard as any body.”

Making the step up to mix it with the big fry inevitably leads to move television commitments.

But while it allows the spotlight to shine brightly down on Milton Keynes, the recent rescheduling of games against Southampton and Derby County for the TV audiences has left a bitter taste in Robinson’s mouth.

“I’m furious at having to play Leeds on Saturday, Southampton on Wednesday night and then we’ve got to fulfil TV commitments by playing Derby on Saturday morning,” he said.

“How can they expect us to perform two days later on TV in one of the biggest games of the season?

“It’s stupid. The competition rules have decided this. We cannot cope, so what do they expect us to do? It’s something which has really riled me.”

Come the end of the month, if the TV cameras are all that have riled him, it will have been a good month indeed.