MK DONS are just 90 minutes away from a place in the last eight of the FA Cup.
By winning through to the fourth round of the world’s most famous domestic cup competition by beating Sheffield Wednesday in January, Dons broke new ground by making it further than they ever had before.
So when they brushed aside QPR with aplomb to qualify for the fifth round, they knew another chapter in the club’s remarkable story was being written this season.
Even the second round tie saw this team conquer new turf as the draw threw them together with AFC Wimbledon – the first meeting of the two sides since their acrimonious beginnings.
The FA Cup run may have hit Dons where it hurts in terms of their League 1 form since the spectacular 4-2 win at Loftus Road in the last round – picking up just one point from four matches as they have slipped to 12th place in the table.
But this Saturday, all eyes will be on stadium:mk as Dons do battle with Championship strugglers Barnsley for the right to make the quarter finals. Few could have predicted that when Dons were held to a 0-0 draw in their first round match at Cambridge City in November.
“The FA Cup writes wonderful stories,” said boss Karl Robinson. “This year it has done it for us and it will be a historic occasion for us all.
“We beat AFC Wimbledon, we went to Hillsborough – the scene of my worst FA Cup memory – and this club is breaking records. We could be in the quarter finals.
“It’s nice and sometimes I get embarrassed by it because the players deserve all the credit. I think so much of them and I have so much respect for them. And if they can do something on Saturday, I’ll be so proud of them and they will deserve all the plaudits.
“A lot of them have taken pay cuts to be here, a lot of them have turned down bigger clubs and made personal sacrifices to be here.
“We’ll roll the dice at 3pm on Saturday. It will all be borne out of a work ethic and determination, and maybe a little bit of quality or luck.
“The work rate will be right, the set-up will be right – we just want that bit of quality or luck to get us into the quarter final.”
To put the game into context, Dons are just two matches away from a big day out at Wembley, with the cup semi finals being played at the home of English football. The Barnsley tie is very much a winnable affair, and with a favourable draw in the last eight, they might even be favourites to get there.
However, Robinson says his dreams of Wembley include Dons lifting the League 1 play-off trophy on Sunday May 19, rather than the FA Cup on May 11.
He said: “I can only affect what’s tomorrow. I’ve pictured the play-off finals. That’s when I want to be at Wembley.
“But you know what the FA Cup means to me, it means everything to me. We want to win every football match. I want to treat the FA Cup with the respect it deserves.
“I would swap it for a place in the automatic promotion spots, but now that the FA Cup game is here, I wouldn’t want to miss this opportunity.”
And that opportunity isn’t just for Dons to progress as a club, but to put Milton Keynes into the spotlight for the right footballing reasons.
“People need to realise that Milton Keynes is becoming a football city,” Robinson added. “To me it’s got all the components of a city and it has all the amenities you’d need. And I think in a big city, you need a football club that’s got soul.
“We have a lot of Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester United fans. Our job is to educate the young people in Milton Keynes that this is your team. This is where you were born, or brought up, and this is your football club.
“To have that, you’ve got to have role models, and do things right. This group of players do that. Gary MacKenzie and Ryan Lowe both have done things wrong on the pitch and they’ve come out and explained themselves to you, and have admitted that they’re wrong. And that breeds core values for young kids to learn.
“That’s how you galvanise the city, not just results. We’re creating a wonderful atmosphere among the people who live in Milton Keynes.”
And there would be no better way to do it than to continue making their own unique history and booking a place in the FA Cup quarter finals.