DONS must play be playing Championship football next season in order to keep hold of star midfielder Stephen Gleeson, says the man himself.
The 23-year-old is in the final year of his three-year contract since signing from Wolves, and admitted that while there is a contract on the table to keep him at stadium:mk beyond June 2012, he admits he is waiting to see how the season plays out before committing any further.
“I spoke to the chairman and the manager the other day and there is something on the table, but I’m just concentrating on my football at the moment,” he said.
“I want to play in the Championship, they both know that. If it’s with this club then great, if it’s not then I don’t know what will happen.
“When I signed, there was a three-year plan to get into the Championship and this is the third year of my deal now. So we’re on track, and if we get promoted, then I’m definitely staying here.
“I’m an ambitious player, but I’m not getting any younger. I want to play for Ireland again as soon as possible and hopefully I can achieve these things. And if it’s with this club then great, I’m delighted to be here and long may it continue.”
In the last 12 months, Gleeson has become a linchpin in the Dons midfield, playing last year alongside Peter Leven. But with Leven dropping a division to play for Oxford United, Gleeson finds himself leading the midfield fight, reunited with old Wolves playmate Darren Potter who joined in summer, with the pair rekindling an understanding which saw them both called up to play for the Republic of Ireland together in 2007.
“I know Potts from years ago when we were at Wolves in the reserves together, and I made my Irish debut with him,” said Gleeson.
“He’s come in and it’s just like old times. We compliment each other well and I think it shows. We’re hard to break down in the middle of the park and we’re getting a good understanding again, and hopefully it can push us on.”
Dons confidently outplayed Carlisle on Saturday, with Gleeson and Potter at the heart of almost everything good Dons did, earning the plaudits of many fans after the game for their tenacious attitude and ruthlessness in keeping possession.
And Gleeson believes that the style of football Dons are beginning to play is the culmination of nearly a year’s worth of hard work, both on and off the field, to get the club into the Championship where they feel they belong.
He said: “The philosophy of the way we play has been here since last November, but the players have changed in that time.
“The manager, John Gorman and Paul Mitchell have gone out and identified players who can fit into that mould, so that shows that every player we’ve signed is worthy of being here.
“This is a big club and we want to get into the Championship. We’re not hiding that, and I know it’s only September, but the way we’re playing at the moment, I don’t think we’ll be far off.”
Dons’ style has been likened to that of Gus Poyet’s Brighton who won League 1 at a canter last season. But Gleeson isn’t surprised by the start Dons have made to the season, and similarly thinks that they are hot favourites to get out of the division at the fourth time of asking, playing better football than last season’s champions.
He said: “I don’t think Brighton were as good last season as we are now. It has been coming for the last six or seven months.
“Things like this don’t come over night, and the fans have stuck by us because we have been caught out before and conceded goals.
“But they can see we’re trying to play football in the right way, and I think we’re now getting the plaudits we deserve.”