Robbo: We’re together and we don’t mind favourites tag

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THE club has never felt more together said Karl Robinson when his MK Dons side returned for the start of pre-season training on Tuesday, tipped as one of the favourites to win League 1.

Jon Otsemobor met up with his new team-mates for the first time, as Alan Smith made his bow as a permanent Dons player having agreed to sign a two-year contract that morning.

And they were joined by trialist Deon Burton who will be training with the squad for a few days after leaving Gabala, in Azerbaijan.

With Tom Flanagan, Jay O’Shea and Stephen Gleeson all signing contract extensions this summer, Robinson feels his side are in the best shape they have ever been in going into the start of pre-season.

“We’ve been tipped as one of the favourites for the league this year. One of the lads said ‘we’re all here together, so why shouldn’t we be?’ and that’s a great mentality to have,” said the Dons boss.

“It’s a great testament to the chairman that we’ve been able to keep all of our players. OK, we’ve not been able to go out and buy anybody, but we’ve been able to keep the team together. The main priority for me is to build on last year.”

Robinson believes the signing of Smith is the most important in the club’s history, having beaten off a number of clubs to secure his services following his release from Newcastle United

“He gives us great versatility in midfield and up front. He’s also a tremendous character to have in the dressing room,” he said.

“It’s a big signing and a real testament to us that he’s agreed to put pen to paper. He’s going to be a tremendous asset to us. We fought off some big teams for him too. It just shows we’ve got something going here.”

After finalising the signings of Otsemobor and Smith since his return from holiday, Robinson suggested that he’s unlikely to add any further new recruits to the squad in the next two weeks, with Dons set to travel to the Republic of Ireland to continue pre-season training and play a couple of Dublin sides.

He said: “We have one or two trialists coming in over the next few days that we’re going to have a look at, and we’re still doing work to find players in other areas.

“We’re still looking, we want two or three more just to bolster the squad and make it a really strong team.

“Bonding is the main criteria when you go away. They will eat together, share rooms together, go off and play golf together if they have to, do whatever they need to do to keep up the team spirits.

“Friendships form on these tours and a group of people come closer to prepare for the challenges the season has to throw at them.

“For the next few days they will be conditioning and getting their bodies to a level where we know we can push them a bit further.

“Ireland is the main, core two weeks for us when we get most of the conditioning done. We’re concentrating on getting their minds and bodies ready for the new season.

“It’s a lot easier this year because we haven’t got as many new faces – I think there will only be three people singing! We know where we are at, we know where we need to improve and what we can learn from.

“Pre-season friendlies are there for a reason, but we need to make sure that when the season starts we’re ready for the Cheltenham and Oldham games and the tough fixture list.

“It’s a very hard set of fixtures to get our season under way and we have to make sure we approach it in the right way.”