Carl Baker hopes the ‘scary’ and ‘difficult’ times are behind him now, having won the League 1 Player of the Year award for November.
Since signing for Dons in late September, Baker has been working towards regaining fitness after a spell away from football, after his contract with Coventry City was terminated at the end of August.
In November, Baker broke into the starting line-up in the FA Cup game against Port Vale, where he scored his first goal.
From there, he has made five consecutive starts, scoring against Port Vale in the league, and setting up two more goals on his way to the Player of the Month award.
“I’ve been nominated a few times so it’s nice to finally get the nod and get the award,” he said. “I’m loving it at the moment. If someone would’ve told me two month ago that I’d be playing here and playing such a big part, I’d have bitten their hands off.
“To win this award is far beyond what I’ve expected. The lads have been fantastic.”
The former Coventry City man spent a nervous six weeks without a club earlier this year, after agreeing to terminate his contract with the Sky Blues.
And he admitted it was a scary time, waking up without a place to go to work.
“When I was without a club, it was the most difficult time of my career, waking up each morning not knowing where I was going to play my football.
“It’s your job at the end of the day, I’ve got a wife and two kids. It’s really scary, but I believed in myself, and I feel in the last few years I’ve done really well.
“I did have options before I decided to part company with Coventry which was a bit of a comfort, but until you sign that deal it’s always awkward.
“I was waking up in the morning and going to the gym and training on my own for the first time in 14 years. It was difficult, but it made me care a little bit more and think about things a bit more. I had five or six weeks off to think about what I wanted to do.
“I went to watch a hell of a lot of football, which did me the world of good. To watch different teams and styles with a different perspective helped, but all I wanted to do was get back out on the pitch.”
Baker wasn’t short of offers for his services though. Even before his Coventry contract was terminated, he had offers to leave, including from Championship clubs.
However, the 31-year-old was keen to talk to Karl Robinson and MK Dons when he heard they were interested.
Baker said: “I was speaking to a number of clubs at the time, but as soon as I heard what the manager had to say, and had a look at the facilities, I wanted to be a part of it.
“I went and trained and spoke to several teams. There were five or six good options, including Championship clubs, which would have been good for me.
“But as soon as I heard about the interest from MK Dons, I was keen because location-wise, I didn’t have to move house, the facilities are fantastic and it ticked more boxes than any other club.
“It out-weighed many of the other clubs, and it was a no-brainer.
“It wasn’t a financial decision - I wanted to be a part of a successful team going forward and one that will hopefully get promoted this year.”