“We always knew we’d be in for a battle” says Dons chairman

Pete Winkelman and Karl Robinson
Pete Winkelman and Karl Robinson

Adapting to life in the Champioship has been much harder than MK Dons chairman Pete Winkelman ever imagined after winning promotion last season.

Having sat top of the league on opening day, Dons have found a more realistic home just outside the relegation zone in recent months.

Saturday’s pitiful 3-1 defeat away at bottom club Bolton Wanderers acted as a reminder to everyone involved with the club the potential dangers which Karl Robinson and his side will face in forthcoming months as the battle in the basement really heats up come crunch time.

For Winkelman, it’s a reminder of what is on the line.

“Everyone knows I don’t want to get relegated and I’ve been guilty of trying to do too much,” he said. “At the end of the day, we are where we are.

“We always knew we’d be in a relegation battle, and it’s harder and more horrible than we thought it was going to be. But there’s no pressure on anyone.”

And with Premier League champions Chelsea coming up this Sunday, never has that been more true. The chairman added: “I want the players to go out there with a smile on their face, to express themselves and have fun against Chelsea. But show Milton Keynes how much they care, turn that enthusiasm into the Championship.

“As long as we have positives to take, I’ll take the year as it comes.”

Winkelman’s relaxed attitude, rare for anyone familiar with the chairman’s nature, towards the players is echoed towards his manager.

Boldly giving the untested Robinson the top job back in 2010, Winkelman has enjoyed the fruits of his successes on the field.

And knowing the struggles the club face against the big-spending clubs around them, Robinson too is under no pressure from the man in charge.

“There’s no pressure on Karl,” said Winkelman. “The players, the fans, the board - none of them have lost faith in Karl. I want Karl to beat relegation again for his own CV.

“I’ve been so impressed with him. He had the chance to go, he had a very good offer but turned it away.

“He got us promoted. I was so pleased for him, as much as I was for the club, because he got a promotion on his CV. That loyalty is rare in football.

“This year has been really tough, but he’s got going.In the past, I’ve thought of myself as the old man telling the young boy a few things, now it’s the other way around.”

And when Robinson made the bold choice not to spend next season’s budget in this transfer window, Winkelman was reminded of the pitfalls spending outside of a club’s means.

“I nearly made the same mistakes as other Championship chairmen, and it’s so easy to do,” he admitted.

“We can get carried away and spend next year’s money because there’s such a temptation.

“But our culture has been emphasised to me here in the last few days, our sustainability. It’s more important than one year of football.

“We’ve got a club for a long time in Milton Keynes as a result of the way we run things here. Other people look up to us and run a football club like this.”