Winkelman: I will not be happy with play-offs again – it has got to be automatic promotion next season

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PETE Winkelman is putting more pressure on MK Dons boss Karl Robinson to win promotion than ever before – but he’s also putting his money where his mouth is.

The chairman is giving his manager one of the biggest transfer budgets in the club’s history to try and secure automatic promotion out of League 1 next season, and admits that it is win or bust.

Winkelman and Robinson are notoriously clever when it comes to working with what little money the club has available for transfers and wages, earning back-to-back play-off finishes despite having a budget that is usually inferior to their big-spending third tier rivals.

Last season, Robinson spent just £50,000 on the signing of Charlie MacDonald, who gave a return of 11 goals.

The risk lies in the budget being ‘unsustainable’ for more than a year. If Dons are not promoted next season, Winkelman will have to drastically tighten his belt in a similar fashion to the way he did in Robinson’s first year at the club.

“If it doesn’t happen this season, then we might have to consolidate for a year to build back up for the following season,” Winkelman said openly at the MK Dons Supporters’ Association AGM on Tuesday night.

“I know Karl will make a real go of it this season. This represents our best ever chance of getting out of League 1 and into the Championship, where the club can take the next step in developing.

“There is more pressure on this side to get promoted than any other before. I will not be happy with the play-offs like I have been in the past – it’s got to be automatic promotion this season.”

Another threat hanging over the club is the future of Robinson beyond next season, should Dons fail to win promotion again. Winkelman expressed concerns that the highly sought-after 31-year-old may be forced to look elsewhere if Dons cannot offer him what he wants for his long term career.

But Winkelman eased fears over the club’s playing stars, saying that he expects many of those whose deals are set to expire next summer to be extended before Christmas. He also said that some ‘exciting’ transfers were set to be announced within the next two weeks upon Robinson’s return from his holiday in Spain.