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This time Dons columnist Dominic Damesick says fans need to keep faith with Robbo.
It has become very easy over the last few weeks to fall into one of two camps: ‘Robinson out!’ vs. ‘Karl is beyond reproach’. Any criticism seems to automatically shove one into the former camp; any suggestion that a bit more patience would not go amiss sees the label ‘happy-clapper’ all too readily wheeled out. I am in the middle, picking up splinters from the fence.
Since Christmas the Dons’ league form has been abysmal – one win, one draw, five defeats: results more suited to a side facing a relegation battle, than one with aspirations of promotion. Robinson has been forced, as a consequence of this dire run, to exhaust his repertoire of post-defeat clichés in recent weeks.
1)The bemoaning of bad luck – ‘we’re not having the rub of the green’.
2)Pointing to the injury crisis – ‘try taking Rooney and Van Persie out of Man United’s lineup’.
3)The blasting of the officials – ‘how can he give/not give it?’
4)The denial of a problem – ‘for large parts of the game we were the better side.’
5)The self-depreciative apology - ‘it’s just not good enough.’
This final option was adopted by Robinson after Saturday’s game at Oldham, and there was an air of resignation about his manner. He looked devoid of confidence, stripped of his enthusiasm.
Results of late have produced conflicting sentiments for me – I still want Robinson to be the club’s manager, but am also rapidly losing faith in his ability to turn this season around. Football is of course a results business, but it might just pay to play the ‘long game’ when it comes to Robinson.
That does not mean sticking with a failing manager indefinitely in the blind hope that he will come good, but it does entail recognising that managers can get it wrong, and seasons can come unstuck, without necessarily meriting the sack.
While it seems that this season will not be the one Robinson, and everyone connected with the MK Dons, hoped it would be, I would argue that he has shown enough over his three seasons at the club to earn himself another year to try and get things right.
I would also propose that this season has suffered from, if not an air of complacency, then an assumption that promotion should be comfortably obtainable in a, theoretically, weakened League One. Coming so close to promotion last year may have been something of a curse for Robinson, as it seems to have moulded his strategy to being one resistant to change, of personnel or tactics, without the attention to detail of whether such individuals are actually performing or whether the system is actually working.
As a consequence, Robinson has shown unfailing loyalty to players who have just not delivered often enough this season – Darren Potter and Dean Lewington being two who spring to mind – whilst refusing to change from a formation and style of play that has been nullified all too easily, all too often in this campaign.
I want Robinson to still be at this football club next August, but (unless something drastic happens in the last quarter of this season) I do not want it to be with the same squad, and I would urge him to have an open mind when it comes to choosing what system to play; both in terms of selecting his default system and in terms of his willingness to change it when success is proving elusive.
I want to give this manager one more chance, without the legacy of a failed play-off campaign hanging over the season’s efforts, suffocating any possibility of change. I want success, and I still believe this manager can deliver it.