“I DON’T know if you’ve noticed, but we’re not very popular,” joked Dean Lewington as he tried to explain his personal feelings in the build-up to MK Dons’ big FA Cup clash against AFC Wimbledon.
With more than 400 appearances to his name for first Wimbledon and then Dons, Sunday’s second round tie will mean more to Lewington than any other player involved in the lunchtime game.
He admits that, even as a teenager, he came in for a fair bit of abuse from some quarters for being part of the move to Milton Keynes back in 2003. But now, at the age of 28 and as the long-serving Dons captain, he said it was the fans of the new club that bore the brunt of stick from other football supporters during the early years. And he has great admiration for them.
He also said the rest of the squad are fully aware that they don’t have much to gain out of the cup tie, but they do have a lot to lose.
“Our fans have been absolutely hammered over the years by every single group of fans,” said Lewington. “I think they’re the ones who took the brunt of the abuse – for not actually doing any of the wrong.
“People want us to get beat most weeks so, there’s nothing new for us there. We have nothing to gain out of it really. A lot of people will have made their minds up already. We just have to conduct ourselves in the right way and try to get through.
“I’ve been chewing the ears off the boys. People have had questions, and they want to know our take on what happened, so some of the boys have been asking. And the chairman also had a word with them about it just to underline his position.”
With the football world watching on, Dons are huge favourites to beat their struggling opponents in front of the TV cameras. Although he’s confident that the team will perform well when the spotlight is on them, Lewington was also keen to point out that no cup games are a foregone conclusion.
“People make out that we should win this, but it’s an FA Cup game,” he said. “They’re not going to come here and roll over by any means, so it’s a game when form and league position goes out of the window.”
As the captain of arguably the country’s most disliked club over the last few years, Lewington has been forced to grow a pretty thick skin. And until picking up a hamstring injury in Dons’ recent draw away at Shrewsbury, he’s done well to hardly miss a game in recent years.
And having been forced to sit out of their 5-1 victory over Colchester on Saturday, he’s now chomping at the bit to play against AFC Wimbledon.
But of course he doesn’t see it as playing against his former team. As a one-club man to have actually pulled on the shirts of two different clubs, Lewington is in a unique position. And that’s a situation he seems to struggle to explain to most people.
“It’s hard,” he said. “By law it’s the same club, but by anything other than that it’s not.
“It’s difficult. It’s difficult to talk about me without talking about Wimbledon. I have a foot in each of the camps because I made that cross over.”
Manager Karl Robinson rates his chances of playing on Sunday as 50/50. Lewington says it’s more like 100 per cent!