‘Relegation’ isn’t a word any MK Dons players have uttered, despite slipping within three points of the drop zone, says Carl Baker.
The Player of the Year has been sidelined since January 2 with ankle ligament damage, meaning he’s been limited to a watching brief lately as his rehabilitation continues.
While he watched his team-mates get valuable points against the likes of Cardiff City, Middlesbrough and Derby County, Dons have let leads slip against Blackburn Rovers and Huddersfield, while never looked in the game against fellow relegation candidates Bristol City and lost the game.
Despite being well in the dog-fight to avoid an immediate return to League 1, Baker admits none of the team are contemplating what is going on below them in the table, only having eyes for those above them.
“We’re always looking above. No-one has talked about the teams below us, only the teams who could get dragged back into it.
“Not once have I heard any negativity, or any talk of relegation. We have to keep believing. There are a lot of big games to come.
“It has been disappointing not to have held out for results against Middlesbrough and Huddersfield, and the other day against Blackburn.
“I think we’ve been doing OK, bar the Bristol City game, we’ve been putting a shift in but not getting enough points.”
Baker was Dons’ top scorer before he hobbled off at Elland Road in the game against Leeds in January, spending more time with a dumb-bell than a football since as he nears full fitness once again.
After weeks of intensive work in the gym to get back up tp speed, Baker should be back with a ball at his feet next week, and he said cannot wait to be out with his team-mates once again.
I’m absolutely desperate to get back, I’m feeling really good,” the 33-year-old said. “I’ve been back doing a lot of running. Each day we’ve been stepping it up, seeing where my fitness levels are and getting back out there as soon as possible.
“Hopefully I’ll be out training with the lads again on Thursday or maybe Monday. I’m not far away now.”
Baker will come back into a team significantly different to the one heleft.
The transfer window saw eight players depart stadium:mk, with four new faces introduced, and one, George Baldock, recalledfrom a loan spell to give Dons an all-together different feel.
For Baker, looking on from the relative outside, he feels it is better than ever.
He said: “The squad is as strong as it has been all season. There is loads of competition for places, the bench has been really strong too.
“I really believe it’s good enough to stay up, and if we do go down, we really have to admit we’ve underachieved.
“It’ll boil down to hard work. Every team has quality players, it’ll just be down to who wants it the most and who works hardest.”