Dean Lewington’s landmark appearance for MK Dons has snuck up on him, admits the skipper as he prepares to make his 500th appearance for the club.
It’s a rare feat in modern football to achieve so many games with a single club, but for the 29-year-old, it feels like it has come around quickly.
Not really one for counting his own stats, Lewington admitted: “You don’t really think about it in terms of number of games, sitting around counting them up.
“It feels like it has come about really quickly, and it feels like it came out of nowhere.”
The captain will lead the team out at the New York Stadium in Rotherham on Saturday having seen so much change around him in his time with the club from MK.
“Izale (McLeod) was here, and I think Dave (Martin) came in in the second half of that season,” said Lewington, remembering his first game in the white of MK Dons.
“We drew 1-1 with Barnsley and Izale scored the goal.
“The name had just been changed, the kit and badge had changed too, but there was an air of optimism.
“Even though we’d been relegated the season before, a lot of the youth team stayed here and we were looking forward to what we could achieve in front of a new set of supporters and surroundings.”
The skipper is a considerable different character compared to when they first met, McLeod said earlier this week, far from the vocal figurehead he is today.
But Lewington believes his transformation from quiet teenager to captain is all down to experience,
“I was very young back then and it was all very new to me. At that age, you take a lead from the senior players in the team. I was just trying to learn my trade.
“As you grow and become one of the senior players yourself, you become more experienced and you begin to lead by example, and helping the younger players. I don’t think ability changes all that much, but you learn how to manage yourself and the game.”
After suffering relegation, ironically at the hands of Rotherham in 2006, some of Lewington’s fondest memories come from the League 2 championship winning season, and the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy win over Grimsby at Wembley.
He said: “I think that was just a fantastic season on the whole. There were great games at Wembley, at Stockport when we got promoted, winning at Peterborough that year was great too.
“But then there was the win at QPR, where the atmosphere was incredible and it was probably the best I’ve ever experienced.
“There have been great games at stadium:mk too, like Wolves earlier this season, where we’ve got a good crowd in and it just makes for an excellent atmosphere.”
After the double-winning season of 2007/08, Lewington took over the captain’s armband from Blackburn-bound Keith Andrews and has barely given it up since.
But far from living in the limelight, Lewington admits he prefers to do the majority of his captaincy work behind the scenes.
“A lot of my work as captain is Monday to Friday,” he said. “Behind the scenes stuff, and that’s the way I like it.
“People expect a captain to shout on the field and to get results just like that, but it doesn’t really work like that.”
But as his 10th season approaches, he’s facing an altogether different challenge - planning his testimonial.
He said: “I’m thinking about it, but it’s a lot harder to organise than I thought it would be!
“You don’t see many testimonials these days, and they’re normally for players who are in the twilight of their careers, so it’s weird to be thinking about one for me.”
If and when it does eventually come to fruition, it’ll certainly be well received by MK Dons fans.
On the final day of the season, against Leyton Orient at stadium:mk, fans are urging everyone to wear something orange to commemorate Lewington’s 500th appearance - something the defender hopes will make the end of the season more memorable.
“Normally, being called a ginger is used an insult,” he said. “So that’ll be nice for once! The fans have always been great to me, and I’m really thankful for that. It’ll make the final game of the season a bit more memorable for everyone.”