The writing is all but on the wall now for MK Dons. But for divine intervention, the club will be in League 1 next season.
While their attempts to remain in the Championship have ultimately proven fruitless, there will need no end of rebooting to get a squad together capable of bouncing back at the first attempt.
Two years ago, Karl Robinson faced a similar challenge. Having sold Shaun Williams, lost Patrick Bamford and resigned to Stephen Gleeson’s departure, the manager knew he’d need to rebuild a team from the heap his squad had fallen into. That time has arisen again.
The squad Robinson was left with - and that cannot be emphasised enough - coming into the first day of pre-season training always threatened to fall short. Missing out on his key transfer target in Will Grigg, who signed for League 1’s Wigan, was only half of the story.
All season long, Dons have lacked a talisman. Grigg, Benik Afobe and Dele Alli could almost single-handedly lift a side that was void of something, missing an idea or a spark. This season, there hasn’t been that spark and it has shown.
On Saturday, in the 4-0 humiliation at the hands of Rotherham, there wasn’t a player on the pitch, or indeed the bench, for Dons to call on who could change the game. Dons’ recruitment policy and methods have left a lot to be desired this season. There hasn’t been a Bamford, Afobe or Grigg style loan star, but instead, the players brought in have been call upon in the name of emergency fire fighting, replacing the players Dons lost last season rather than improving upon a side who came into the Championship so full of momentum.
It was an unenviable task for anyone. You can’t simply go out and find a new Dele Alli, or a 20-goal-a-season striker on a shoe string. And when you don’t even have a shoe string...
So, Dons are back in the position they found themselves two years go. A breath of fresh air is needed. And that isn’t just limited to the playing squad. Robinson stated his desire to stay in the Championship next season on national radio after Saturday’s defeat, and that is looking increasingly unlikely with Dons.
But precious few would have been so bold after watching their team lost 3-1 at home to Leyton Orient on the final day of the season to predict promotion would be on the cards 12 months later.
Given solid, achievable transfer targets, perhaps a new approach, a new look and a new mentality, there’s no reason why Dons can’t be fighting at the top of League 1 next season.