Dons not plastic fans

SNOW JOKE: The stadium:mk pitch covered in snow last month. Below, David Bentley in action for Spurs against Dons in a pre-season friendly back in July last year.
SNOW JOKE: The stadium:mk pitch covered in snow last month. Below, David Bentley in action for Spurs against Dons in a pre-season friendly back in July last year.

UNDERSOIL heating would be a much better investment than an artificial pitch, according to Dons boss Karl Robinson.

Two games were postponed at stadium:mk this year because of the frozen playing surface. Add to the mix Northampton Saints playing three games on it, a JLS concert and 23 games last season, and you can understand why the pitch is beginning to hamper the Dons style of play at home.

But with the Football League now considering the prospect of allowing its clubs to reintroduce artificial surfaces, Robinson said he would much rather play on the existing stadium:mk pitch, even in it’s current poor condition. All artificial pitches were banned by the Football Association in 1988.

“It’s not great, it’s not going to help our chances, but we made the decision not to re-lay it in the summer and we have to live with that,” said the Dons boss.

“There are so many obstacles thrown at a club throughout the season, and this is just one of them. But I’d never want it to be an astroturf pitch – that would really grate on me.

“If it does come in, it will be a disgrace. Artificial pitches for financial implications? Perfect. Recreational sport? Perfect. To get more youngsters playing the game? Do it.

“But this is the professional game and it has been built up over many, many years playing on grass. The uncertainty of pitches adds to the unpredictability of the game. Are we becoming robotic people who can’t even tackle any more?

“If the odd team has it, then that adds to the unpredictability of football, but not if every team has it.

“It’s the way the game should be played. I see rugby players coming off the pitch perfectly clean – Bill Beaumont was covered in mud and blood and that only added to the attraction of the sport.”

But while the stadium:mk pitch looks in a dire state, the list of players on Robinson’s wish-list is a far more glittering affair.

With the shock signing of Alan Smith completed in the January transfer window, Tottenham’s David Bentley is the latest out of favour Premier League player to be linked with a move to Dons.

Robinson worked with the winger in his time at Blackburn Rovers and admitted that while he’d love to bring the 27-year-old to Milton Keynes, he says he’s not holding his breath.

“We’re close, we know each other well,” Robinson said. “But there’s an awful lot that would need to be done. There are big teams chasing him. If it happens, it happens, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

“David Bentley is a wonderful player and I have tremendous respect for him as a person. But with or without him, we’re still a good team. It helps when you have the same agent, but it has to be something that works for Tottenham.

“I worked with him for 12 months and he’s so talented. He’s Premier League. He went to Tottenham and lost his way a little bit, but people have the wrong perception of him. He’s a top man. Whatever happens next in his career will be to his benefit because he deserves it.

“But this has all come about because we’re friends. I’d love him here, but I’d also love Messi and Gerrard too. It’s not a case of what I want, but whether a deal can be done.

“He knows I want him but he’s injured for another four weeks, so maybe the allure will be that if we make the play-offs, he gets an extra month of games.”

Being linked to Bentley and signing Smith shows just how far Dons have come in recent times.

While most transfer rumours remain just that, Robinson says he is pleased to have changed the perception of the club to one that can easily handle players of Premier League calibre.

He said: “It’s important that we have these names linked to the club. I’m chasing another forward too, and he’s a big name who has scored goals at this level and above. It says a lot about the club and the players that are here.

“The Alan Smith scenario came about because he had seen us play. He could have gone to the Championship.

“This club now has an identity and ethos that can attract this calibre of player.

“When I came here four years ago, we won the league and the cup double and I thought it would change the public perception of us. It didn’t.

“We went up to League 1 and we should have gone up again under Roberto Di Matteo. Paul Ince took over the club and found it difficult to rebuild that momentum, and I took up a team that had fallen way short and one that I could rebuild.

“And one of the first things I needed to do was create a public perception that we’re a good club.

“This club is in the early stages, but we’re in a good position. We have our own identity for the first time, we embrace it and cheer it. That’s special to me.”

But while the bright lights of Premier League targets are easy to get carried away with, there’s a much grittier matter at hand with this Saturday’s slightly less glamourous away trip to Hartlepool United.

Dons go into the game on the back of three victories, while Pool put last Saturday’s embarrassing 5-0 defeat to relegation strugglers Wycombe behind them with a 2-1 win over Bury at Gigg Lane on Tuesday night.

Robinson said: “Alex Rae went to their game on Saturday and said they won’t play as bad as that again!

“Hopefully they’ll come off the back of the two games a little bit tired, whereas we’ve had a free week and we’re looking forward to it.

“Hartlepool isn’t a very happy hunting ground for us – many a team go up there and fall short. We won there with our scrappiest performance of the year last season but we scored a fortunate goal and came away as winners. We know what to do and we won’t leave anything to chance.”

Robinson earmarked Dons’ next spell of games as a chance to put an unbeaten run together. With three wins on the spin, the players face a busy March but will be favourites going into every one of their eight matches in March.

Robinson said: “Now these wins have set in, it has put us back into the mix for second place and we need to kick on. We’re now into a batch of games that I think we should win.

“We dropped points against Oldham, Bury and Bournemouth earlier in the season though, so they weren’t easy games to win.

“We’re hoping to put an undefeated run together now. The games we’ve won have been difficult and against good sides.”

After Saturday’s trip to the north east, Dons are back at home for the visit of struggling Yeovil Town on Tuesday night.