It’s been a frustrating and unsettling couple of weeks for MK Dons, but it could have been avoided if only Karl Robinson had distanced himself from Sheffield United’s interest from the start, writes Simon Downes.
Robinson is clearly a very talented young coach and manager, but no one man is bigger than a club. However, in recent times, it has felt a bit like he is the exception at stadium:mk.
What are fans supposed to have made of this latest speculation linking him with a move away? Without knowing for sure, it would appear – given that he was believed to be ‘discussing his future with his agent’ – that he was at least mildly interested in hearing what the Blades had to offer. Or maybe he was just flattered to be linked with another job.
As the 32-year-old is said to have now ruled himself out of the running, it would appear that he is still – for the time being – willing to remain loyal. But at what cost? Has Robinson been disrespectful to his current employer by allowing the uncertainty to rumble on for so long, while giving the impression that he might have been interested in leaving?
Managers tend to rule themselves out of jobs when it becomes apparent they are not going to get them.
Given that Dons always maintained that no official approach had been made by their League 1 rivals, what was there for Robinson to discuss with his agent? And why did he feel the need to tell everyone about it?
On a three-and-a-half-year rolling contract, the most important man in deciding Robinson’s long-term future is his chairman. And you can’t help but wonder what Pete Winkelman has made of Robinson’s long delay in distancing himself from the Bramall Lane post.
Despite not yet winning anything as a manager, there has always been the general feeling that he is destined for bigger and better things than MK Dons. But his own future is less important than the club’s, and Winkelman will surely be frustrated that the opposite sometimes seems to apply.
Robinson sometimes seems to forget that, unless he is willing to damage his reputation by resigning, Winkelman and the Dons hierarchy will ultimately decide his future. How often has Robinson stated that he will remain at the club? And how many times has he hesitated and given the opposite impression, as if it all comes down to what he decides?
He received a unanimous pat on the back for turning down Blackpool’s approach, but it’s getting a bit tiresome now.
The relationship between Robinson and Winkelman may be slightly fractured this summer, given that another season in League 1 is looming. But also because of the mixed messages that came out of MK1 last season.
Robinson often refers to budgetary restraints when results are not going well, but the chairman maintains that the club operates with a top six budget. Yeovil Town’s promotion via the play-offs proves that you don’t always need deep pockets to get out of the third tier.
Robinson is in many ways the perfect football manager. He has delivered entertaining and winning football – and has been relatively successful in finishing in the play-offs in two out of his three years at the helm.
He quickly adopted the football soundbite culture that makes him popular with the media and fans. He says all the right things, most of the time.
And for a League 1 boss with no silverware yet on his CV, Robinson has a surprisingly big national profile, and makes more appearances as a pundit on television than the average manager in the third tier. He is universally considered to be one of the good guys.
But after last season’s failure, he would do well to keep his head down, keep a slightly lower profile, and concentrate on achieving the promotion prize his club so badly demands.
Do that and Winkelman would probably drive him to his next club or chat with his agent himself. And it would probably be a better one than Sheffield United.