January transfer war chest for Dons

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TRANSFER funds will be made available to Karl Robinson in January, should the Dons boss need to strengthen his squad.

Chairman Pete Winkelman confirmed that the sale of Sam Baldock has improved the club’s finances significantly and those funds could be used to strengthen Dons’ squad to further boost their chances of promotion this season.

Robinson moved quickly to snap up Brentford striker Charlie MacDonald on Friday in light of Baldock’s move to West Ham, for a fee thought to be in the region of £2 million, and the chairman confirmed there is more money available if the boss needs it in the January transfer window.

He said: “I think there’s always a possibility, with the emergency loan system, to bring in players – so we aren’t just driven by the transfer window.

“But Karl and Paul Mitchell know what they’re doing, who they want, when they want them, if they want them. And what this (Baldock’s transfer money) does is give Karl the chance to look at how he can improve the squad at various times of the season without him having to worry as much as he has previously.

“He manages the budget very well, and we’re a better run club as a result of that. But the minute there was real danger that we could lose Sam, Paul and Karl moved to sign Charlie – a player we’d been after for a while.”

It was with a heavy heart that Winkelman accepted West Ham’s approaches for Baldock – a player he has known since he was just 14-years-old.

But while on a personal level Winkelman is sad to see Baldock leave Dons, from a business point of view he said it made sense for the club, with Dons to benefit further if the striker and east London club are successful.

“I think the move shows Sam’s ambition. There were other deals that would have put him under less pressure, but he was one of the most sought after strikers in the country,” he said.

“I’m just so pleased he scored a hat-trick in his last game at stadium:mk.

“From the club’s perspective, is getting a good deal for Sam better than promotion? No. We need to be promoted – that’s our number one ambition.

“Whatever happens to the team, we couldn’t have stood in his way and we have to make sure that we maintain our ambition, and the funds coming back into the club can help that.

“All these deals have incentives based on performances and the club’s achievements, but I’m sure we’ll all keep an eye on the West Ham result when we know he’s playing.”

But Baldock is not the only man on Dons’ books to have attracted interest over the summer. While Peterborough twice made offers for Stephen Gleeson, manager Robinson was also the subject of conversation for several clubs in the summer, said Winkelman.

“I think we have a really good manager. I love him to death, he’s working really hard for the club, but at some point more people will come calling – they came in the summer,” he said.

“I think as long as he believes he’s taking the club forward, it will take one hell of a job to tempt him away. But that’s the risk you run.

“Don’t underestimate all the other staff though. I know Karl believes in this club – we all see it. He’s doing a great job and hopefully we can continue to give him the support he needs because just one year I’d like us to be good enough to go up, because we’re ready.”

With the focus of most fans on Baldock’s transfer on Friday, and the arrival of MacDonald in time for the Stevenage game, Saturday’s Carling Cup second round draw, against Burnley at Turf Moor, went somewhat under the radar.

But Winkelman believes the fixture is just another perk of Dons’ early season cup jaunt, but also adds to the financial weight of the club.

“I think the Carling Cup is a fantastic competition,” he said. “Shrewsbury are playing Arsenal – that could’ve been us! If we can get through Burnley, we could do very well.

“However, I’m not going to be too disappointed if we don’t do well, but these are the jokers in the pack in the early season, and then later we have the FA Cup. And you can have great adventures in these cups.

“The cups are something you have to enjoy, but not get too despondent if we don’t do well. But when it goes well, you’ve got to make the most of it and look forward to the next draw.

“Milton Keynes is due a good draw in the cup. That’s no disrespect to anyone we do get, but everyone knows a top four or five club is what everyone dreams of.

“And I don’t care where it is. At home would be great to welcome them to stadium:mk, but going away to a big Premier League ground with a top team is an adventure in itself, and an experience we’d all like to have.

“A good draw earns you more money. They are another game, but talk to Leyton Orient about the difference that it can make to a club.

“It could be seven figures and it certainly helps. If the Sam Baldock deal never emerged, maybe a run in the Carling Cup would have given Karl the war chest he needs to improve the squad again in January.”