Managing the expectations of January’s transfer window

Will Karl Robinson be smiling at the end of January?
Will Karl Robinson be smiling at the end of January?

With the promise of backing when the transfer window reopens in January, Karl Robinson is preparing to streamline his squad.

Speaking to the Citizen on Christmas Eve, Executive Director Andrew Cullen confirmed the Dons boss would have something of a transfer kitty behind him when it came to strengthening his side next month.

The task at hand though may be harder than anticipated. The first hurdle Dons must overcome is the level of expectancy from the terraces.

Word that the chairman is prepared to open his wallet doesn’t mean Dons will be going out and blowing millions of pounds on household names to immediately reverse their fortunes. While it’s nice to dream big, that simply isn’t, and hasn’t been the case at MK Dons for many a year.

The reality is more likely to be loan deals who could help in keeping Dons above the dotted line between safety and relegation.

Obviously, this won’t be the news fans will be keen to hear. Nor will it be music to Robinson’s ears. He wants the biggest possible opportunity to ensure he doesn’t get labelled as a manager who took his side out of League 1, only to see them return at the first time of asking. And that will be the second hurdle for the club to face: keeping the relationship between the manager and chairman sweet as they battle between success and sustainability.

Going out and splashing the cash can have it’s benefits, but if experience of the game has taught us anything, it’s that the perils are far more dangerous than the gains. And spending big doesn’t guarantee success either, while spending outside your means does guarantee a world of hurt when it catches up.

While Robinson understands, and has had to live by the sustainability project since the departure of Paul Ince in 2010, he has been promised several times the opportunity to go out and spend, only to have his sight reined in as his targets invariably surpass his budget limitations.

But unlike in previous years, the threat of relegation is significantly more real than before. With the clubs around them also desperate to avoid the trapdoor to League 1, and with most of those able to splash the cash far more freely, Robinson knows one wrong move in January could be costly in so many senses.

But while Mr Cullen’s decision to go public with news of Robinson’s ‘war chest’ will appease those in Milton Keynes, it will also heighten the senses of any club who receive a call in January from MK1 seeking services of their players. Prices will inevitably go up the later in the month they leave it, and rest assured Robinson will be squeezed for every last penny in any deal he tries to concoct - yet another hurdle.

Then, of course, Robinson has to find room for his new intake. Shifting some of the dead weight may be easier said than done, and may force him to shell out a bit more to get players off his books should he be unable to find them alternative employment.

While in previous Januarys, Robinson has had to fight off, and then indeed do some squeezing of his own, to get as much money as possible for Dele Alli, this one will be his toughest window yet.

But it’s one the man himself is excited to explore.

“We need to strengthen, 100 per cent,” he said. “We need to be better all over the pitch. Players all over the pitch want competition for places.

“But we need to strengthen and make the group stronger in January and February. We’re really excited about the things that have been said. We have to build on this team. It’ll be an exciting time.

“Once we get the squad at the end of January, we’ll be a group of 20 or so quality, streamlined players. And the rest will go out on loan.

“We’ll barricade ourselves in like we did last year and be like it’s us against the world.”