It has been a make-or-break week for MK Dons, but there are cracks beginning to form around the black walls of stadium:mk.
They’ve suffered three consecutive 2-1 defeats, three in two days including one against a relegation rivals and slipped six points adrift in the race for safety. It hasn’t been one for the record books.
The club are making all the noises they have to at the moment: defiantly refusing to harbour talk of relegation, vowing to fight until the fight can no longer be fought, acknowledging the threat but remaining confident while their fate is still in their own hands.
Earlier in the week, Karl Robinson admitted he felt Dons may have come up a year too soon, and not many on social media agreed. Regardless of whether Dons made it or not last season, the squad would have been weaker. From the side who played on the final day, the likes of Dele Alli and Lewis Baker were destined for pastures new, while Dons would be out-priced in the fight for Will Grigg - the squad would have needed serious work irrespective of the division.
Perhaps it was a naive comment from Robinson - a throw away line that was pounced upon - but chancing their hand in seventh richest league in Europe has been a considerably bigger launch pad for the club than an eighth consecutive season in League 1.
Naivity is something that runs throughout the club, from the terraces to the very top. Thinking the torn-apart team that Robinson was left with on the first day back in training was enough was, frankly, a huge oversight.
Fans yelled out for the club to spend some money, but that comes with a huge amount of guesswork - what money do the club have? What money was offered to Robinson? How much were others willing to pay to land Dons’ targets ahead of them? Robinson has barely spent £400,000 during his six years at stadium:mk, so to expect millions to suddenly become available is pie-in-the-sky thinking. But all football fans are guilty of that.
As the squad stands, it requires a lot of investment but how that happens and whether that can happen at this level remains to be seen. If Dons do stay up, they cannot approach the Championship in the same way again. Sustainability has always been the mantra, but at some stage (and that stage is this summer), money has to be spent on the football team to allow the football club to grow. It’s not rocket science, but knowing the answer is only half the story. Getting there is the hard part.
There hasn’t been room to prepare for the future, there hasn’t been time to keep projects for next season, there hasn’t been space for fat to settle - even Robinson’s leaning down in January hasn’t really helped, with his new streamlined squad picking up 15 points in 16 games in 2016.
There’s no avoiding it - anything other than victory against Rotherham on Saturday will leave Dons preparing for a return to League 1.
When the going got tough, the Millers got going, and they got going in style. Unbeaten in seven, Neil Warnock’s influence has seen them sail away from trouble, putting together a run Dons have looked unable to do all season long.
Though Rotherham are still only one place above the drop zone, they’re six points clear of Dons with six games to go. A win on Saturday would surely mean safety, and spell an end to Dons’ Championship cameo.
If it happens, Robinson will still have to talk up survival though, the players will still have to go out and put it all on the line and the table still won’t accept it until it’s mathetmatically impossible for Dons to get out of the bottom three.
But it should be a completely new looking MK Dons next season, regardless of Saturday’s result or where they kick off in August.