WHEN Karl Robinson and Paul Ince shake hands on Saturday, it will be the first time the pair have met and spoken since Robbo was named as the guv’nor’s successor.
Despite leading Dons to the League Two title and Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, before returning from Blackburn to cement the club’s position in League One, Ince’s reign at stadium:mk eventually came to a rather unpleasant end.
A dreary 0-0 draw on a cold Tuesday night at home to Oldham wasn’t the send-off that Ince deserved - although his outburst at the fans after the game pretty much made his position untenable, and his departure from the club little more than 48 hours later was no surprise to most.
But Ince’s loss was eventually Robinson’s gain and after taking charge for Dons’ final four matches of last season, the 30-year-old jumped at the chance to replace the man who had given him his big break in football.
Few would have guessed it at the time, but when Robinson took charge of the side that faced Wycombe the day after Ince and Pete Winkelman agreed to go their separate ways, it was the first game of what proved to be a trail period for the rookie boss.
He may have lost three of his four games in charge, but Robinson won over the fans and his chairman and got the job, with John Gorman his assistant and Alex Rae coach.
Despite talk that Ince may have, for some reason, begrudged Robinson staying on at the club after bringing him from Blackburn to be his number two, the man himself says that’s not the case.
“Paul actually suggested me for the job in the first place,” said Robinson. “It’s just like leaving school or changing jobs, you often lose touch with people and that’s what has happened with us.”
Robinson is adamant there is no ill-feeling between the pair - at least from his point of view - but that didn’t seem to be the case in October when Ince was confirmed as Craig Short’s replacement at Meadow Lane, and Robbo reacted angrily to questions.
Whatever the case, Robinson is certainly his own man and has done well to distance himself from Ince’s previous regime - in fact he made a point of trying to do it from day one in the job. And - unlike Ince - Robinson will face the media whatever the outcome of games.
He’s also a man of principle and says he’s looking forward to the challenge of locking horns with Ince and his Notts County side come 3pm on Saturday, before having a post match drink with his opposite number after the final whistle - should Ince oblige, that is.
Robinson said: “I’ll happily share a drink with him after the match. It’s an important part of the game and something you should do win, lose or draw.
“We’d always provide drinks for other managers who came here and I’ll certainly do that when he comes here, so I’m pretty sure he’ll have something planned.”
But at the moment Robinson is far more concerned with what happens on the pitch and conceded that County will have a big advantage, especially with Rae now part of Ince’s team.
“They know exactly the way we prepare for games and what we’re all about, so they have the advantage from that respect,” said Robinson. “They know our players and our strengths and weaknesses, but we know little about them.
“Like us they haven’t played for a couple of weeks and so we don’t have the tapes of previous games that we normally do. I was extremely disappointed that the Plymouth game was called off and training has been tough but we’re coping. Now we just can’t wait to get back out there.”
Reports from Nottingham suggest the game is in doubt, but if it does go ahead then there is likely to be a lot of attention paid to what’s happening on the touchline.