Robbo ready to play summer Moneyball

Pic: Tom Blackman
Pic: Tom Blackman

With the play-offs now effectively out of the question, talk of next season is already well underway at stadium:mk.

Though he’s still firmly focussed on the remaining four games of this current campaign, Karl Robinson is beginning to lay the ground work to get Dons out of League 1 once and for all - next season.

Make no bones about it - Dons’ current squad has not been up to scratch. At this point in the season, the league table doesn’t lie, and what it shows is that Dons are the eighth best team in League 1, and that’s not good enough for the manager.

But he knows the only way to push that further is to delve into the transfer market in the summer.

“I want to go up,” he said firmly. “We have to go out into the transfer market and do something.

“The club has worked hard in the last few years and we’re getting closer.

“On top of that now, it’s down the finer details of getting better players.

“I know who I want in the summer, my list has been written. I’ve been to 11 games in 14 days.

“But I want to build on the young players, the Brendans, Deles, Giorgios of the world.

“Then we’ve got Ben Reeves, Dean Bowditch, George Baldock, Daniel Powell, Darren Potter, Lee Hodson, Dean Lewington, David Martin - they’ll all be here.

“There are one or two contracts I need to sort out too.

“I’d love to keep Jordan Spence and he knows that. He’d be a wonderful asset.

“I feel we have the foundations to kick on, but it’ll be a big summer. It’ll be interesting. I hope it is anyway.”

But according to Robinson, it won’t be as easy as finding the target, and going to get him, as other clubs can do.

Robinson likened this summer’s transfer policy to ‘Moneyball’ - a statistical approach to recruiting originating in baseball with the Oakland Athletics, spending as little money as possible to get the best players available to achieve success.

He said: “We’re still not in a position where I can say ‘I want him, let’s go get him.’

“We have to be slightly ‘Moneyball’ in our approach.

“When you work on facts, and bring in players who are proven at scoring goals, or defenders who are used to defending for large parts of games, wide players who scored double figures for lesser teams.”

One of the biggest problems for Dons this season in particular has been dealing with the gaps left by departing loan players.

In January, Dons lost Dale Jennings, Patrick Bamford and Jordan Spence, leaving a huge hole in the side which had built up a head of steam during December.

And it is something Robinson is aware of. But while he’ll primarily be looking at bringing in players on permanent deals, the loan market is one that he’ll still consider.

“I’ve studied the last five years of automatic promotion, and they all buy a lot of players, and don’t sell their best players.

“They’ve all had squads of about 26 players, with only four or five loans. There’s lots to learn from past years.

“There are so many different areas that we’re looking into because I don’t think it has been quite right.

“We’ve had some wonderfully gifted loan players who will go down as fans favourites.

“We will never neglect (the loan) market, because we are a developing club.

“Would we ever be able to afford a Patrick Bamford, or a Samir Carruthers? No.

“We need to keep sourcing the best young players, but also buying players so we can stay competitive.”