It was an emotional day for Karl Robinson on Tuesday when he held his final team meeting, and it left him wondering what might have been this season.
Last week, Robinson lamented the killer blow which came in December when both Stephen Gleeson and Luke Chadwick were struck down with long term injuries. And looking over his defeated squad, he said he was close to welling up at the missed opportunity of the last 10 months.
He said: “We had our last meeting together. I said to them: ‘The hard thing for me is that I’ll never, ever know.’
“It upsets me because I looked at them all, and they are good enough to go up. We brought in the right players, because in the big, big games, we won.
“What would have been if those two injuries hadn’t happened? If Daniel Powell and Dean Bowditch stayed fit, and if Gary MacKenzie had not missed the first half of the season.
“What would have been? It’s sickening, I’ll never know. I can’t judge them.
“I went through the stats, figures, rights and wrongs, ins and outs, upside down on Monday, and it was a solemn time. An interesting day for us to move forward.
“When we beat Hartlepool 1-0 at home, we were just two points off the top. Stephen Gleeson and Luke Chadwick got injured that week.
“After that we won seven games, drew seven and lost nine. Gleeson was only on the losing side once before he got injured.
“I built the team around Gleeson, Darren Potter and Chadwick. Everyone knows that.
“Those three in there were really good. For 20 minutes on Saturday against Stevenage, they were unplayable. That allows Bowditch, Powell and whoever is up front to go and score goals.
“It was emotional. I was upset. I wish that team would have been given the chance to have a right good go at it. But that’s football.”
In the next week, Robinson will be putting next season’s plan into action before going on holiday to Spain.
He knows he’ll be working with a reduced budget, and already has transfer targets he’d like to bring to the club ahead of the season opener in August.
However, while he will be on holiday for a few weeks, he does not expect to relax that much, with lots of issues still to be resolved.
Nine players in his squad have contracts expiring this summer. Dons captain Dean Lewington, Mathias Doumbe, Adam Chicksen, plus both goalkeepers David Martin and Ian McLoughlin, all have deals currently on the table, waiting to be signed.
And the club has options on Shaun Williams, Dean Bowditch, Jon Otsemobor and Gary MacKenzie, who is likely to make a permanent move to Blackpool, where he has been on loan since February.
And Robinson is admitted that he does not know what is delaying Chicksen from putting pen to paper, having not heard from the player in more than two weeks after the offer was written up.
Whether he signs, or any others commit their futures to the club, Robinson won’t be relaxing on his holidays.
“I’m always in business mode. But it’s a tremendous time for reflection,” he said.
“It will be busy. I just hope my wife doesn’t read this! It’s part of the job.
“I have a job to do, players I have to speak to. I’ve got to speak to my own agent in the summer, find things out, try and find better players. It’s a necessity.”
Whoever ends up pulling on the shirt again in August, surely getting into the League 1 play-offs will be a necessity for Robinson’s team.