KARL Robinson has struck fear into Dons fans’ hearts by refusing to confirm whether or not he will still be at the club for the beginning of next season, writes Toby Lock.
The 31-year-old has occupied the top job at stadium:mk for two seasons now, guiding his side to the League 1 play-off semi-finals both times.
But the latest defeat to Huddersfield Town signalled a third season in English football’s third tier for Robinson – the fourth if you include the year he spent as assistant to Paul Ince – and while he is keen to finish the job he’s started, he also admitted that he could leave for a higher level.
Having spoken at length with Dons chairman Pete Winkelman in the immediate aftermath of the play-off defeat, Robinson said the pair ‘need to be on the same page’ if he’s to remain at stadium:mk.
“There’s an awful lot of water to go under the bridge between now and the beginning of next season,” he said. “It’s a bit harder to pick yourself up after the play-offs because it’s League 1 again.
“I have also got my career to think about. I don’t want to be at this level for much longer.
“I’ve made my stance with the chairman – he knows what I’m looking for. I want to be the best manager and I want to be challenged. I want to be in the Premier League one day. I hoped it would be with this club, and I’m sure it will be there one day.
“I will never forget my roots and the club which has given me my first opportunity, and I’ll never forget that.
“I need to have a meeting with the chairman before I can say anything else. I want to be at the club but we need to get things sorted behind the scenes.”
Whether his comments come as a form of leverage to encourage the chairman to stretch the chequebook further this summer, or whether he genuinely eyes a future away from stadium:mk, there is no doubt that Robinson will be a target for several clubs over the course of the summer.
Last season, Robinson was linked to a number of jobs in the Championship as sides in the second tier looked to shake things up. And although his name was among the front runners for at least three positions, Robinson admitted he was only attracted to the then vacant role at Nottingham Forest following the sacking of former England boss Steve McClaren.
And with the traditional managerial merry-go-round set to begin spinning once again, who knows where Robinson could end up in time for the big kick-off in August?
His predecessor, Ince, made the huge – but ultimately unsuccessful – leap from League 2 to the Premier League with Blackburn Rovers, taking Robinson along with him in the process, proving that the top flight can’t be entirely ruled out as a possible destination.
Following Ince’s departure, Roberto Di Matteo swapped stadium:mk for The Hawthorns with West Brom, who had been recently relegated back to the Championship. And he guided them to automatic promotion behind runaway leaders Newcastle, before taking his career a step further with a job as assistant and then caretaker manager of Chelsea, leading them to become champions of Europe last Saturday.
At present, Hull City are the only club in the Championship without a manager after they sacked home-town hero Nick Barmby, despite finishing a respectable eighth last term.
Rumours continue to circulate about the future of Steve Kean at Blackburn after their high-profile relegation from the Premier League. The Scot has been an unpopular choice at Ewood Park with fans protesting all season, pleading with the board for his dismissal.
Perhaps the hot-seats at Anfield or Villa Park may be a step too far for Robinson just yet, but Wigan manager Roberto Martinez may be destined for pastures new, leaving a space at the DW Stadium for Robinson to continue playing his preferred style of football in a similar vein to the way the Latics played to ensure their Premier League survival once again.
All of these jobs could suit Robinson’s desire to manage at a higher level. But while he may be linked to every job that becomes available over the course of the summer, it’s unlikely that he will go touting his name around in order to find new employment.
Having recently added Mick Harford and Ian Wright to his backroom staff, Robinson shows few signs of actively looking elsewhere, even convincing players to extend their contracts with Dons if and when he confirms his future.
That is not to say other clubs won’t come sniffing around him though, and Robinson confirmed that there have been enquiries into his services already this summer, though they have only been tentative ones so far.
When asked if he’d been approached, Robinson said: “Not officially, no. But the rumour mill links me to lots of clubs.
“But I know that my agent has been asked and spoken to. I’ve got a good agent who doesn’t chase the money, but chases success. He has some of the best players and managers on his books.
“It’s not about money, I’ve got a lot of time ahead of me. But things have to be right here before we can go forward. I’ve tried to do my best with what we’ve got.
“We’ve dramatically over-achieved, and proof of that is that there is interest in me because of what I’ve done here.
“But I don’t want to turn my back on the chairman. I’ll never forget where I started and I’ve got promises to keep, but we have to make sure we’re singing from the same hymn sheet.”
When all the music stops and the carousel comes to a halt, when all the talking ceases and results can begin to do the talking again, Robinson says he would still be just as motivated standing on the touchline at stadium:mk as when he first took over the post.
“I would not be disappointed to be here next season,” he said. “I’ll be as proud to be standing on the touchline as when I was for my first game. This club means so much to me. I know the club needs to be successful.”