Your Dons say: Hartlepool game won’t be a training exercise

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DONS columnist Dominic Damesick says some fans should show a bit more respect to struggling sides.

Hartlepool United are bottom of League 1. They have only won once this season. They have not won a single away game. So, surely anything other than a win for MK Dons is an unmitigated disaster?

Karl Robinson, as he does before every game, has spoken of the need to respect the opposition. On the surface, this might just seem like good PR work from the Dons boss –ensuring he does not get on the wrong side of anyone, or give the media more ammunition to fire at the club.

Yet, Robinson is, of course, absolutely right to speak of the need for respect; of the need to recognise that Hartlepool have strengths; and of the need to acknowledge that the Monkey Hangers have begun to show tentative steps of progress under new boss John Hughes.

Robinson might always trot out the line about respecting the opposition, but that is because such an ethos is important for every game. Dons will take to the field on Saturday against 11 other professional footballers with a will to win, a point to prove, and a game-plan to execute.

Of course, Dons should be victorious, but that will only happen if they recognise their opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, and play accordingly. It is vital that Robinson protects against complacency in the ranks – potentially one of the biggest hurdles to victory tomorrow – and drums into his charges that they must respect every opponent. They must focus unreservedly on the job in hand.

The way some fans talk, when two teams of differing fortunes are pitted against each other, one would almost believe that the struggling team have only turned up to make up the numbers; to allow the formalities of a Dons victory to be completed.

The way the opponents are spoken of is akin to cones on the training ground – useless objects, only present so that Dons can complete their drills, and earn a pat on the back at the end of the day.

Fans will no doubt shriek in despair and amazement at various points on Saturday afternoon, when a Dons pass is intercepted, or a cross is cleared to safety. I dread to think of the reaction if the visitors actually take the lead.

Unfortunately, these fans have momentarily forgotten that the ‘cones’ who compromise the opposition can move, and have ability and determination and desire. These ‘cones’ are professionals, well-versed in the art of football.

Tomorrow, these ‘cones’ will take the form of Hartlepool United, and while Dons should win, it will not be as simple as a mere training-ground exercise.

Robinson speaks of the need for respect – some fans would do well to remember that at 3pm on Saturday afternoons.