Robinson must be given a reason to remain a Don
MK Dons have to match the ambition of manager Karl Robinson if they are to keep hold of the man in charge of the ship this summer.
The club have made all the right noises when it came to the most rumours linking their boss to pastures new, fending off speculation of a move to Leeds United by saying he’s fully focussed on rebuilding his Dons squad.
And with top jobs in the offing at Blackburn - Robinson’s old stomping ground - Nottingham Forest and Derby, news of talks with Leeds chairman Massimo Cellino are probably just the first of many that will come Dons’ way in the coming months.
Robinson, now on holiday in Spain, is no stranger to job offers heading in his direction. He was among the front runners when Simon Grayson left Elland Road back in 2012, and has been heavily linked to jobs in Sheffield, Glasgow and Nottingham since.
Where this most recent rumour differs from the rest though is that this time, Robinson’s ambition could yet out-weigh that of the club.
Last month, for the first time, Robinson’s position in charge of MK Dons was being put under question.
Both he and chairman Pete Winkelman admitted his future was up in the air, and whether he was in charge at the start of next season would rely on whether the pair could see eye-to-eye on how to get the club back into the Championship.
Robinson, like any other manager in the game, wants money to go out and spend on the best players he can get to bring success to his side, in whatever form that takes.
So far, in his six seasons in charge, he hasn’t had that at stadium:mk.
He has had to beg, scrimp and save, selling off prized assets, scratch around for rough diamonds and suffer the indignity of having to lose players back to their parent clubs, sold from under his nose.
It was an almost-accepted part of life as a League 1 club, but the same approach in the Championship earned Dons a one-way ticket from whence they came.
Robinson has been open about his future too. Far from shying away from the rumours, he admitted he wanted to manage in the Championship and higher, having been given a taste of it, albeit for just one season.
Without any shadow of a doubt, Dons must put forward a united front in their ambition next season - they have to win League 1. Anything else would be reverting to the club of old and the last two years would have been for nothing, and that’s hardly what a manager needs to hear.
Robinson has little to prove in the third tier. Having reached the play-offs twice and earned a promotion in his five seasons in League 1, so it is of little surprise that he is linked to clubs in the Championship.
His achievements too mean he has little to prove to his current employers, having managed what his two predecessors - both of whom went on to manage in the Premier League - failed to do. And Robinson did it at a fraction of the cost.
There aren’t any doubts that Robinson is happy in Milton Keynes. Having laid down roots in the town, it’s a place he calls home.
And the club has grown around him too, with his vision for the behind-the-scenes mechanisms all falling into place to form something of a professional football club.
But having built his empire only to see it crumble, taking what was left of it to the Championship and seeing it fall just short, his ambitions now must surely be to better himself.
Realistically, it will take a minimum of three years before his ambition of stabilising Dons in the Championship will be achieved, and that requires an instant return.
But he already has League 1 promotion on his CV, so the lure of a bigger challenge must be sorely tempting for the 35-year-old.
The club now must give him a reason to stay.