Seeking a talisman to lift Dons' spirits
The cuts into MK Dons' playing squad are now as deep as they can go. What they need now is a spark, a difference maker: a talismanic figure.
Dons haven’t been short of a game changer down the years. Keith Andrews, Stephen Gleeson and Dele Alli have all carried the mantle, being the players expected to make things change at the drop of a hat.
Arguably, two of Dons’ most recent talismanic figures walked out of stadium:mk on Tuesday. Alex Revell swapped Dons for Northampton Town, while Baker joined League 2 side Portsmouth - both offered two year contracts to extend their careers.
Baker, especially during Dons’ promotion season, was voted Player of the Year by fans for his role in winning automatic promotion, capable of changing the game from the wings, while Alli and co did the damage through the middle.
Revell had a similar affect. Coming in for the final few months of the season, Revell instantly offered Dons something a bit different: a big target man, relentless in his enthusiasm and wanton desire to be on the ball.
Perhaps even more importantly than changing things on the pitch, it’s what a talisman does to those off it that makes such a huge difference.
The sight of Revell or Baker warming up last season aroused a buzz in the Cowshed. A new outlet, a new plan of attack was coming, and someone effective was coming on to provide it. Following their departures, Dons’ squad feels short of that.
There is still talent in the ranks, of course. Of the existing squad though, only one really stands out as a talisman in waiting: Samir Carruthers.
Eccentric, passionate, wild and daring to be different, Carruthers has the potential to be the character to drive Dons forward and make the difference.
But he seems torn with self-doubt at times, often too frustrated with his own shortcomings to be that man... yet.
The 23-year-old has time on his side in that sense, but needs to find a consistency and a stature among the side, and he needs to make himself undroppable.
George Baldock meanwhile has the crowd behind him and is growing into the starter everyone wanted, but will struggle to burst a game into life from right back - that’s just the nature of the position.
Robinson is well aware of what he needs to find this summer in terms of positional requirements, but the effect of personality too is something that has to be considered as he seeks to build a new team for League 1.
While the aforementioned Andrews has also left the fold from his role as First Team Coach, the losses of Revell, Baker and indeed Antony Kay from the dressing room leaves gaping holes both in the playing squad and the general atmosphere.
Any new recruits won’t just have big shoes to fill out on the pitch, but will require a steely determination to make the difference off it too.