In general terms football fans are a funny old bunch. Consistently dreaming of a better tomorrow, whilst in reality suffering the depression of today and pining for the glories of yesteryear.
But what if your club doesn’t have a long trophy laden past? Forget fifth generation families passing club allegiances like inheritance, MK Dons fans born around the clubs creation are only just leaving primary school.
To many of the regulars at stadium:mk last weekend’s promotion to the Championship was the greatest day they’ve ever known. For a club born from the demise of Wimbledon it was a day long in the making.
Eleven years have passed since that controversial decision to grant relocation, and whilst many will still argue the rights and wrongs of the move up the M1, what should be in no doubt is the lasting legacy being forged in the city known for roundabouts and concrete cows.
In the past 12 months they’ve thrashed Manchester United, sold a homegrown player for £5million and now won promotion back to the level they enjoyed when the MK adventure first began.
For a club with supposedly no history, they sure are making some quick. Officially one relegation, two promotions and a Football League Trophy win plus three play off appearances is not bad going, but it’s made all the more remarkable as they’ve balanced success on the field with a rapid expansion off it.
Stadium:mk has grown to become a UEFA Elite standard venue with a capacity over 30,000 and it’ll host action at the upcoming Rugby World Cup. It’s a stadium and indeed a club that to many had outgrown the confines of League One.
No one epitomises the rollercoaster ride of the last decade like Chairman Pete Winkelman, so vehemently hated by those who opposed the move, his vision and dedication to the new city has been repaid and promotion is as much his achievement as that of his players.
Winkelman is not your average club owner, he has given his all to make MK Dons a success, he has lived and breathed every moment, every high and low and has the scars to prove it, he even needed medical assistance to be part of last weekend’s celebrations, not a chance a back injury was going to stop him getting to pitch level to hand out the medals.
There are many, many clubs throughout the Football League that could learn a lot from Winkelman and his staff. Off the field he has shown a desire to engage with fans on a level most clubs would not dare. From support and encouragement for a community radio station, to leaflets left on every car outside the stadium urging support for new planning rules in the centre of the city.
Closer to the pitch he took the incredible gamble of appointing a relatively unknown 29 year old as manager, five years on Karl Robinson is clearly a coach who demands far higher standards from his players than he ever reached as a player himself. But it’s that level of performance that saw them score 101 league goals in 46 matches this season, a remarkable return.
Many years ago I was sent to cover a pre-season game between MK and Tottenham, then managed by Harry Redknapp. Afterwards I asked Robinson if he was pleased with how his side had matched up to the Spurs style, his response was to tell me he wanted people to recognise MK Dons play as a unique style of their own.
The 4-0 against United back in August went a long way to doing just that, now the real test for Robinson, Winkelman and all is how they can adapt to the step up in quality the Championship will provide and how they can keep the momentum of the last decade going.
Nearly 17,000 fans witnessed promotion, many of them young, perhaps no older than the club they support. The true legacy of the events of last weekend and indeed the last eleven years will not be written in the history books, but it’ll be in how many of those young supporters stay with their team for that better tomorrow.