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Karl Robinson humbled at becoming the second longest-serving manager in The Football League

27 November 2014

As Mark Yates became the latest Football League managerial casualty at Cheltenham Town on Tuesday, Milton Keynes Dons boss Karl Robinson moved up to second in the longest-serving managers list.

Appointed in 2010, following a spell as assistant coach under Paul Ince, Robinson now sits only behind Paul Tisdale of Exeter City in duration at a respective club, and third overall in the whole of English professional football.

At just 34 years of age, the Liverpudlian has now been in charge for four-and-a-half seasons at stadiummk, but still considers himself to be some way off achieving his own goals at the club.

Robinson is more than sympathetic with Yates and others who have suffered a similar fate in recent times, and has mixed feelings about his standing as one of the country’s most durable managers.

"It’s disappointing when you see what has happened to Mark Yates," Robinson told football-league.co.uk.
 
"I can’t say it’s something I take great pride in, going to third longest-serving manager in England. It leaves a bit of a bitter taste in the mouth because I’m only 34, and to be the third longest-serving manager shows how ruthless the industry is.

"It’ll be me one day. It’s something we all dread, but that we all understand as well. My heart goes out to Mark, he’s a great guy and a real football man - someone who has competed with Cheltenham on a consistent basis.

"This year he has had a season where things haven’t gone his way and to be 18th in the league is something he wouldn’t have seen as a positive. I’m sure he’ll come back bigger and stronger.
 
"It’s only nice to be able to say I’m one of the longest-serving because people have been getting new jobs, not because they’ve lost them."

Rarely do we see transparency conveyed more by a manager than Robinson. He is the ultimate professional, one who completely ignores the trivia around the length of his tenure, and focuses on his long-term ambitions with his employers.

After a lengthy 54 months in the job, he still considers himself a student of the game - an apprentice in a master’s role. He feels privileged that chairman Pete Winkelman has kept the faith in his vision for so long, but also feels he has given plenty in return.

"I think the club are blessed that I’ve stayed here," Robinson added when asked if he had been fortunate at the complete backing of his boss.
 
"If you look over the course of the years I think I’ve had about a 46 per cent win rate. When you see what we’ve bought here and what we’ve sold, and how we’ve still been able to compete on a consistent basis, then I think they are just as fortunate to have me and my staff as I am to have them.

"It’s an equal thing, and it’s something we’re all proud of, to say that we stick together. There’s a real unity, and we want to build that over a number of years.

"I’m approaching 250 games, and people forget I’ve just turned 34. I’m still a long way away from where I want to be and I’m still learning my trade. I don’t think there are many better places to build that platform than at MK Dons."



Having never appeared as a player in The Football League, and only holding experience as a coach at Liverpool and Blackburn, the former of which was a role within the youth set-up, Robinson had never tasted the high-pressured, harsh nature of League management before arriving in Milton Keynes.

He's endured a number of personal challenges during his reign, and experienced the occasional dark day in his integration period, but is adamant that he is now better for it.

"I think I’ve changed massively [during the time at MK Dons]. I was very set in my ways before - a bit naive. People perceived it as arrogance sometimes, or stupidity.

“I was very unstable in the early days, I have to be honest. I’m a much stronger, stable man now. I still have much to learn, and have a great eagerness to do so. I love learning more and more about the game but also about myself.”

His record as manager certainly belies his age and the amount of experience he actually has. His first two campaigns at the helm brought two Play-Off finishes in Sky Bet League 1, before ending the 2012/13 and 2013/14 seasons in eighth and 10th respectively.

Achieving the next step on the pitch, with regards to promotion, hasn’t been achieved as yet, but all the components are in place. They possess the facilities to continue growing and have a young, ambitious manager leading the charge. If they are to achieve it, it will be through a sustained approach.

Perhaps the greatest glimpse of what the future could hold for the Dons came back in August, when they stormed to a 4-0 home win over Manchester United in front of a packed crowd in the Capital One Cup. That night they technically, physically and mentally outsmarted their Premier League opponents.

“What the chairman has built here is a business. There’s a sustainability project here. We win our next two games and we could be top, we beat Manchester United here and our fans haven’t changed because of it. They’ve always been here, it’s been consistent and we love them for the support that they give us.

“My budget and where we finish every year is very consistent, and I never go below those standards. A 46 per cent win rate is not something to turn your nose up at. I’m a massive lover of the game; I wear my heart on my sleeve. I love that people care, in any walk of life, and I care deeply.

“To be involved in football for 20 years is something I would be immensely proud to achieve. But in this industry you never know what’s around the corner.”

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