AFC Wimbledon are sleep walking towards relegation – but Mark Robinson shouldn’t shoulder all the blame

5 min

Just five days after AFC Wimbledon released a statement admitting they had failed to financially back head coach Mark Robinson, the 57-year-old had left the club.

While a 21 game winless run would be enough to see anyone sacked, the timing still felt bizarre – not only due to the apologist board statement days earlier but also, with only seven games to go and sitting in the relegation zone, who could actually come in and turn the tide at such short notice?

It had started so well for ‘Robbo’ – with goals flying in and a real swagger in the team, with fans treated to impressive early season performances against the likes of Oxford United and Bolton in the club’s first full season back at Plough Lane.

There were even murmurings the Dons could be Play-Off contenders before a home defeat to Plymouth in mid-September, a game which was there for the taking, saw the start of the side’s first bad patch.

Wimbledon would go another five league games until they next tasted victory, a run that saw the first questions emerge over Robinson’s long-term credentials to lead the side.

Results became patchy at best before a number of postponed Christmas fixtures due to Covid completely derailed any momentum the side gathered after claiming four points from two away games at Accrington and Wycombe at the start of December.

The FA Cup Third Round defeat to Boreham Wood was then further compounded by poor recruitment in the January transfer window and the loss of coach James Simmonds, who returned to Chelsea after joining in the summer on secondment to help the management team.

Another departure saw forward Ollie Palmer move to non-league Wrexham for £300k to be replaced by on-loan Sam Cosgrove from Birmingham City.

Despite the majority of the January signings failing to hit the ground running, it is safe to say Cosgrove has struggled the most to make an impact, failing to score in his ten outings and now likely to spend a lengthy spell on the sidelines after picking up an injury against Cambridge.

READ MORE: AFC Wimbledon supporting Cambridge United fan’s quest to make football more accessible for autistic son

The nadir of Robinson’s tenure may have been the 4-0 drubbing at Bolton in mid-February but Saturday’s defeat to Cambridge felt like another monumental blow to his stewardship.

Wimbledon looked like a team sleepwalking towards relegation but the harsh reality is they are a young squad brought together on a shoe-string budget and in desperate need of experienced heads around them.

That’s where Performance Mindset Coach Steve Sallis and central defender Darius Charles come in – the latter returning to Wimbledon in the summer with the aim of shoring up a leaky back line.

While injuries have prevented Charles from making his mark on the pitch, the 34-year-old now has a chance off it after being appointed caretaker manager for Saturday’s match at Sheffield Wednesday.

Nevertheless, questions need to be asked why the side appear to be lacking so much confidence even when there are two figures at the club appointed to counterbalance the issue.

Other areas of Wimbledon’s current specialist coaching structure, set-up in tandem with Robinson’s appointment as boss 13 months ago, also have to be questioned.

Restarts Coach Andy Parslow, whose role is to improve plays from dead balls, has come under increasing scrutiny from sections of the fanbase as set-pieces appear to have deteriorated drastically as the season progressed.

Whatever the results and the circumstances, AFC Wimbledon’s current problems are bigger than just one man and Mark Robinson shouldn’t be the only one to blame for the mess the club currently find themselves in.

Worryingly, The Dons Trust and the Football Club Board’s complete about-turn on Robinson’s position in less than a week suggests a lack of direction at this moment in time. 

Their decisions in the next few weeks and months could be crucial not just for Wimbledon’s short-term League One hopes but the entire structure and future of the club itself.


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