ROBBO’S BRIEF: CULTURAL CHANGE

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AFC Wimbledon are looking for a ‘cultural change” with the in-house appointment of Mark Robinson as the new ‘head coach’ to replace Glyn Hodges.

The announcement has been welcomed by a groundswell of approval from the fans, who like the club hierarchy, have been impressed by the thorough manner in which ‘Robbo’ has handled things in his two games in charge as interim manager.

Robbo, who first came to the club a volunteer coach of the Under 9s in 2004, has been instrumental in the outstanding success of the club’s academy from where he has developed Will Nightingale, Anthony Hartigan, Jack Rudoni, Paul Osew and Paul Kalambayi among others into first-team players.

After the churn of three club legends Neal Ardley, Wally Downes and Glyn Hodges as club manager in the space of 27 months, the club saw a need to effect change in the way it wanted to go forward. Mark Robinson is the one the hierarchy see to bring that about.

“In his short time as Interim Manager, Mark has made a hugely positive impression on the players and staff,” club chief executive Joe Palmer said at the announcement.

“This impact, coupled with his determination and ability to bring about cultural change, gave Mark the edge over the other candidates and we are delighted to give him this chance to show us where he can take us.”

Robbo’s first task is to keep AFC Wimbledon in League One, but he is being given the scope and support to change the way things have been done as the Dons have struggled to be a viable Tier Three team.

Robbo is passionate about getting the best of the club and its squad of players.

“Everyone knows how I feel about AFC Wimbledon and I am absolutely thrilled to be given this opportunity at the club that is the greatest story in football; a club with a great heritage and the best supporters in the country,” he said.

“There is undoubtedly a lot of hard work to be done but when you look at the quality in the squad and the academy, alongside the good people we have in place in and around the club, if we can all pull together it makes me genuinely excited about what we can achieve.”

High on his priorities is to change the way player recruitment is done at the club.

Robbo has contenders in mind for the assistant manager role as he looks to reshape Wimbledon in his image.

There is plenty of admiration for the way Robbo goes about building a team environment. He avidly looks at ways other coaches – like Australian Eddie Jones in charge of the England rugby team – work to get the best out of their players.

Concerns? Well, Robbo has no managerial experience at Football League level and would have scant contact with other Football League clubs to bring players in.

That may be addressed by restructuring the recruitment process, whether someone with experience is employed by the club to fill that role and leave Robbo to do what he does best.

Robbo would also need a No.2 capable of addressing the issues he as head coach is not suited to. A reverse of the usual manager-assistant axiom  “You fix the pitch. I’ll fix everything else.”

It is an appointment not without some risk given Wimbledon’s precarious position in the relegation zone with 20 games left in the season.

But on the other hand, Robbo just might be the catalyst of giving Wimbledon a cultural change, an identity, it seeks and capitalising on the steady stream of home-produced starlets into the first team. Robbo knows the situation inside the club better than most.

It is a tantalising prospect that has the ardent support of much of the fan base. Heroic, possibly, but not without the possibility of leading Wimbledon into a new exciting era. The next months will be fascinating to see which way the pendulum swings.