BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Mark Robinson wants to be AFC Wimbledon manager on a permanent basis – and has already thrown himself into the role as if he is in the hotseat for the long term.
The Dons put their first-team coach in interim charge after parting company with boss Glyn Hodges and assistant Nicky Daws at the end of January.
Robinson, who had previously been head of their academy, has already brought in Steve Sallis – a mindset mentor – to talk to the Wimbledon squad.
He has also ordered 40 copies of Tim Grover’s book Unstoppable, which details the traits needed to achieve in all walks of life.
As Robinson details some of the adjustments he has made since taking charge it is no wonder he describes himself as “running on adrenaline”.
“It’s been fantastic and I’m loving every second, once I got over the emotion of Glyn leaving – because we became close. He was great. Glyn knew the club were going to ask me to take over temporarily and he told me to be my own man.
“On that Saturday night [after Hodges and Daws left] I collected my thoughts and got down what I’d like to do. There was no way I was just going to dip my toe in the water and do it just as a caretaker until they find someone else. I threw myself into it.
“I spent all Sunday working on various things. I got a presentation ready for the players on Monday morning about values and culture – where I saw us going together. I wanted to talk about why we are here, because I think within football people forget that over time. We came up with a collective purpose why we are all together.
“I got boards made up for the training ground so they were ready when we got down there – visual reminders of our on-the-pitch values. I got pitch markings down about how we were going to be off the ball and our pressing lines.
“I wanted to breathe new energy and confidence into them – take the shackles off.
“It was tough because we had the Tuesday game [in the EFL Trophy at Oxford], so we couldn’t really do much on Monday. We had a bit of a mish-mash side out Tuesday and Thursday was a second recovery day, so we only got two real sessions out of them in the first week.
“My big thing was trying to get a different mindset. Steve came in on Thursday and did a 20-minute presentation to them and it went really, really well.
“Coaches will always say with players that they are only capable in classrooms of concentrating for 10 or 20 minutes before they switch off – which I’ve always found totally bizarre when they play a game that lasts for 90 minutes.
“We did an interactive analysis session in the hotel before Saturday’s match and 25 minutes in I said: ‘Okay, that will be enough’. One of the senior players said: ‘No, can we carry on? We’re learning’. Little early gains like that have been really, really positive.”
Robinson first joined Wimbledon in 2005 and worked his way up to academy head and U18 boss – twice reaching the last eight of the FA Youth Cup.
Injury curtailed his own playing career while on Fulham’s books.
A 3-2 victory at Wigan on Saturday has lifted the South Londoners out of the League One dropzone.
Robinson previously worked as a licensing officer for the Performing Right Society for 14 years before setting up his own business – It’s a Kid Thing Limited – with his wife.
“I love this football club and I’ve turned down various jobs in the past for more money – because of their values. My dad was my biggest influence and when my football career didn’t turn out the way it wanted, even though we weren’t Wimbledon fans it is everything that he taught me football was about.
“Ever since I first spent a couple of hours with Marc Jones and Ivor Heller, who were founders of the club, it has been a mission for me to try and give them the best academy in the country.
“I was given this opportunity and I want to take it. But the club comes first. If I felt out of my depth or that I couldn’t do it, then I wouldn’t apply and I’d like to help them in recruiting the best person. But it doesn’t feel that way at all. It feels really, really comfortable.
“A lot of my experiences previously outside of football, and what I’ve been through, means I don’t feel stress – even when it went to seven minutes added time on Saturday. I felt in control, and that’s because of my pathway.
“I started my own business from scratch and borrowed a lot of money when I had a young family so I could get back into football. There is nothing more stressful than running your own business. Football just feels exciting.
“I had a fantastic job at PRS. Eighteen years ago I was earning a lot more money than I earn now at Wimbledon, but I took that move to set up my own business.
“The thinking was that if it worked it would allow me to do more and more coaching because once you come out of football it’s very tough to get back in.
“We borrowed a substantial amount of money and we had a one-year-old and a three-year old at the time. Fortunately it worked. We won the best childrens’ venue in London and the business became self-sufficient.
“I’ve always believed in taking yourself out of your comfort zone, that’s what I’ve continually done. You need to have that little feeling of butterflies. That’s my message to the players as well, although you have to get the balance right.”
Robinson reckons preparation should be 80 per cent about what his players can do – rather than heavily focusing on your opponent.
“The 20 per cent on the opposition needs to be real fine detail that can hurt you,” he said. “The 80 per cent is building our identity. It’s the only way the players can play with the shackles off – that they know you believe in them. And I do believe they are good enough.
“In our FA Youth Cup runs we beat Newcastle, Watford and faced Chelsea. It’s always been the way that I have worked.”
PICTURES: SEAN GOSLING
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