Dean Lewington has played 800 games in an MK Dons shirt, but after penning a new deal to remain at Stadium MK beyond the 2020/21 season, the captain is looking to the future and not back in the past.
Lewington marked his milestone appearance by helping Russell Martin’s men secure a 2-1 victory over Burton Albion – the side’s third straight win and a result that has lifted them up to 13th in the Sky Bet League One table.
It’s also a result that all-but secures the Dons' Sky Bet League One status for next term and allows them, and now Lewington, the opportunity to look ahead to 2021/22.
“It’s a really positive time for the Club,” Lewington said in his exclusive interview with iFollow MK Dons.
“It’s been a real joy (working with Russ) for 18 months. He’s come in with a load of new ideas and playing for him as helped to keep me young - it’s a real challenge and you learn every day.
“You have to throw Luke (Williams) into the mix too – he is a fantastic coach. Together with Russ, they are a really good team and the longer the Club can keep hold of him, the better.
“We’ve done a lot of hard work this year and we’ve been able to bed in a lot of the ideas and players this year. We’re trying to play the right way and develop players that can go to the next level.
“We’re creating an identity and we saw, when we went away from that a couple of years ago, it didn’t end well for us. Now, we have a real strong brand, which attracts attention and also attracts players to want to come and play here. Every now and then it’s going to go wrong, but there are a lot of positives that come from it.
“It’s encouraging, too, that we’ve not only good young players in the first team but now a little bit of depth with the boys that are coming through. You do need experience alongside the young players as well and we have older boys who are willing and able to contribute - that mixture makes it healthy for the group.”
Lewington added: “Looking forward, if we can keep this team together for next year, then that will be a real positive.
“Hopefully the fans will be back in too – that will be great. We have really noticed how much they mean and the atmosphere they create. It’s something we can hopefully have again next season.”
Lewington recently surpassed Alan Knight in fifth place for league games played for one club in post-war English football history, and is now closing in on Terry Paine’s total of 713.
With 25 to go to reach the former Southampton man, MK Dons' number 3 will have to wait until next season to climb a place but, with no plans to slow down, don’t put it past Lewington to claim fourth spot sooner rather than later.
“It’s only a positive,” he said about the record. “They are just numbers but it’s a nice stat and means you’ve played a lot of games and had a lot of fun. It’s nice, too, for a Club like us that gets told we have no history.
“It’s been quite a successful season for me in terms of appearances and injuries. At my age, you’re not expecting to play every game but it's the way it’s panned out this season.
“Of course, I want to continue playing every game but I’m well aware that might not happen. If it doesn't and someone comes in and takes my place, I’ll work as hard as I can to help that player and push them but, if it’s me playing then I’ll work just as hard."