By Chris Slavin
Paul Robinson said that AFC Wimbledon will always have a special place in his heart and he believes that the young defenders he is leaving behind can help push the club forward again.
The 36-year-old signed off his three years at the club with a farewell appearance against Bury on Saturday and it meant a lot to him to say goodbye to the supporters.
"It was pretty obvious I would be leaving so I tried to savour every moment really," said Paul, who was Player of the Year in his first season here. "I was grateful to the manager for playing me in the last game of the season. It was nice for me to play one final time in the blue and yellow number six jersey. I wanted to thank the fans because they have been really good with me. It was a nice day because I had all of my family with me, it was a great way to sign off.
"I've loved every single moment of my time here, it has been great in the last three years. When I left Portsmouth my career was at a crossroads really, I did not know where I was heading, but to achieve a promotion in my first season was an amazing achievement. As you get older, you think that the opportunity to get to Wembley will become less and less. From Christmas onwards in my first season we went on a great run, we just knew it was our time. It felt everything was right around the place and we built up that momentum you need to get promoted. It was an amazing way to round off the season.
"In the next season we established ourselves as a League One club and it was particularly good for me to go back to The Den. That was a bonus for me. In terms of the history of AFC Wimbledon, it's great to have contributed our special moment along the way. All my three daughters were at Wembley to see it and that meant a lot. I feel privileged to have played for three fantastic clubs and AFC Wimbledon will always have a place in my heart."
For the first time in many years, Paul was not a first-choice centre-back last season, but he was pleased to help in the development of Player of the Year Deji Oshilaja and Will Nightingale. The two young centre-backs contributed to a solid defensive back-line with the assistance of Darius Charles.
"I've tried to help Deji and Will as much as possible, to offer them little bits of advice," added Paul. "Obviously, there are things that I'm not able to do any more, but people like Deji and Will are the future of the club. They are the ones who can take this club forward to the next step. They have the potential to do that, it's their time now to take on the challenge. Deji has been fantastic all season and he totally deserves the Player of the Year award. I am really pleased for him. With Will, you can see the potential and quality of the player, plus how much he cares for the club. He just needs a little bit of luck on the injury front.
"In the last season I did not play as much as I was used to, or as much as I would have liked, but ultimately, it was nice that we stayed up. It's lovely that three years ago I joined the club and now I've left with the club in a better position than when I first started playing here. As far as I was concerned, it's been great to play a little part in the AFC Wimbledon journey, I've made some great friends here. You can tell that the unity of the whole club is fantastic, I just want to thank everyone, including the manager, his staff, people working at the club, and the fans. It's been such an enjoyable three years for me. I'm gutted to be leaving, but I'm proud of my time here."
Paul, who made 118 appearances for the Dons, feels he still has something to offer as a player, but he will be keeping his options open during the summer. Whatever he decides to do, Paul will certainly be keeping an eye on AFC Wimbledon's progress.
"I aim to be a regular visitor because I've made a lot of friends here and I want to see the club progress as well. I will be interested to follow the club's fortunes when it moves to a new stadium and see how it takes off from there.
"According to Bayo, I have to go on What's App now! I don't know yet and I'm going to have a look at things over the summer. There is nothing at the moment that I'm saying I'm definitely going to do. Everyone says to me, 'play as long as you can', and that will be my first aim. If there is nothing available on that front, maybe I will look at the next stage of my career. I am quite relaxed about it at the moment. I'm just going to be patient and make sure I keep in shape over the summer, so that I'm ready to grasp any opportunity that comes my way."
View a clip of Paul's interview in the Wembley dressing room two years ago by clicking on the link below.
All at AFC Wimbledon wish Paul well in his future career. Watch out in the coming days for more interviews with players leaving the club.