Paul Tisdale believes MK Dons’ promotion back to League One was payback for the supporters who have stuck with the club through their dark days.
MK Dons beat Mansfield 1-0 at Stadium MK to leapfrog the Stags and claim the third and final automatic promotion place from League Two.
David Wheeler struck after just two first half minutes before Dons saw out a further 88, earning Tisdale’s side promotion at the first time of asking.
And Tisdale thanked the players who had opted to stay with MK Dons last summer and fight for promotion rather than head to the exit door.
“I have tried to harness the bad couple of years the club has had, so today has given us redemption and given something back to the supporters,” he said.
“I asked the players to stay here in the summer and not to run away from the club that has supported you and the fans who have given their all – I’m so pleased we are able to celebrate this moment together today.
“Players like Kieran Agard and Chuks Aneke, who played so hard today, could have easily left in the summer after last season’s relegation.
“I have spent all week telling the players not to plan any celebrations because you cannot dream until you have done the job – it is the worst thing you can do.
“My backroom staff and I spend a lot of time together and under pressure you have to know who is around you and who you can lean on. They have followed me here and I must thank them because they have all committed – the team behind the team have been brilliant.
“I have said to the players all season that they have to write their own story this year. We have started off nicely here and we now have a good platform, it is a contemporary football club which I like and hopefully now we have a nice springboard to move it forward.”
The Dons took the lead after just two minutes when Dean Lewington’s corner was met by Wheeler unmarked inside the Mansfield box, before the QPR loanee headed emphatically past Mansfield keeper Conrad Logan.
Despite the Stags throwing bodies forward late on, they could not find a way through a resolute MK defensive display.
Mansfield manager David Flitcroft said: “I am hurting for the supporters because they have been loud and proud. I am hurting for the players too because in the second half we made MK Dons creak and we asked a lot of questions of them.
“The players left everything out there in the second half. I have a sick feeling in my stomach and I feel very raw. But congratulations to MK Dons because they have been up there all season and Paul Tisdale is a fantastic manager.
“There was so much riding on the game and it is difficult to see a group of supporters celebrating in front of you. But we have to regroup and refocus and get this team ready for a massive game at Newport.
“The early goal almost didn’t bother me because we looked calmer after the goal, there was a tension to us in the opening moments, but the early goal kind of took the shackles off for us and we started to ask questions of MK.”