Wilson will need to be a real wizard to rescue the Dons

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The Independent Football

It took just 60 minutes to convince Danny Wilson that one of football's least-wanted jobs was the one for him. Having speculatively applied for the vacant manager's post at Milton Keynes Dons, he received a call from the club's chairman, Pete Winkelman. One hour later the pair had reached an agreement, and a new man was found to lead the League One strugglers.

After six months of unemployment following his dismissal from Bristol City, Wilson insists his hunger for football is back. Not even the thought of taking over Franchise FC put him off.

The Dons lie second from bottom in the third tier of English football. Relegated last season after switching from south London and boasting a squad made up of largely untried youngsters, the team play in front of crowds that average just 4,000. Even Wilson admits that he questioned his own sanity in applying for the job until he was exposed to Winkelman's unwavering optimism.

"The biggest thing is the chairman," he said, when asked why he was taking possibly the least sought-after managerial position in the English game. "He sold it so, so well. I've never heard so much enthusiasm from a chairman in many, many years. He is hell-bent on making this a success.

"He didn't stop talking for about an hour. He was a breath of fresh air and that is what I wanted. I was privileged that he thought I would help him achieve his goals. I couldn't say no."

He was linked to jobs at Gillingham and Wycombe Wanderers in recent weeks, so you could say Wilson's options were limited, but the diminutive former Northern Ireland midfielder insists that, on reflection, he has landed the job he most wanted.

Wilson's CV features spells at Barnsley and Sheffield Wednesday, and he experienced relegation from the Premiership with both at the beginning of their declines. Perhaps, after those experi-ences, Wilson has simply become immune to off-pitch concerns. "There are problems here," admitted Wilson, who, during a much-travelled career on the pitch, played 10 miles down the road at Luton Town and won the League Cup with them in 1988. "But I was in a lucky position where I didn't have to take the first job that was offered."

Thoughts of a quiet Christmas away from football have now gone. Instead, Wilson will throw himself headlong into the task of saving the club from relegation.

Stuart Murdoch, his prede-cessor, was sacked in November after only three League victories all season. With the Dons due to move into a new £42m, 30,000-capacity home in the Denbigh area of the city in time for the 2006-07 season, Winkelman claims he had to act to ensure the stadium does not become a white elephant in League Two.

"We've got through the period of getting to Milton Keynes and that has been traumatic, but there has got to be a single-mindedness in what we have got to achieve here," Winkelman said. "To create a football culture you have got to create excitement around the team, and having a team that can win on the pitch is a very big part of that."

Winkelman certainly talks a good game, but Wilson knows enough about the rough edges of football to know that he has thrown himself back in at the deep end in attempting to make the Dons a success. But, after Winkleman's wooing, it is clear that Wilson believes anything is possible.

"It is a tough job - make no bones about it," said Wilson. "I've spoken to all my colleagues in the game and they say I must be mad. But Pete Winkelman said people thought he was mad - and look at what he has achieved already. It is not an insurmountable challenge. It is not impossible. Next year, depending on who comes down, I'd like to think we'd have a chance of promotion."