December 8, 2014 by bluenosebible
By Nat Peters
The one thing a manager or a coach cannot manufacture in a football player is experience. A manager or a coach can improve potential in a player; he can to varying extents improve speed, skill, tactical awareness, strength and fitness. He can make a player confident and make him mentally tougher. But the one thing a manager cannot instil into a player is experience.
Experience for a player can only come over time, through playing matches. Paul Robinson is by far our most experienced player at this level, having spent the best part of two decades playing in the top two divisions of English football. He is invaluable to what is still generally (at this level of football anyway) a relatively inexperienced squad.
Yet some people take the word ‘experience’ and replace it with ‘age’. And some people lose patience a lot quicker with an older player than they would with a younger one. Robbo has for a while been a popular target for criticism from some Blues fans, particularly during the latter period of Lee Clark’s reign at Blues. This criticism of him reappeared after the goal Blackpool scored to defeat us on Saturday; it wasn’t Robbo’s finest moment, he’s let a long ball bounce in front of him, got caught underneath it and has been bullied by Steven Davies who went on to lash home then winner. A real ‘schoolboy’ goal to concede. I would argue that Michael Morrison has also got to take some responsibility; he had no-one near him in a Blackpool shirt, he could possibly have come across and dealt with what was basically a punt from the goalkeeper whilst Robbo was occupied by Davies. But yes, really Robbo should have done a lot better.
But he and Morrison have been brilliant together at the heart of what was previously a very leaky defence; before yesterday we’d kept three clean sheets in Gary Rowett’s first five games as manager. There were people who were almost beside themselves with glee that Clark’s sacking would also see the permanent erasing of Robbo from the team-sheet, but Gary Rowett kept him in and before yesterday he’d repaid that faith tenfold. I hope Rowett will not make the same reflex decisions LC was sometimes prone to.
On Saturday he was at fault for the goal which cost us the game, but it doesn’t mean we should write him off. It doesn’t mean GR should mark him for the chop. One of the issues people had with Clark whilst at Blues was that he was too knee jerk in his team selections, that he would change things around after a setback far too quickly. Yet it’s some of these same people who are slating Robbo no end now and demanding GR immediately drops him and puts in David Edgar or Grant Hall, in spite of the fact that under GR he’s been generally playing very well. And Saturday’s defeat wasn’t just down to us conceding a sloppy goal; we went to the worst team in the league with the worst defence, and by all account (it was one of those rare occasions I couldn’t make the game) we created relatively little. That is just as much to blame for our defeat.
As I said, it could be the case that people are holding his age against him far too much. It’s not uncommon for this sort of thing to happen; a veteran player making a mistake, mistiming a pass or a tackle or getting caught for speed can be pounced upon by people as meaning that his “legs are gone” or “this season’s one season too many”. This is short-sightedness. An example being last season when we bombed out Wade Elliott relatively early on in the season after a couple of mediocre performances; he is now the captain of the team monstering the division below ours, and according to the Bristol City fans he is still a cut above that level, whilst Lee Clark in the second half of last season fruitlessly tried to utilise several players who could fill the ball playing void Wade left.
Of course there are is a point when age catches up with every player, and sometimes a player can go on for one season too many; Kenny Cunningham’s final campaign in a Blues shirt being a prime example of this. It could be that at the end of this season GR has phased out Robbo and decides not to offer him another deal, or that Robinson himself decides to call an end to his playing days at Blues. But right now for me his performances are generally good going on top notch, and he is still playing to a standard which makes him an asset, not a liability in this team. Speaking to him a couple of weeks ago he is still very enthusiastic to play football and play for this club, and I honestly think he’s been one of our best and most consistent players ever since he joined the club; it’s easy to forget he was our Player of the Season last term.
In short, I don’t think Robbo is done just yet!
Does Robbo still merit a place in the side?