April 8, 2015 by bluenosebible
By Nat Peters
It’s an old football cliché that football fans will forgive almost anything of a player as long as he gives his all for the team. That cliché has been disproven and dispelled with the stick Robbo has been getting after Monday’s defeat at Bournemouth.
Yes, he’s had an absolute mare. Yes, he’s been at fault for goals that have ultimately cost us a result. Yes, he’s got himself sent off. All in all Monday may (and I repeat, MAY) end up turning out to be the watershed for Robbo as the point where his career as a mainstream Blues player ends.
And people have the right to point that out, to constructively criticise and to question why he was selected to go up against one of the quickest poachers in the league in the first place. The latter question must also be asked of Gary Rowett, because ultimately it wasn’t Robbo’s fault he was picked; he never put a gun to GR’s head. But where some have overstepped the mark is to start giving him unwarranted stick and abuse; it’s not particularly nice to do to anyone but for Robbo to have to suffer the taunts and jibes of the fans of a club he has overall served so well for a century of games is very sad, almost sickening.
If you believed some of his biggest critics you would think Robbo was one of the worst players we’ve ever had. In reality he has been a figure who has constantly stood up to be counted as the club slid down the table over the past few years, someone who until fairly recently was generally as solid as a rock in the Blues defence. He’s been someone who Blues fans have always been able to rely on to go into the trenches and fight for the cause.
I make that last analogy because above all else that is what Robbo is, he is a fighter. That should be a good thing but in the eyes of some he has got by at Blues on, in the words of one, “kicking people, beating his chest and thumping the air when looking at the fans”. This is tosh; he isn’t just some thug who’s got through his career by being a footballing Rottweiler. His reading of the play at Blues has always been top notch and that combined with his steel, bravery and aggression meant that until recently he could usually cover for his declining pace. He has been a player who has been good enough to deal with the rigours of the Premier League and the Championship for nearly two decades, you don’t do that just by being a hatchet man. He’s not what you would call an oil painting of a player but I will quote Neil Warnock on what he said to one of his defenders when managing at Sheffield United; first and foremost, I like defenders “who can head it and f***ing kick it”.
There is always room in a team for a Robbo type player; as much as you need your creative players and your Steady Eddies you need someone who is willing to get stuck in and willing to battle when backs are pinned against the wall. We had one just like him (also a left sided defender) in the form of Martin Grainger and he was one of my favourite players when I first started watching the Blues. Occasionally the red mist would overcome the G-Man like it has at times overcome Robbo and both of them have made a reckless challenge or two in their time, but to be honest that’s rather by-the-by.
Some Blues fans have always been on top of Robbo ever since he came, some have never taken to him and some have constantly taken the slightest opportunity to hammer him. I think that goes back to the fact that when he was at West Brom he once elbowed Damien Johnson at Stan’s in the face; it was a horrendous incident, but good God we’ve had plenty of players who have done similar (Johnson himself was not exactly a shrinking violet). Why some Bluenoses have been unable to put that incident behind them I will never know, but what I do know is that the bitterness of those people was probably partly behind the abuse Robbo has been getting which is pretty sad.
As I said age may now have caught up with him. Players have come back from worse performances than his was yesterday but there aren’t many defenders in their late thirties who play week in, week out for their side at this level. He’s had a patchy season – some good games but also some bad ones, it was noticeable that defensively we did improve after conceding an avalanche of goals at Brighton and Ipswich in later February when he was dropped (however I think at that point we were missing Michael Morrison very badly as much as anything else). All in all though, I think it’s fair to say he won’t be first choice centre-half next season.
He’s still worth a contract for next term even it is clear he won’t be first choice to play. He’ll be an experienced head as a backup, relatively cheap, presuming he will be stuck on the same sort of contract he was on during the height of austerity the club has been going through in the past few years. He will be a good head to have around the dressing room; he’s been a visible leader for the team ever since he arrived and has been club captain for the past two years as well as being captain at a couple of other clubs before arriving at Stan’s which clearly shows the regard managers have for his influence around their sides.
Additionally, there is the prospect of him taking on coaching responsibilities. There are those who assume that because he is a thug of a player (that in itself is wide of the mark) then he will be some kind of footballing Neanderthal of a coach. Again, total tosh. How good/bad/indifferent a person was/is as a player or their style often has absolutely no bearing on how they will do on the coaching and management side of things. There are those who assume they know that Robbo won’t be up to coaching simply because they don’t rate him as a player; to be quite honest, unless they have first-hand experience of seeing him coach then they should keep their mouths shut because they have no idea what he will be like training other players.
The decision on what capacity Robbo should stay at the club in, or whether to retain his services at all, are with Gary Rowett and I am happy to trust him to make that call. In particular with the call to be made regarding whether let him take on the coaching side because he sees Robbo around the place and sees what influence he has with the players. As I mentioned earlier though, the fact that Robbo had been captain at a couple of other clubs before he pitched up at Blues would suggest he has always been seen as a leading figure and positive influence at a club by those in charge of football teams.
Sadly, there will always be those dead set against Paul Robinson and that won’t change no matter what he does or what you say to those people. Even if his debacle at the Goldsands does effectively finish him as a first-team player at Blues (though I do hold out a modicum of hope he could come back from this to some extent at least) then Blues fans should be thanking him profusely for his contributions, not lambasting him for being given the run around on the (very) odd occasion. For me, considering how he initially only came in on a one month deal and was a free transfer on what would have been limited pay (at this level) he has been as good a bargain buy as a Damien Johnson or a Stephen Clemence. He has been such a rock for the team even when we have nearly fallen through the league. If he hangs up his boots this summer to join the coaching staff then that could be great. But above all else, he doesn’t deserve lambasting and the abuse I’ve seen him get after the Bournemouth game is mad, bad and sad.
Should Paul Robinson be offered a new deal at the end of the season?