Main Menu
What's New
The Robbo Enigma
By Loz Blume
At the present time, in recent times, and I suspect in all times, there are and have been players whose inclusion in our team is a matter of great debate amongst the faithful. Of our current crop, Richard Johnson, Allan Smart, Clint Easton and Steve Palmer have all been subject to this to varying degrees. Even the GREAT TOMMY MOONEY had his detractors not so long ago. I can remember being told on the verge of our promotion to Division One in 1998, that Mooney would leave over the summer because he was not good enough to play First Division football! I wonder how big a prat that bloke's felt since then?! During these debates, you have to wonder how we can all be watching the same game, even though, of course, physically we are.

By far and away the biggest, and most current, controversy of this type, centres around the regular inclusion of a Mr Paul Robinson at left back, fuelled to near fever pitch by the last two games. It was Robbo's misplaced backward pass that led to Page's sending off against Blackburn. It was Robbo giving the ball away in midfield that led to Stockport's opener. And it was Robbo's hopelessly misdirected backpass in the last minute of injury time that led to Stockport's equaliser. Yes, other people may have played their part, but the instigater in all three cases was still Robbo. If such mistakes were a rarity, there would be little debate. Sadly and infuriatingly, they are not! In some positions on the field you may well get away with all sorts of mistakes, but in defence, all too often you don't. It is true that other defenders have also made errors, but none with the alarming regularity of Robbo in the last two years. No other player enjoys such immunity from being dropped. Hyde, Wooter, Johnson, Smith and even Mooney have been dropped in the past, three of them this season, but not Robbo!

Let's consider the case for and against, then, and attempt to assess the evidence.

For: Robbo does not make that many mistakes.

Against: This is patently not true. Constantly drifting towards the front edge of our penalty box where Page is anyway, and not being aware of a runner drifting wide due to ball-watching, is a mistake, and one he hasn't learnt from. If you were the advancing midfielder, what would you do? Attempt to go through Page and Robbo, or slip the ball wide for your runner to get an unchallenged cross in? Just because not every cross leads to a goal does not prevent it from being a mistake, nor does it make it constantly forgivable! Football is often very simple - the fewer times crosses are allowed in to our box, the fewer times we have to rely on our defence to prevent a goal. We are not exactly solid at the back currently, so we need all the help we can get! By standing where he does, until a too-late hurtle, I don't know what he's doing. Moreover, I can't figure out what he thinks he's doing! He is not marking anyone. He is not playing offside. He isn't trying to anticipate the runners. He is, though, staring intently at the ball, as clearly seen from my position in the East Stand for half of every home game, where I am close enough to see his eyeline. He is also marking an area of grass, which of course is so useful! The obvious ball is then played to the wide runner, who everyone else in the stadium has already seen. With body language which screams "OH SHIT!", Robbo turns to follow the flight of ball and at last spots the runner, and hurtles towards him, usually too late. Pehaps it's not as easy to see the relative angles from the Rookery when the action is at the far end but, trust me, it's a constant occurence.

Turning promising attack into desperate defence, by a crap pass, is a mistake. Getting stupidly sent off, or risking it, in vital games, is a mistake. Perhaps if he and we hadn't got away with it in the play-off semi, and in his ludicrous hurdling of the ball at Wembley because he can't use his right foot even to club away a vital clearance, I would be preaching only to the converted. We might all have not had to lose ten years off our lives at St Andrews, had we been able to press home our advantage at home (yes, I know we may also have let one in!).

For: Robbo is good going forward.

Against: Well, if pushing forward with the ball, while others push forward in a promising attack, and then misplacing a short pass, so that the opposition can hit us on the break while we're exposed, is good, then Robbo is good going forward. I don't know whether Carling Opta bother with the Nationwide, but Robbo's pass completion percentage is woeful. As is his shots on/off target ratio. His last minute howler against Stockport is exactly what you risk, if a player with such poor passing ability is the player making a simple but vital pass. Anyway, even if he was good going forward, that wouldn't compensate for his defensive blunderings because he's a defender! Wilf Rostron was a great defender, the fact that he was also good going forward was a bonus, not a justification for picking him!

For: There is no one better to play left back.

Against: A curious one, this. I didn't see either Perpetuini or Panayi make any howlers, yet as soon as Robbo's suspension was up, back he came. If we needed a more stark, like-for-like comparison between Gibbs and Robbo, look at Wolves away. Robbo was skinned for seventy minutes by Darren Bazeley, then on comes Gibbs, and problem solved. I know Gibbs is not the future, but he is a million miles better than Robbo, even on his wrong side. Over the course of a season, who would you put your life on making less mistakes and wrong decisions? We could also sign a left back! I know we're not going to get a Pat Rice or a John Mac, but you can't tell me there is no one more reliable that Robbo who we could sign!

For: He scored against L*t*n.

Against: Oh, come on! You're getting desperate now. Dai Thomas scored against L*t*n, but I don't hear any calls for him to play for us again! (Leave it with me - Ed.)

No team in any league can afford such a liability, especially one which is trying to return to the Premier league. Every time he's on the pitch, if not actually making a mistake, we're running the risk that he might at any minute, just like against Stockport. When we were in the Premier, he stopped his lunges, and instead stood off too far while the crosses flew in, usually resulting in a goal. The lower the league, the more he gets away with mistakes, but there are too many good finishers in Division One to take the risk. If I were an opposing manager who had watched us before playing us, I would direct my tactics down the right, as we often saw in the Prem. I love GT, but I cannot fathom how and why he keeps faith with such an unreliable player. After all, he recently said that some players can perform in training, but not under the pressure of real games. As for giving him an extended contract - unbelievable!

There is an unlikely theory (suggested by me), that Robbo holds a dark secret over GT and has threatened to expose it if he's ever dropped, no matter how shite he plays. If so, please Robbo, enough is enough. You've had your fun, you've played at levels way above your ability, at all the famous grounds, now do the decent thing....

I too would play my heart out for Watford, but I was never good enough. Neither, I'm deeply sorry to say, is Robbo - not at this level, anyway. I have never agreed with the people who knock Johnson, Smart, Palmer, or Mooney. I don't even think Easton is anywhere near as bad as some say, nor do I have a problem with any of our other regular players, but my patience with Robbo is strained to breaking point. If he is not to leave for a lower league, could he at least have a lengthy spell in the reserves, learning the arts of defending, passing, and shooting. Funny, but I'd have expected him to already be able to do all that, given he's our regular left back!