I love Paul Robinson. No, not the peg-legged arch villain from Neighbours, nor the impostor that plays for Bolton. I’m referring to the real Paul Robinson. The one that used to play in goal for Spurs.
The reason I love Paul Robinson so much is because of his relationship with the fans. It doesn’t take much of an effort from a player to get the crowd on his side, but surprisingly few of them bother to interact with the supporters in any way. It’s worth the effort though. Look at how Didier Zokora got people to ignore the fact that he was useless for so long by doing that silly dance.
Robbo always made an effort and because of this, became a cult figure with the Park Lane crowd. From where I stand (because all seater stadiums aren’t actually forcible if you just show a little collective solidarity) I can’t see the scoreboard. This was never a problem when dear old Robbo was around. Whenever you asked him the score, he would display it via the medium of his hands.
Unlike other players, he never took the chanting of his name for granted. On every occasion he’d give us a thumbs up to let us know that he appreciated our support.
In his first couple of seasons at Spurs he was terrific for us. It was always clear that he was never going to be Pat Jennings when it came to dealing with crosses, but his shot stopping was exceptional. He became England’s number one, which the Park Lane would remind him of whenever they had the opportunity.
Then in his third season, Robinson’s form started to become more erratic. He got a lot of stick after a Gary Neville pass back bobbled over his foot and into the net, while on duty for England against Croatia. The incident seemed to have an effect on his confidence at club level, particularly when it came to crosses.
In his fourth season things went from bad to worse. Martin Jol was sacked early on and his replacement Juande Ramos wasn’t the type of manager to shore up the defence, which might have helped to rebuild Robinson’s confidence.
Robinson was eventually dropped for Radek Cerny and though he won back his place to play against Chelsea in the Carling Cup final, his season and Spurs career, ended in failure. His last game for Spurs was a 4-1 home loss to Newcastle, in which the fans’ favourite did not exactly cover himself in glory.
In the summer of 2008, Robbo joined Blackburn Rovers. Juande Ramos and Tottenham replaced him with Heurelho Gomes, who would go on to make a string of errors in his first few months at the club. It wasn’t until Harry Redknapp took charge and appointed Tony Parks as a goalkeeping coach, that Gomes’ form started to improve. Is it impossible that a manager like Redknapp might have been able to restore Robinson’s form in a similar manner?
I guess we’ll never know. Instead we’re left with a date in the diary that is always a little more special for fans in the Park Lane than it really should be. It’s the day when Paul Robinson and Blackburn Rovers come to White Hart Lane and we all get to show him how highly he is still regarded at Tottenham.
It was a great shame that Robbo picked up an injury in the first half, because during a pretty boring start to the game, the only thing that was lifting our spirits was the chanting towards our former goalkeeper. “You’re Spurs and you know you are” we sang. Robinson’s grin told us that we weren’t far wrong.
I leave you with a video that sums up Paul Robinson and his relationship with the Tottenham crowd. We’re away to Slavia Prague and the Spurs fans start a chant: “Robbo, give us a song…”
Having got the man’s attention, a call of “shush” quietens the mob. Though separated from the crowd by an athletics track, Robbo’s Yorkshire accent comes booming towards the stands: “Stand up if you hate Arsenal…”
Paul Robinson. Tottenham legend.