Thunderboots Robinson is a blast from the past

From Shoot! magazine:

Michael Robinson – he doesn’t like Mike and Mick, he says, “sounds like a dog food” won’t complain if you describe him as an old-fashioned centre-forward.

But surely he’d mind being called Mick ‘Robertson’!

michaelrobinson

The article continues:

He doesn’t go in for centre partings nor steel toe caps. Nor does he have a penchant for barging goalkeepers Into the back of their own nets. But as centre-forwards go, he’s definitely more a Thunderboots Bobby Smith than a Budgie Byrne.

Raw strength and courage are the attributes he takes on to a football field. Plus a powerful shot that he’s not afraid to exercise liberally.

As any schoolboy economist can tell you, supply and demand dictate price. And it’s because centre-forwards of Robinson’s type are in such limited supply and heavy demand that he cost Manchester City £750,000 in the summer of 1979.

Even so, it did seem a bit extravagant even for Malcolm Allison. He was shelling out what, at the time, was the third highest fee of all time for a player who’d had one full season in the Second Division.

In a season and a bit at Preston, Robinson scored a modest 15 goals in 43 League games. But he’d already shown enough to attract other clubs besides Manchester City.

As it turned out, last season was a bit of a disaster for Robinson, Allison and the rest of the City team. But down on Brighton’s South Coast this season, Robinson is proving that he can do the business in Division One.

He scored only eight goals in 29 appearances for Manchester City, but he blames that as much on his ever-changing role in an ever-changing team as anything else.

He says: “At times, I might as well have stood on the touchline or sat in the stands. City played me all over the place and I couldn’t understand why Malcolm Allison had paid all that money for me if he didn’t want me as an out and out striker.

“it was difficult playing in the City team, anyway. It always seemed to be an experimental side, rather than a settled formation.

“We attracted a lot of attention, too, because of all the money Malcolm spent and we’d find that some teams treated a game against us like the Cup Final.

“They’d get a big gate to see the game and it would lift them to play really well. At times, you’d stand around watching the other team buzz about thinking, ‘what on earth is going on here?’

“But the experience was good for all of us. I feel much more able to cope now and I’m sure the young lads I left behind at City feel the same way.”

He had other problems at Maine Road. The price tag itself was one of them. When you cost three-quarters of a million pounds, people feel free to be more critical than if you were a kid from the reserves and Robinson admits: “The fee did bother me.”

He was also cajoled into playing on occasions when he really wasn’t fit and that, too, brought more pressure on him. “I went out once when I had a temperature of over 100. I thought I was doing the manager a favour.

“But it’s silly because you are bound to play below par and then you’re open to criticism from the fans again. I would never do that again.”

For all his problems, Robinson didn’t exactly jump at the chance when City agreed to sell him to Bdghton for something less than half their original investmenL His friends and family mostly live in the North West and he also owns property there.

“It was a wrench to leave City as well because I enjoyed my time there, despite the problems. But Brighton manager Alan Mullery is a very persuasive man. He reminds me of Nobby Stiles, my former manager at Preston.”

Mullery’s tongue was one influentual factor. The other was the prospect of playing alongside Peter Ward. Robinson got his best view of Ward when playing for City at the Goldstone Ground last season.

“We got hammered 4-1 and Peter was brilliant. So the thought of playing alongside him was naturally tempting.” Robinson also likes having Mark Lawrenson and Gary Williams behind him in the Brighton defence. He describes them as “two of the best defenders in the country.”

The individual components may be impressive but as a whole, the Brighton side leaves something to be desired. After last season’s early struggles, they were hoping for a good start this time. But so far, they haven’t suggested that they’ll be anything other than an average First Division team, if that.

Taking the 'Mick' again

Taking the ‘Mick’ again

Robinson is already finding the goals a lot easier to come by than last season, and if he continues at the same rate, he could top 20 this season.

He feels confident enough to predict that “City will regret selling me. I intend to show them this season that they made a mistake letting me go.”

Even so, he has mixed feelings about Maine Road. Through all his troubles, the crowd gave him full support, and the exposure helped to attract Brighton to him.

And as Robinson says himself, It was a great education for him in Manchester. “I shall always think of my spell at City as the time when I grew up – both as a man and a player.”

City’s loss…

It certainly was. Robinson rebuilt his confidence and career by scoring 19 goals for Brighton in the First Division during that 1980/81 season. These including one at the Goldstone Ground against his former club City in October. Unfortunately for him, Albion went down 2-1.

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