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Paul Robinson
Position: Left back
From: Youth team
He is: Still learning


Earlier in the week, I was moving some stuff around outside my front door. And I stood up and belted my head against the corner of the meter cupboard. And it bloody hurt and I swore a lot and there's now a red scabby bit where part of my forehead used to be.

Clearly, this doesn't make me brave or hard or anything, just careless. So it is with Paul Robinson a little too much of the time.

Like Mark Williams is strong, Paul Robinson tackles like a rhino with piles. It's such a strong characteristic that it's easy to ignore everything else, which is why he's too often touted as the finished article rather than a hugely promising young player with much to learn. A Watford hero? Not yet, not quite.

He'll get there, as long as he doesn't rest on his laurels. It's all in place, all the qualities of a top class full back ready to come together...except concentration.

He recovers most situations, those trademark tackles getting him out of more than the occasional hole. But not always. Sometimes the situations are beyond recovery, sometimes there's no situation outside of his imagination. Think back to Wigan at home, a panic-striken and wholly unnecessary dive at Barlow that would've seen him sent off had his opponent not skipped out of the way; think back to Vale away last season, a horrible bone-breaking lunge at Talbot that would've seen him sent off had the referee not been clinically insane; think back to Birmingham at home, when he was sent off.

So much of defending is about awareness and positioning and experience. It's about decision-making, about knowing when you need to hurl yourself at the ball and when you'd do better to stay on your feet. How often do you see Steve Palmer going to ground to make a tackle? How often does Nigel Gibbs do anything other than shepherd his opponents to where he wants them? The use of the word "shepherd" in defensive parlance is telling, I think - shepherds look after sheep, they don't massacre them with machine guns...and Robbo needs to learn that the most violent approach isn't always the most successful.

I'm being unfair to him, obviously. He's been magnificent, he's made the left back position (previously the home of the makeshift and the injury-prone) his own, he's growing and maturing with each new experience. He'll be a great player for this club....

As long as he learns not to bang his head on the meter cupboard.

Ian Grant
Last updated: October 1999