Tottenham reunion brings back ‘fantastic’ memories for Stephen Robinson

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  • Stephen Robinson
    Professional footballer (born 1974)

After recovering from injury with Gazza and living with Nick Barmby, Stephen Robinson is out to create more memories at Tottenham.

On Sunday the Morecambe boss returns to Spurs in the FA Cup third round, 28 years after leaving.

It may have been a brief first-team career in north London but it is one Robinson would never swap.

Initially he was “back and forward” from Crumlin to Tottenham from 11 years old but signed terms just after the club won the FA Cup in 1991 – the last time they lifted the trophy.

Paul Gascoigne was recovering from the serious knee injury he suffered in the final against Nottingham Forest and teenager Robinson joined him in the treatment room, earning an early education.

“I was injured when I signed, I had a back injury, so I did my rehab with Gazza,” he told the PA news agency.

“We used to be based at Mill Hill and we went up and down to the gyms, the swimming pools and did all our rehab together.

“It was interesting – put it like that – they were lively recovery sessions. Steve Sedgley, John Moncur and Gazza all in one treatment room, it was a dangerous place to be…a few boys got locked in skips.

“There are memories which are fantastic that you never forget. I’m not sure Gazza spoke seriously for more than 10 seconds but he would stay for hours practicing and when he was coming back you couldn’t get him off the training pitch.

Buxton v Morecambe – Emirates FA Cup – Second Round – Tarmac Silverlands Stadium
Robinson lived with Nick Barmby while at Tottenham (Leila Coker/PA)

“Mostly it was the attitude, Gazza’s work ethic was incredible and people didn’t see that. Nick was the same, he had really bad calf injuries at the time. We lived together and the work ethic and drive to be successful was there. That’s why they were two top players.

“Years later when Gazza was at Boston, Luton played them in the League Cup and he came into the dressing room -‘where is he?’ – because he remembered me. That was the measure of the man and I’m delighted to see him back on track again because he was such an unbelievable talent.”

The 47-year-old made just two Premier League appearances for Tottenham with his second – and last – game coming in a 1-1 derby draw at Arsenal in 1993.

With Barmby, Teddy Sheringham, Darren Anderton and Ilie Dumitrescu ahead of him – and Jurgen Klinsmann’s arrival in the summer of 1994 – the competition eventually forced the midfielder to leave for Bournemouth, where he spent six years.

His experience allows Robinson to reflect on his time at Tottenham, stopping short of saying he has regrets but conceding he was too impatient.

“It was the era of the ‘famous five’ when Jurgen came in and I couldn’t understand why I didn’t get a game,” he says, having also gone on to play for Preston, Bristol City and Luton.

“When you are younger you don’t appreciate it, you think you’re as good as everyone else and I might have jumped a little bit too early.

Soccer – FA Carling Premiership – Tottenham Hotspur – Jurgen Klinsmann Photocall
Jurgen Klinsmann’s arrival pushed Robinson further down the pecking order at Spurs (Sean Dempsey/PA)

“I couldn’t get my head around why I couldn’t get back into the team – when you look back now that’s cringeworthy.

“There were a lot of players who were world-class superstars but as a young boy you’re naive and just want to play. There are ‘what ifs’ but ultimately I wasn’t good enough.”

Robinson is now hoping his own team will be good enough to cause a famous upset and reach the fourth round for the first time in their history.

It is the Shrimpers’ second successive third-round trip to London after last season’s 4-0 defeat at Chelsea and continues their upward curve.

They are in the third tier for the first time – sitting 19th – after winning promotion via the play-offs despite having the lowest budget in League Two last season.

The squad also travel between Lancaster University and Morecambe College to train but there is a desire to find a permanent home and develop the youth system.

Robinson, who replaced Derek Adams in the summer, readily admits Morecambe are three years ahead of their plan but it will not stop them trying to push the boundaries.

“As a manager I probably have always been in charge of an underdog and you find ways to win. Tactically we will be well versed in what we need to do, it’s about carrying it out on the day,” said the ex-Motherwell boss.

“This is one of the biggest games they could be involved in. It’s a club which is still trying to build an infrastructure to stay in League One, never mind beyond that. We have good people and directors who have a vision.

“For a club of our size, to play Chelsea away last year and now Spurs, I don’t think they could have dreamt it. It’s a day we have to enjoy but it’s going to be tough.

“The club is just trying to be a sustainable League One club which we don’t have the infrastructure to do.

“The board want to succeed, we’re trying to play catch-up because we didn’t envisage being at this level but I knew the challenge.”

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