- Andrew Atkinson looks back on footballer and Spain sports broadcaster Michael Robinson, former Chelsea trialist, who started his career at Preston North End. Affectionately known as Robbo – ‘Robin’ in Spain – he died, aged 61, from cancer on April 28.
MICHAEL Robinson would have loved to have returned to my home city club Preston North End – as manager – having kicked-off his star-spangled career at Deepdale in the seventies.
Signed by England and Manchester United legend Sir Bobby Charlton, Lilywhites manager during 1973-75, who personally knocked on the door of the Guest House his parents had in Blackpool.
Robinson, scouted by North End, was snapped up on schoolboy forms and went on to learn his trade in the youth team, making his first team debut in the 1975-76 campaign.
Teenager Robbo, who played in the old third division 1977-78 promotion season, started to attract interest from a plethora of clubs – with fedora wearing-cigar smoking Manchester City boss Malcolm Allison winning the chase to sign him in 1979, in a £756,000 move from Deepdale. A then club record fee.
Reflecting on his time at the Lilywhites, Robbo said: “Chief scout Jimmy Scott and player-manager Bobby Charlton offered my dad a contract to join on schoolboy terms, as an apprentice.
“Bobby had a brief managerial career at Deepdale, resigning following the sale of John Bird to Newcastle.
“Harry Catterick was appointed manager – I didn’t get on with him – he treated me badly.”
After Catterick was sacked, England 1966 World Cup winner Nobby Stiles stepped up from his role as reserve team manager.
“Nobby Stiles was a players’ manager – he got the best out of me – and I returned to the ﬁrst team.
“Manchester City came in and I left in a move to Maine Road, aged 19. I earned £6 a week – with a £1 point bonus at Preston, increasing to £8 playing in the ﬁrst team, earning £30 per week.
“At Manchester City I was on £330 a week,” said Robbo.
Journeyman Robbo left City in a move to Brighton, onto Liverpool and Queens Park Rangers, prior to moving to CA Osasuna, in a career that took in over 300 appearances and over 80 goals.
At Liverpool, alongside Sir Kenny Dalglish, Robbo won the League, European Cup and League Cup treble in 1984. Upon joining Spanish club CA Osasuna in 1987, where he hung up his boots in 1989, aged 31, Robbo became fluent in the language and the face and voice of football in Spain.
Republic of Ireland international Robbo, capped 24 times, and who made 58 appearances in La Liga, remained in Spain and had recently applied to become a Spanish National.
In December 2018, during a broadcast in ‘La Ventana’, radio programme on Cadena SER, Robbo announced he had a malignant melanoma, found at an advanced stage, which had metastasized. Doctors had told him it had no cure.
In a statement Robbo’s family said: “With tremendous sadness we inform you of Michael’s death.
“It leaves us with a great emptiness, but also countless memories, full of the same love that you have shown him.
“We will be eternally grateful to you for making this man so happy, he never walked alone. Thank you.”
A statement from Preston North End read: “Everyone at Preston North End is saddened to hear of the passing of our 1979 Player of the Year Michael Robinson at the age of 61, after a long battle with illness. Our thoughts are with Michael’s family and friends at this sad time”.
See Also: Michael keeps bobbin along
See also: Michael Robinson dies of cancer
On Spain, Robbo said people opened their arms and made him feel so happy: “I love them so much,” he said.
In an interview published in The Leader in February, Robbo said: “I came to Spain in January 1987. I didn’t know if I was going to be here forever.”
But it was at Deepdale where Robbo, who made almost 50 appearances for North End, scoring 15 goals, will always be remembered with love.
On behalf of the fans at Deepdale, who hold him in upmost deepest affection, four decades on from where he started his career, under the wings of Sir Bobby Charlton, Harry Catterick and Nobby Stiles MBE.
Kath Bell, from Preston, told The Leader: “What a lovely person Michael Robinson was.
“In 1979 my husband was the manager of Ingol Belles LFC and had asked Michael to present our Player of the Year awards.
“Michael, who lived in Blackpool, was signing for Manchester City that night – we thought there was no chance he would show up.
“Much to our suprise, Michael arrived – apologising for not being able to stop – saying he was en route to Manchester.
“Players did not ask for a penny in those days. Rest In Peace Michael. Thanks for the memories.”
Michael Robinson at the awards presentation on the evening of signing for Manchester City.
RIP Michael Robinson.