Michael Robinson was your archetypal English gentleman –Steve Nicol
Steve Nicol saw two sides to Michael Robinson at Liverpool - on the pitch he was like a juggernaut, and off it, a connoisseur of quality and taste.
Many of Michael Robinson’s old Liverpool team mates have been remembering him this week. All of them recall a very knowledgeable and civilised person – who reminded Alan Kennedy of “a sort of Simon Templar-type figure, like The Saint off TV” - but also a player who, without him, would not have been able to function as it did. In his first season with the club, Robinson was a member of the team which became the first in English football history to win three major trophies in one season.
Robinson was always slightly coy whenever he spoke about his playing days at Anfield. His eyes would light up when talking about Liverpool, but he would generally play down his own contribution to the team. He said of his first day at Melwood, after meeting his new team mates: “I didn’t know whether to shake their hand or ask for their autograph!”
He might be surprised by what those team mates thought about him as a player. Alan Kennedy, Steve Nicol, Sammy Lee and team captain Graeme Souness, his closest friend within the squad, all remember a player with precisely the qualities that Liverpool needed to perform as a well-organised unit, where everyone knew their role. However he might have felt about his own insecurities, importance or abilities, Robbo’s image of himself as a player isn’t how others saw it.
Robinson at full speed "was like a juggernaut" - Nicol
“No, not at all, I never felt that about Michael, he was part of the team and exactly the same as the rest of us,” says Steve Nicol, who broke into the side during the same season that Robinson joined. “Liverpool have had plenty of players who some people might think, ‘Oh, they don’t look like Liverpool players’ – look at Larry Lloyd, the centre-back – or [John] Toshack… Toshack was no Messi, but he had something to give the team and Robbo was the same. For us, he was a presence up front, which meant our opponents were going to have less space; he held the ball up, he scored goals… And when he got a steam, when he was in full flow, he was like a juggernaut, he was a big lad. He gave everything he had every time he stepped on the field. Unfortunately today, everybody is expected to play like Messi when all of the best teams are made up of different parts”.
Nicol adds that even when Robinson was a young man in his 20s, he had a different outlook on life to most other players and clearly was someone of good taste. The stop-offs at local chippys on the way home after away games was a part of tradition for Liverpool but a bit unusual for Robbo. He found it funny that the squad looked forward to tucking into greasy fish and chips after a game but also accepted it for what it was. For Michael, food was something to be enjoyed – properly, sat at a table, with friends or family. Maybe that was one of the things that attracted him to Spain just a few years later.
Looking dapper at the Christmas party
Nicol explains, “Most of us would finish a game, get changed and go wherever we were going to go. If the lads were going out, the majority just wanted to go to the boozer, like The Arkles or somewhere else – so we could have a few and have a carry on, take the mick and have a laugh – the usual patter. But Robbo was the opposite, and think that’s why him and Souey were such good mates – he preferred to go to a nice restaurant, sit down and have something nice to eat and a nice bottle of wine… he was a proper English gentleman was Michael, let’s put it that way, even though he played football.
“One of the things I do remember about him was the Christmas party, every year. So all of us would come in fancy dress as clowns, chickens… all stupid costumes and all kinds of stuff. And of course Robbo would come as a coronel – because that way he could wear a lovely, pressed suit, with a collar and look the business, have his brown fedora under his arm or he’d come as James Bond – he’d a have a black suit, white shirt, black bow tie – he’d look the business! He would always be very smartly dressed. Him and Souey were two peas in a pod”.