PAUL Robinson was once a key figure on Tyne-Wear derby day.
As a youngster at Newcastle United, he was entrusted by then-manager Ruud Gullit to lead the frontline in the biggest game of his lifetime while two proven internationals were kept on the bench.
The date was August 25, 1999 – and the players left in the dugout were Duncan Ferguson and a certain Alan Shearer.
It wasn’t Robinson’s fault that United slumped to a 2-1 defeat in torrential rain at St James’s Park in a game which spelled the end of Gullit’s reign as United manager. In fact, it was his astute pass which set up Kieron Dyer for Newcastle’s opener.
But that remains the one game that Robinson is most remembered for on Tyneside. He failed to start another league game for the club, and was eventually sold to Wimbledon in 2000 for £1.5m.
Fast-forward more than a decade and when Sunderland and Newcastle clash for the 145th time tomorrow, Robinson will be still looking for goals – only this time it will be at Boldon Sports Ground for Jarrow Roofing in their FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round tie against Guisborough.
Now aged 32, Robinson has been an instant hit with Roofing, scoring an opening day hat-trick against Billingham Town, before adding a brace in the 2-2 midweek draw with West Auckland.
Roofing boss Richie McLoughlin is delighted with the form of the striker, saying: “He’s not fully fit yet, but he knows where the goal is.
“When there’s a chance, he’s there – he doesn’t need many opportunities.
“He’s not going to put them all away, but he will convert more than he misses.
“His two goals on Tuesday were brilliant. For the first, the ball looked like it was going out, but Robbo cracked it in from a tight angle, and his second was a 40-yarder. He cracked it in off the underside of the bar.
“He was going nuts on Tuesday when we gave goals away. he really wants to win still.
“He’s daft as a brush, but is a good lad.”
Amazingly, Robinson will not be the only player who turned out at St James’s Park that night to feature for a South Tyneside team tomorrow.
Midfielder Jamie McClen was also handed a starting berth by Gullit in the derby, playing 90 minutes and picking up a booking in one of seven starts he made in his Newcastle career.
McClen is now part of the HEBBURN TOWN squad that will travel to Gillford Park looking to bounce back from their midweek defeat against Esh Winning.