Andy Robinson assumed he was destined for the Championship in the summer of 2008. He’d just helped Swansea to promotion from the third tier, turning down a contract that would have made him one of the highest-paid players in the club’s history and agreeing to join Leeds instead. There was just one hitch: Leeds still had a play-off final against Doncaster to win.
We all know how that went, which meant Robinson began the next season back in League One while his former teammates were enjoying life in the second tier. Eighteen months later, just playing in League One felt like a distant memory for him. Injuries disrupted his time at Leeds, and by the time Simon Grayson’s side were trying their best to bottle another promotion challenge, Robinson was failing to even make the bench.
With two months left of the season, he was sent on loan to his boyhood club Tranmere. Forget the Championship, Robinson was joining a side battling relegation to League Two. Such was their desperation, Rovers needed their fans to raise £12,000 to fund the short-term signing. After Robinson was sent off in a 3-0 defeat at Brighton on his debut and ruled out for a further month with a groin injury, it didn’t feel like money well spent.
Leeds losing at Charlton in their penultimate match of the season meant Millwall had a chance to leapfrog them into 2nd place. There was little reason for optimism, with Tranmere’s attack spearheaded by Robinson playing off former Whites flop Ian Thomas-Moore, a striker who scored two goals in two years at Elland Road.
Instead, the duo provided their greatest contributions to the Leeds United cause. Thomas-Moore gave Tranmere an unlikely half-time lead, diving to win a penalty then sending the ‘keeper the wrong way in front of Millwall’s travelling fans. The visitors had a pantomime villain front two of Neil Harris and Steve Morison, and it felt like only a matter of time before the painfully obvious happened. For once, the footballing gods were smiling down at Leeds. Midway through the second half, Robinson found a pocket of space on the edge of the box, and unleashed two years of pent up frustration on the ball, lashing it into the top corner with power, dip, swerve, pizzazz — the works.
“I’m speechless really,” said Tranmere physio-turned-manager Les Parry. “He is a Tranmere supporter, but the problem with that is trying to get him tickets for games because he has got about 400 family members.”
Robinson’s unlikely heroics helped Tranmere to safety, and gave Leeds an unexpectedly straightforward shot at sealing promotion. With one game remaining, Leeds just needed to beat a mid-table Bristol Rovers with nothing to play for in a routine home fixture. What could possibly go difficult about that? ⬢
(This post is free to read from The Square Ball magazine season 34 issue 5. Click here to read more)