Walsall Web-Fans look back at our exclusive interview with former Saddler and current Coventry City Manager Mark Robins. The interview with the former Manchester United and Norwich City striker took placed in August 2009 when he was on gardening leave following his departure from Rotherham, just before taking the reins at Championship side Barnsley Manager.
Zidane: Hi Mark, Thanks for taking time to speak to us at Walsall Web-Fans. You started your career at Manchester United where I think it is safe to say, you are famous for scoring the goal which supposedly saved Alex Ferguson’s job! That’s quite remarkable when you look back now, that the great man could ever have been under such pressure. It was January 7th 1990, away at cup specialists Nottingham Forest . At the time did the squad know what a big game it was, that the managers job was possibly on the line? What was said in the dressing room afterwards, did it differ from any other match?
Mark Robins: FA CUP ties are always special occasions and this one was a big game, you mention that Forest were cup specialists, and the FA Cup was elusive to Brian Clough, it was a big, televised game. We had a lot of injuries to senior players and the Manager had little choice but throw us in for this tie. Fortunately i got on the end of a great ball in from Mark Hughes and the rest is history. The Manager did a great job of shielding us from any pressure he may have felt going in to the game, it was fantastic Management. The dressing room afterwards was as yo would expect after any win, it gave us the confidence to believe that we could have a good run, and Manchester United have an enviable record in that particular competition.
That of course was the start of a cup run which actually delivered Fergie’s first trophy at United and you of course played another big part with your semi-final goal. At 20 years old and an FA Cup winners medal, could it ever be imagined how significant these goals would be for the club? While you still at the club you won the Charity Shield, Uefa Cup Winners Cup and the Super Cup, while Manchester United under Fergie have now gone onto win:
Premier League: 1992-93, 1993-94, 1995-96, 1996-97, 1998-99, 1999-2000,
2000-01, 2002-03, 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09
FA Cup: 1989-90, 1993-94, 1995-96, 1998-99, 2003-04
League Cup: 1991-92, 2005-06, 2008-09
FA Charity/Community Shield: 1990*, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2003, 2007, 2008
UEFA Champions League: 1998-99, 2007-08
UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup: 1990-91
UEFA Super Cup: 1991
Intercontinental Cup: 1999
FIFA Club World Cup: 2008
Can you take some credit in all of these?
In those competitions you mention while i was still at the club, i had an involvement in the games and got winners medals in all. I also won the League Cup with Leicester.
An £800,000 move to Norwich materialised, which in 1992 was big money. As a player how does it feel to have such a large transfer fee hanging over your head. Is it business as usual or does it play on your mind?
Business as usual, i had a good start at Norwich and had a great time there, finishing third in the first Premier League season. Injury to my knee playing against Bayern Munich in that famous game at the Olympic Stadium was the only real downside of my career, it kept me out for 6 months. My debut helped me settle quickly, i scored 2 goals in the season opener against Arsenal at Highbury.
Your time at Norwich under Mike Walker seemed a fairy tale when in 1993 City finished 3rd in the inaugural Premiership. You led the division for such a long time before falling away (like Aston Villa) in the final weeks. What would you say was what made this team so special? And how was Uefa experience at Bayern Munich?
Good players who grew in confidence, we did the double over Villa that year too! Remember the team included Ruel Fox, Chris Sutton, Gary megson and Bryan Gunn to name a few, good players with a good work ethic.. Munich, as i mentioned was an unbelievable night for all connected with Norwich City, Bayern had never lost a european tie at home and we won 2-1. For me, I remember it for the unbelievable Jerry Goss Volley that nearly took my head off, as a striker i was desparately trying to get something on it! Glad i didnt because it would have taken me in to the net with it. Mark Bowen’s goal that won it and the injury i picked up in the first half after Gossy’s goal, great memories though.
After a £1million move to Leicester you made a couple of moves abroad, one on loan to Copenhagen and a year in Greece with Panionios. How did you adapt to life in Denmark and Greece and how did you find adjusting to their style of football. Did you notice a big difference in the astmosphere of the fans or structure of how the clubs are run?
Denmark was only a short move 8 games really but enjoyed that, Greece was horrendous and would not repeat that experience again. Problems getting paid was only the tip of the iceberg. The atmosphere at those games was very different, lots more flares and firecrackers, burning opposition flags etc very partisan and vociferous support.
I have always wanted to know does a English footballer find it harder to motivate himself for say Panionios Vs say Kavala away than it would be for Walsall visiting Huddersfield or Tranmere – teams you know the history of?
I always want to be the best at anything i do, it’s just the way i am, that is my motivation.
When you came back to England it was to Walsall after we had just gained promotion to the Championship. How did Ray Graydon sell you the club?
He said we would get paid every month! Seriously though, Walsall is a professional and well run club, it had, at that time, a group of talented players who had just gained promotion to the second tier, and was an exciting time to be involved at the club. Unfortunately it didn’t quite work out there and we were relegated at the end of that season. I left the club at the end of the season to join Rotherham United.
What was your summarisation of our squad and performance that season and where do you think we missed out on survival? Could you pin it down to one or two things we needed to improve, whether it be on or off-the-field? Or was the challenge of Championship football just too much for a side who the season before were favourites for relegation from League One?
We were just short of being a good side, we played some good football but we didn’t score enough goals that year.
How did the club prepare for games that season? Was it a quiet dressing room or was there a loud music approach? Did any player have any pre-match duties such as DJ etc?
We had a great team spirit and togetherness, probably the best i experienced in my career, we had a dressing room with a lot of experienced players with younger ones such as Ricketts and Keates and the irepressable Darren Wrack. It was lively to say the least.
Who were the dressing room characters that season? Do you still keep in contact with any of the Walsall team?
Wacker was a lunatic, in a good way of course. He was a brilliant keeper, for a little bloke!
After Walsall you left for Rotherham where you scored some vital goals, and became a massive fans favourite. When you were at Burton and the chance came to return to Millmoor was that one of the easiest decisions you’ve ever made?
Yes. It was a good opportunity for me to get in to coaching full time.
I think this season is the first season where you’ve been managing at the club and you haven’t had a deduction of points. Especially last season with the massive 17 points, how does this affect your pre-season preparations. Is it considerably harder to attract players to clubs when these deductions hang over the club?
It is a handicap attracting players to the club with this type of sanction against you, but we had lost the ground and training ground too, so it was even more difficult.
You’ve played under some great managers in your playing career, what do you try and take from each of them?
I try and manage in my own style, i perhaps picked up things subconciously and manage instinctively on occasion.
In the press Alex Ferguson says his former players who have now gone on to become managers are more than welcome to call him for advice. Is this something you have done and would consider doing?
I suppose Sir Alex has enough on his plate without having to deal with all of his ex players now in management.
In a career where you have played at Norwich , Manchester United, Leicester amongst others, which players would you consider to be the best you have played against and with?
Paul Gascoigne was a great player, i played against him a few times but never got near him he was good at eveything. One of the best i played with was Mark Hughes. he was powerful with great technical ability and his finishing was unbelievable especially when taking the ball out of the air.
Which other teams results do you look for after Rotherham ‘s games? Do you solely look at your competitors or go for your former ‘homes’?
I always look out for our competitors results first.
Mark it’s been a joy to speak to you and I wish you all the best for management career
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