PLAYERS like Paul Robinson are a rare breed in today's game.
In a world of agents, players refusing to play for their clubs and money-driven transfers, there are a few players that still simply turn up on a Saturday and give their all – Paul Robinson is one of those.
'Robbo' now plies his trade at AFC Wimbledon, but over 12 seasons and 361 appearances, the central defender cemented his place in the category that Lions fans like to call 'real 'Wall'.
On November 9th, 2002, Robinson made his Den debut against Preston North End as a baby-faced youngster. On May 3rd, 2014, the former captain played his last game in a Millwall shirt as a 34th minute substitute for Mark Beevers in a 1-0 win over AFC Bournemouth – and what a career he had in between.
In his first season, Robinson received somewhat of a fortunate break, as an injury to Stuart Nethercott early on in the clubs FA Cup Third Round tie against Cambridge United meant that the defender would be called into action. Sixteen games and one goal later – a strike in the replay v Cambridge – Nethercott would return, but during that period, Robbo had gained valuable first team experience alongside the calm and collected Darren Ward, introducing himself to the Den faithful in the process.
The following season – 2003/04 – saw Robinson feature once again under Mark McGhee, but with the Scot being sacked after an infamous 1-0 home defeat to Preston in October and the defender picking up an injury in new manager Dennis Wise's fourth game in charge – a 3-1 defeat to Norwich City – Paul's season was brought to abrupt end.
A loan spell at Torquay United kept the centre-half playing regular football and at the end of the 2004/05 campaign, Robinson was called into action once more at The Den, playing in the more unfamiliar position of right-back, due to Kevin Muscat's injury and his deputy, Mark Phillips, serving a suspension. Robinson made seven appearances as the club finished 10th in the Championship.
The 2005/06 season saw a troublesome time for the club, as managers, chairman and players came and went with ease, but Robbo cemented his place in the first team during this time, making 35 appearances in a year that unfortunately ended in relegation for the Lions. A goal at Mansfield Town in the Worthington Cup proved to be the defenders only one of the season, with the first two red cards of his professional career coming against Leicester City on Boxing Day, plus against Hull City in the February.
As Millwall began to adapt to life back in League One, Robinson adapted to life as the clubs first-choice centre-half; 44 appearances in the 2006/07 campaign was testament to that position. At the 73rd attempt, Boxing Day 2006 saw Robbo score his first Lions goal in the league in a 4-1 win at Brentford – a game that saw Poul Hubertz net twice.
Goals in home games against Swansea City (2-0) and Bristol City (1-0) later that season ensured that Robbo would finish with three league goals to his name – a feat he repeated in 2007/08, as the Lions finished 17th in the league under Kenny Jackett, after Willie Donachie's sacking earlier that year.
Robinson missed just one league game that season – a match at Port Vale – through suspension; the following campaign, the Lions were to hit the heady heights of the League One play-off final, but unfortunately for the captain, he would miss a large chunk of the season.
After seeing red on the opening day at Oldham, the defender swiftly returned for the visit of Southend United after sitting out the League Cup game against Northampton Town. Robinson's goal in a 2-1 win at Colchester in October sent the Lions to the top of the table – everything seemed to be going swimmingly.
However, in a 2-1 defeat at home to Scunthorpe on January 31st, Robbo picked up an injury and had to be replaced by Zak Whitbread at half time. The centre-half would not feature again until the play-off semi-final second leg at Elland Road, as Jimmy Abdou's goal sent Millwall to Wembley – he would only come on as a 86th minute substitute – and as a makeshift striker in the final moments of the final against Scunthorpe United.
Injury problems continued to plague the skipper and an attempt to make a comeback in a JPT tie at Barnet in September 2009 was cut short after 37 minutes. However, Robinson was to return to the starting line-up in a 4-0 win over Stockport County in mid-October – he even bagged a goal, too. From there, the defender did not look back and played every minute of every game remaining that season, scoring six more goals, with the most important coming in the play-off final against Swindon Town at Wembley Stadium.
With 39 minutes on the clock, Danny Schofield's corner was flicked on inside the box, with the ball finding its way to Robinson around six yards out. With the ball quickly under control, the defender fired the ball past the Robins' 'keeper, giving the Lions the lead and sending the blue half of Wembley into raptures.
The final whistle blew on the day with the score-line the same; Robinson's goal had sent the Lions back up to the Championship – the perfect slice of redemption for missing out the year before.
Robinson and Millwall both adapted to Championship life well, as they finished 9th in their first season back, with the following season seeing the centre-half register 41 appearances in the league, with a solitary goal coming against Southampton in a cruel 3-2 defeat.
The 2012/13 season proved to be a bad one for Robinson, as he made just three appearances in a season that saw the Lions narrowly escape relegation to League One – he did not complete 90 minutes in those three games, either.
Kenny Jackett's resignation at the end of that campaign allowed Steve Lomas to enter the fray as Lions manager and with Robinson back to full fitness, the club looked to have a more comfortable season than the last. However, the defender only lasted until Boxing Day – as did Lomas – as injuries struck again; he would only make five more starts that season.
As the club produced a final day miracle once more, courtesy of a 1-0 win over AFC Bournemouth, Robinson made his final appearance in a Millwall shirt. That summer, the defender and Lions stalwart was to move south to Portsmouth, initially on loan, but the deal became permanent in January 2015.
After just one season, Robbo departed Fratton Park by mutual consent, joining AFC Wimbledon shortly after.
Captain, play-off winner, 'real 'Wall' and one of the 'guv'nors' (I'll let Michael Calvin tell you more, if you don't know) – Paul Robinson didn't have a bad Millwall career, did he?