Jack Robinson on leaving Liverpool, Suarez, Sterling and life at QPR
Jack Robinson was the youngest player to ever make a first-team appearance for Liverpool when he made his debut in 2010, but he says it was an easy decision to leave Anfield four years later.
Robinson was just 16 when he was handed his Liverpool debut by Rafa Benitez, and tipped for a bright future, but the defender went on to play just 10 more games for the Reds over the next three seasons.
Six of those appearances came under Brendan Rodgers in the first half of the 2012-13 season, before a three-month spell at Wolves and then a season-long loan at Blackpool in 2013-14 gave him a taste of regular first-team football.
When Liverpool signed Alberto Moreno at the end of that season, Robinson did not hesitate to leave Anfield to carry on playing regularly elsewhere, with QPR beating several other clubs to his signature.
“I had a year left at Liverpool and I had a meeting with Brendan Rodgers,” Robinson says. “We agreed that I wasn’t going to get game time and it was probably the right time for me to move on.
“I had been out on loan the two seasons before and I loved playing every week. It was hard, but an easy decision in terms of moving on with my football career.
“QPR were one of the teams that came in for me and were still in the Premier League, which is where I wanted to stay. It was just unfortunate that they got relegated that season.”
Robinson could have stayed at Anfield to fight for his place, and given the club’s problems at left-back in recent seasons, he could be forgiven for wondering ‘what if’.
But the 24-year-old doubts whether he would ever have been able to establish himself as first choice.
“The opportunity was there, but it was just limited game time,” he says. “I just couldn’t get a run of games in the team.
“When I played, I did well. But it’s Liverpool and the standard is so high. You have to keep bringing that every week.
“If you look at Trent Alexander-Arnold now, he has done fantastic. He is probably the best young kid I have seen in however long, and even he isn’t playing every week.
“It just shows you the level you have to be in the Liverpool team.”
Robinson spent his first year at QPR out on loan at Huddersfield, and after a serious injury which left him contemplating retirement, it’s only this season that he’s played regularly for the west Londoners, making 34 appearances.
Soon to be out of contract and with no offer of a new one forthcoming, he expects to leave Loftus Road in the summer, but he is just pleased to have finally got over his injury problems.
“It’s been a good season, I’ve been happy,” he says.
“I sat down with my family and friends in August and said, ‘If I get 10 games, I will be happy.’ I got 20 games before Christmas, so it was unbelievable for me.
“Everyone was pleased, I was impressing the fans and the manager. I have just kept going and played my game. I think I have put some good performances in. I think the fans have appreciated that.
“It was nice just to get back into things after the injury. Get back playing Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday. That’s where the confidence comes from.
“I am a confidence player and when I’m not playing I can waiver in performances. But because I have been playing week-in week-out, the performances have been there and it’s getting me picked for the next week.”
Robinson has been used at centre-back by Ian Holloway this season, a position he had only previously played at youth level but one he says “suits my game well”.
And having come up against Luis Suarez in training while at Liverpool, Robinson is unlikely to have been fazed by any of his opponents in the Championship this season.
“It was hard,” he says of facing Suarez. “He’s one of the best trainers, in terms of if you saw him on a Saturday that was what he is like on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…
“It doesn’t matter what day it is, he was like it every single day. Kicking people, megging people. His attitude to training is so good and that’s why he has gone to Barcelona and kicked on there.
“You could just tell he was always going to be top player because he did the business. That’s his mentality and work rate.”
While Robinson’s future is currently uncertain, another of his old Liverpool team-mates, Conor Coady, can start to look forward to life in the Premier League next season after helping Wolves to promotion from the Championship, almost certainly as champions.
The pair left Anfield in the same summer and ended up spending the following season together after Robinson was loaned to Huddersfield, and the QPR man is not in the slightest bit surprised by Coady’s success.
“Conor was always going to make it in football, it was just where,” Robinson says. “He has settled at Wolves and he has got that structure behind him now.
“They know exactly what he does and what he brings to the team. He is a captain and a leader. He’s the talker of the team. He was always captain at every age group and England the same.
“It will be nice to see him in the Premier League next year because he deserves that opportunity to show everyone what he can do.”
Robinson got one over his old team-mate in October when QPR beat Wolves 2-1 in what he describes as “one of the best performances of the season”, but Rangers have struggled for consistency and find themselves marooned in mid-table with little to play for going into the final five games.
“It’s mixed, it’s been up and down,” Robinson says of the season. “We have had runs where we haven’t been beat in probably eight games and then we haven’t won in three.
“The Championship is so hard. Any team can beat any team on any day. We have beat some top teams and then lost against the lesser teams. That’s just how the Championship is, it’s a tough league and we have just got to keep going.
“I think we have done alright in games, but we’ve just missed that final edge where we kill games off and take the chances early on.
“We have taken a 1-0 lead and probably could take it to a 2-0 lead, but we just haven’t done it all season. It’s one thing we have struggled with. We have conceded and then had to fight to get back into it.”
Robinson doesn’t attribute any of the blame on Ian Holloway, however, and believes the manager deserves more points to show for his work off the pitch.
“He has got a lot of tactical stuff. He has been in the game a long time and he knows when to change it and how to change it. And he is very honest. If you’re playing badly, he will let you know what you can improve on in the sessions.
“For him, it has been hard because we have done so well, but we haven’t got the results from the performances. So, its been an up and down season for him as well in terms of results.”
Keeping an eye on old mates
Robinson was never in doubt that Sterling would go on to great things, and though he admits Morrison may not have the same mentality to fulfil his potential, he does not believe everything that gets said about the 25-year-old is completely fair.
“With Raheem, I think it was literally just age and maturity,” Robinson says. “He just needed to mature a little bit. In his final years at Liverpool, he definitely matured a lot and you could see it in his performances.
“For (Manchester) City to come in for him, it was just a win-win for him. He was always going to kick on this season with Pep Guardiola because he loves football and he is a great player.
“To have someone like Pep behind him, he was always going to show what he can do and he has done.
“As for Rav, he gets a lot of criticism, but he is actually a good lad. I like him. Me and Rav get on.
“As a footballer, it’s unquestionable that the talent is there, it was just his mentality I think. He has got everything as a footballer and is probably one of the best that I have ever played with at England and then here, when he came back for a loan spell.
“Rav is a top player and I wish him well for the future.”
By Paul Wilkes