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Interviews

Robbo: Both teams will fancy their chances in FA Cup tie

Interview with Paul Robinson before meeting between his former clubs

12 February 2019

Paul Robinson is expecting it to be close this Saturday when two of his former clubs meet for a place in the last eight of the Emirates FA Cup.

The defender, who now combines playing at Havant & Waterlooville with coaching duties at Portsmouth, has helped both Wimbledon and Millwall to promotions during his career.

Asked to predict a winner on Saturday, Robbo finds it a tough one to call.

"It's your typical FA Cup game," he said. "It's a tight ground with a great atmosphere and it's a London derby as well. I think it's got all the makings of a really good game. Both teams will be going into it thinking they can win it and there's a place in the quarter-final at stake. That would mean being just two rounds away from the final, so Saturday's match is a great incentive for both teams. I think it will be a really good game. Unfortunately, I will be involved in a game on Saturday, but I will be looking forward to seeing the highlights and how the game pans out."

"Havant are in league action on Saturday at 3.00 pm so I will be there instead, but if I didn't have that commitment I would have tried to get over for it. I was hoping it would get moved to another day for TV, so that I could definitely watch it, but it wasn't to be."

Following his departure from Wimbledon last summer, Robbo has kept a close eye on his old club and he was delighted to watch The Dons upset Premier League West Ham in the last round.

"I managed to watch that game and it was nice for me to see both Wimbledon win and West Ham get beaten as well! It was pleasing to see and the atmosphere was incredible. I really hoped that would be the spark to get the season going, in terms of transferring that to the league, but that kind of hasn't happened, as yet.

"I keep in touch with a few of the lads and the staff. There was obviously a big turnaround in the playing staff, but I still keep in touch with people at Wimbledon. I always look out for the results and keep an eye on things, just to see how they are getting on.

"It is tough to see the club struggling in League One because we put in a lot of hard work. It's quite painful to know that the club are down there. Even last year, we worked incredibly hard to maintain our League One status, but we managed to do that. It's hard to take that the club are struggling and the same with Millwall. The Championship is such a relentless division. With Millwall having come up and done so well in their first season, I think it makes that second season difficult to repeat, but I fully believe they will be fine and they will get themselves out of trouble. I think they will get the results to push themselves away from the relegation zone. I am just hoping that Wimbledon can do the same really."

Of course, Robbo played a vital part in Wimbledon's promotion to League One back in May 2016, his commanding performances at the back – and a few vital goals along the way – proving to be crucial. A week before the glory at Wembley, Robbo gave a rousing speech at our Player of the Year awards that included Conor McGregor's battle cry, 'We're not here to take part, we're here to take over'. Promotion at Wembley with victory against Plymouth duly followed.

"The team spirit was incredible," recalled Robbo. "We had a great group of lads and we all got on really well, both on and off the pitch. That second half of the season we went on such a brilliant run. That was a Conor McGregor quote that we took and used as our own. We kind of knew we were going to get promoted, we had that feeling that it was going to be our day. You kind of get that feeling that you are going to do it and we turned up at Wembley and did the business.

"I think it was key that we had a lot of experience in the squad and some good players too. We had four powerful strikers all bringing different attributes. They were all capable of winning us games. We knew at 60 or 70 minutes that Ade Azeez and Bayo were going to come on and terrorise defences after Lyle and Tom had done the same. We had myself, Barry Fuller, and Callum Kennedy, who had all played at Wembley before, Barchy had won there too. Bayo had played there before and Dannie Bulman had done it too, so there was a lot of experience in the team. I think that was vital really."

"I feel massively fortunate to have played at Wembley twice and to be a part of winning teams on both occasions. It was great on both occasions, but what made it even more special with Wimbledon was I felt that in leaving the biggest club in League 2 at the time – Portsmouth – I would be reducing my chances of promotion, but they say that everything happens for a reason. It allowed me to come to Wimbledon and to experience that was amazing really. It meant that I savoured it even more.

"I made sure that I enjoyed every part of it. The final at Wembley was just a brilliant occasion for Wimbledon as a club with the journey that it had been on. The club has had a lot of promotions since its reformation, so to be a part of another step in that was amazing."

Having come through the ranks and earned promotion success at Millwall, the club is still close to Robbo's heart.

"I spent, at the point that I left, about half of my life there. I grew up at Millwall as a footballer and as a person. It was a massive part of my life and always will be really. It's a great club and it will always have a special place in my heart.

"It was two promotions while I was at Millwall, but the first one I wasn't massively involved with. I was a young lad at the time and it was the second one really that was the main one for me. Scoring the winning goal at Wembley and leading them up the steps to pick-up the trophy was something that I dreamt of as a kid when I playing in the school playground. To do it at Millwall where I had grown up as a player, it was an amazing moment.

"It was nice to go back and play with Wimbledon at The Den for one last time, it looked like I'd missed out on that. To savour the place again, play on the pitch again, it was a special night for me. It was great to see a lot of great people, but also to enjoy every moment of being back there and playing. It was very special for me to go back.

"There are a lot of good people at the club. You just want to talk about the football. It was a fantastic FA Cup tie and a fantastic result against Everton. The only thing I would say is that it was just a shame that matters away from the pitch were talked about more than a cracking game of football."

Now aged 37, Paul's life is very busy as this season he's been playing at Havant & Waterlooville and coaching for his old manager Kenny Jacket at Portsmouth.

"I am still a player in the National League with Havant & Waterlooville. That kind of worked out for me because they are part-time and it allowed me to pursue other things. An opportunity came along to help out Kenny at Portsmouth and progress with my coaching, so I jumped at that chance. I do that during the day time, but I also play for Havant. Unfortunately, the season has not gone to plan and I've had problems with my knee. It's been a bit of a struggle, especially since mid-December, but I'm trying to keep myself going and get back out there again."


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