Vital Manchester City exclusive: Matthew Robinson has played with and against the very best within the English Football League pyramid and now he tells us his story. Part 2
Position: Left Back
Previous Clubs: Southampton, Portsmouth, Reading, Oxford United, Forest Green Rovers and Salisbury City.
To read part 1, click here.
Doing the chores
Once the pros have been sorted out you then get the chance to train yourself. The training was long and hard but that was what you were there for. After training it was back to the changing rooms to clean up after the pros, who would literally leave there shitty underwear for you to pick up. Next to clean the showers and changing rooms and then whilst the pros were all going off for a game of golf or snooker, usually at 1pm we were back on the bus to go back to the ground to have a quick lunch and then to clean all the dirty boots and hang them up to dry for the morning.
There wasn’t even time to digest your food properly before it was out for the afternoon session and that was either up in the gym or on the running track where more often than not you would be seeing your sausage and chips from lunch again. After that, maybe some weights and then a shower before sweeping the changing rooms and showers before you could even think about going home.
Foot in mouth
I remember after one particularly hard running session me and a mate were stood in the shower room calling our coach every name under the sun for what he had just put us through, only to hear the click of the toilet door unlocking and the said coach walking out. The punishment on this occasion was for the whole team to do 50 laps of the Dell. Needless to say the rest of the team were not amused!
It was a tough two years but the reward was massive and there were people who quit before they saw the two years out and that shows how hard it was just to get the opportunity to be a pro.
Driving Miss Daisy
My first taste of feeling the ‘Big Time’ and what it may be like to be a pro was when Terry Hurlock, who in all honesty to a young apprentice is a pretty scary guy, came into the youth team changing room and asked if any one of us drove. I had just passed my test and had a clapped out old Metro, so my mate decided that he would volunteer me. The next thing I knew Terry had thrown me the keys to his brand new Mercedes and was giving me instructions to go and book his family tickets to the cinema for that night. You don’t really say no to Terry but I remember him giving me the look that basically said DO NOT crash the car.
So there I was, in this high powered sports car barely big enough to see over the steering wheel driving like I was ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ through the centre of Southampton. How I wasn’t stopped by the police is a mystery to this day.
My coach back then was the best I have ever had to this day. Dave Merrington (currently working on Radio Solent as a Saints summariser) was brilliant at his job and if he couldn’t produce a footballer he would make sure that the person came out a man at the end of the two years. His track record of bringing young talent was second to none having produced the likes of Shearer, Wallace, Le Tissier as well as countless others. He then left after becoming first team manager and went to Leeds United where in believe he brought through the young generation there of Kewell, Smith and all.
I made it through and was offered a years pro contract, which wasn’t a massive amount of time to prove I was worthy, but I was 1 of only 3 out of 13 who was offered it so I wasn’t complaining too much.
I believe I became a pro at the time when the old school drinking culture was still very much alive in the game and the changes that have happened over the years have been immense.
On the razz!!
There were old school hard honest characters like Terry Hurlock, Mickey Adams, Dave Beasant, Ian Dowie, Kerry Dixon and Neil Ruddock to name a few. That first year as a pro was an eye opener and if you got a day off these guys would literally drag you to the pub for an all day session and you were made to feel like you had to go. The day would be paid for by the senior lads and more often than not I would end up tucked up in bed at my digs come 8pm. As for a night club – no chance.
The day after in training it was a case of spot the player who hadn’t been out the night before as all one had to do was look around the dressing room at see the blood shot eyes. Yet the old school generation would work hard in training, stick a black bin liner on and run until they had sweated the beer out of themselves. This was par for the course and no one really batted an eye lid as this was what how footballers acted back then.
I remember the injured lads would get a bit of treatment from the physio and then be told to go for a run around the common. This run would incorporate the pub at the edge of the common and then the lads would return an hour later feeling more refreshed that when they left. I am not saying this happened every day but it was not uncommon. Yet these older generation players trained very hard and played hard when it mattered on the pitch.
My food intake before games would consist of a McDonald’s on a Friday and I used to eat a KFC sometimes before a mid week reserve game. No one knew any different back then and it literally changed overnight to healthy eating and fluid in take of a different kind.
My first few years in the game were certainly an eye opener and I will remember them fondly.
I hope you found at least some of my memoirs of interest and hope to speak to you soon.