SCOTT ROBINSON has gone from deputy Hearts captain to being banned from Riccarton in just ten months. His Tynecastle future is at risk unless he apologises for refusing a substitute’s role against Aberdeen last weekend.
It is a sad decline for one of the club’s finest academy graduates.
However, the situation is not irretrievable. Provided Robinson says sorry and knuckles down to prove his worth, there is no doubt he can achieve the regular starting place he craves. In February, he donned the captain’s armband aged 19 when Marius Zaliukas was forced off injured against Dundee United – an example of how highly he was regarded at the time.
Unfortunately for Robinson, the year which saw him skipper his boyhood heroes and earn a Scottish Cup winner’s medal is ending sourly. A normally sensible product of the Riccarton youth academy, the midfielder appears to be suffering from the impatience, and perhaps petulance, of youth. Still just 20 years old but in his fifth season at first-team level, being unable to establish himself as a regular starter is frustrating, as are wage delays which make life awkward for one of the lower earners of Hearts’ senior squad.
Seeing Mehdi Taouil selected ahead of him against Aberdeen was something of a final straw. Robinson refused to take his place among the substitutes when manager John McGlynn named his team. He was ordered to sit in the stand, with Adam King promoted to the bench. Hearts subsequently told Robinson not to train this week and he will be asked to explain himself during a disciplinary meeting on Monday.
If he does not apologise, it will likely be the end of his Hearts career. Indications are he will back down. Csaba Laszlo nurtured Robinson during 18 months as the club’s manager. The Hungarian is eager for him to reverse the decline and fulfil his undoubted potential. Laszlo knows better than most that genuine talent lies within the midfielder and is just waiting to flourish.
“It’s a strange thing for Scott to do, especially given Hearts’ situation,” said Laszlo, now national coach of Lithuania. “They have a lot of problems right now but I can’t say anything bad about Scott. In my time there, he came into the first team but he was not a player who made the difference. He had talent, but with only talent you don’t move forward. I told him this all the time. If you have 40 per cent talent but you don’t have the will, you will never reach your dream and you will never be a good SPL player.
“I worked with players who only had 30 per cent talent but they got to the Bundesliga just because they had a very strong will to get there. They took their chance and that is the point. If you are a young player and you get a chance to play, you must take the chance to be a permanent part of the team. You must show your best performance.
“Scott must think again, and again, and again. Just because you get into the team does not mean you will stay there. I am surprised he has been sitting on the bench a lot this season but I hope he comes back in the right way. I want him to play for Hearts and help the club in this difficult situation.
“Everybody at Hearts needs to take time to think about this. Anybody can make a mistake and we don’t know what happens inside the dressing room. I think Scott must go and talk with the manager and the club directors. I hope they can find a solution because Hearts need every single player and every single point right now. They don’t need a situation like this which can destabilise them.
“You can always have problems but it is most important to find a solution. This is what I want for both parties, especially for Scott. I think things will be okay eventually.”
Laszlo has dealt with plenty of disgruntled players during a 15-year coaching career, many of them at Hearts. Larry Kingston, David Obua and Saulius Mikoliunas were just three to voice their discontent at being left out. Laszlo makes an important point about the impact a player can have as substitute despite any disappointment over not starting a match.
“I have never had any players refuse to play for me. For every player, it is sometimes difficult to accept the decisions of the manager. However, you must respect this,” continued Laszlo. “You don’t know which tactics your manager likes to play and you don’t know what plan he has for the game. Sometimes, you can help the team from the bench.
“When I was at Hearts we had a lot of good players. We always had an opportunity to win games using people from the bench. Larry Kingston always wanted to play all the time. Sometimes I made a decision to put him on the bench and he was unhappy. I talked with him and it was okay.
“Other times it was the same with David Obua and Saulius Mikoliunas. We had a lot of competition on the left and right side of midfield and Andy Driver was playing very well and the players all respected this. I remember before my first competitive game as Hearts manager, against Motherwell, Mikoliunas trained very hard and was very focused all week. I talked with him and told him he would be on the bench. He went on as substitute and scored the winner.
“Afterwards I told him he did a good job and I said if he kept playing like this he would definitely play – except I told him I didn’t know if he would be on the bench or in the first eleven. Even now, when he comes to play for Lithuania, we joke about this.”
Robinson now finds himself in a similar position to Mikoliunas four years ago. For the youngster, it is no laughing matter as he attempts to save and eventually revive his Hearts career.