ONE Hearts player heads across the River Forth to Dunfermline tomorrow knowing exactly what will happen. Scott Robinson fully expects to start the match as substitute, for it’s virtually his perennial role.
Impatience is setting in with the campaign approaching the end of its first quarter, although not to the point where the teenager is serving manager Paulo Sergio with ultimatums. Simply, the eagerness of youth is taking hold because Robinson wants to participate at senior level and develop into a first-team mainstay. No-one could deny he has the talent. What he must do is convince Sergio to grant him more exposure. After Hearts lost 2-0 to St Johnstone three weeks ago, this newspaper called for Robinson to be promoted to the starting line-up for Celtic’s visit to Tynecastle. He wasn’t and remained an unused substitute that afternoon, a decision which could not be questioned since Hearts won the match 2-0.
Tomorrow he will again climb on to the substitutes’ bench and sit impassively, awaiting the call from Sergio for him to remove the tracksuit top. At least the Portuguese is willing to consider Robinson, as four starts this season confirm. Last year, under Jim Jefferies, he had to wait until the final, meaningless game of the season to play from kick-off.
An energetic, dynamic midfield player, Robinson knows he has much to offer at SPL level. Currently he must wait for an opportunity and make the most of cameo appearances from the substitutes’ bench. “I was devastated not to play against Celtic,” he told the Evening News. “I did my best in training every day and hoped it would be enough come the weekend, but it wasn’t the case. I just hope I can try to get more game time soon.
“The manager seems to be pleased with me, so I just need to do the right things in training. He appears to be happy with what I’m doing, it’s just getting that chance and starting matches. I don’t know if it’s trust or what, but if I keep working hopefully I will get a chance to start soon will come soon. In one of the manager’s first days in charge he took all the young boys to the side and said, ‘I don’t have any problems playing young players. If you impress me, I will play you’. That’s what everyone is trying to do at the club just now, impress him.”
Striker Gordon Smith finds himself sitting alongside his best pal Robinson in the “potential for the future” boat. As does Ryan McGowan, the talented Australian defender. “I don’t know if we’ll get our chances in the SPL games,” continued Robinson. “In the cup game at Ayr and the European match away to Tottenham, when it didn’t matter as much, he played the young boys. If we do well enough we’ll get a chance in time. It will probably be almost the exact same 11 as it was against Celtic tomorrow. If I make the bench and I am needed, then I’ve got to do my bit when I’m called upon. People maybe think I’m older than I am because I’ve been around the first-team squad for a while. Most people might think I’m 21 or something by now because it seemed that long ago when I made my debut.”
It wasn’t exactly yesterday. Robinson was first introduced to first-team football just six weeks after his 16th birthday when Stephen Frail, then first-team coach of Hearts, granted him a debut against Inverness Caledonian Thistle. He remains the youngest footballer in SPL history and the youngest to play competitively for Hearts.
Despite the obvious frustrations, Robinson is no picture of despondency. Camaraderie is plentiful at Hearts following that victory over Celtic which made for a rather pleasant international break. If they had the choice, the players at Tynecastle would have played right through the last fortnight. “We would rather have kept playing games after beating Celtic, so I suppose the international break came at the wrong time for us,” said Robinson. “You just take things as they come and we are definitely feeling positive going to Dunfermline. They have lost their last two games 4-0, that could be good for us or it could be bad. Dunfermline will be up for most games I would think, being a promoted side and new to the SPL. They will want to challenge in every game. We have to be up for it as well.”
Motivation has never been a problem for Robinson. He is one Sergio can rely on whenever called upon.