Scott Robinson is relishing the prospect of reigniting his stalled career as part of a mini colony of former Jambos at Kilmarnock.
The 23-year-old midfielder became the first of ex-Tynecastle boss Gary Locke’s eight summer signings at Rugby Park when he penned a three-year deal in early June. The move to Ayrshire, following nine years at Hearts, initially reunited him with his former midfield partner at Hearts, Jamie Hamill. Robinson has since been joined at Kilmarnock by goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald and striker Dale Carrick. Dave Sykes, the former Hearts sports scientist, has also been recruited by Locke, while ex-Tynecastle captain Marius Zaliukas, currently at Rangers, is also on Locke’s radar.
“It’s like being at Hearts again with all the familiar faces here – the gaffer was joking about that when he was bringing all the new boys in,” Robinson said, speaking for the first time since moving west. “The boys are all great anyway, even the ones I didn’t know already, but it definitely helped me settle quickly that there were so many familiar faces here.”
Although links to Tynecastle are never far away for Robinson, he is glad of the fresh start. After finally establishing himself as a regular in the side under Locke the year administration-hit Hearts were relegated (2013/14), he was soon back out of the picture. A pre-season friendly red card against Ludogorets Razgrad last summer and an early-season suspension immediately set him back as he tried to win favour in the eyes of Robbie Neilson and Craig Levein, Hearts’ newly-appointed head coach and director of football respectively. Following the recruitment of central-midfield trio Morgaro Gomis, Prince Buaben and Miguel Pallardo, it became apparent that his status as a first pick was gone. Even though he still had a year left on his deal, Robinson was informed last August that Hearts wouldn’t stand in his way if he wished to find a new club. He decided to stay and fight for his place, but managed only four starts and eight appearances in total last season. The last of those came as a last-minute substitute in the New Year derby against Hibs.
“I couldn’t even tell you when my last game for Hearts was,” he said. “I don’t really want to go into it too much but I was pretty much frozen out. I was disappointed that it ended on such a sour note, but I know in football that you’re not going to stay at the one club forever. A lot of other boys at Hearts were in a similar boat. You only have to look at Speedy [Carrick] who has made the same boat as me.
“My sole focus now is Kilmarnock. This is my team and this is who I want to do well for. I’m loving it so far. I’m just delighted to get back playing and get some match time under my belt.
Robinson spoke last September of wanting to stay and fight for his Hearts future. However, he admits that if he knew then how things were going to pan out, he would have looked to get out of Tynecastle sooner. “I probably would have,” he said. “Kilmarnock was always spoken about as a possibility. I was always keen to come here because I knew my time was up at Hearts. It was frustrating that I had to wait until the summer in the end but now I’m just looking forward.”
With Kilmarnock having moved from their Glasgow training base back to Rugby Park back to Rugby Park, it means a 90-minute daily commute for the Edinburgh-based Robinson. I’m not finding it too bad,” he said. “There are four of us – Dale Carrick, Jamie MacDonald and Kallum Higginbotham – coming through from Edinburgh so you only really drive once a week.”
Killie, who don’t face Hearts until October, are one of the pre-season favourites for relegation from the Premiership, but Robinson, left, believes they will be well clear of the drop zone. “We’ve got a good squad so I really think we can make the top six. You can sense in training that we’ve got a good squad.”