AS the most dramatic penalty shoot-out new Wembley has seen took yet another unexpected twist last May, Theo Robinson felt for his former club.
The Derby County striker, watching on television at home, was well aware of the gamut of emotions that the Huddersfield Town players would be going through as the 2012 League One play-off final edged ever closer to a climax.
Robinson had been there two years earlier when the Terriers’ dreams of promotion had been ended by a 2-0 aggregate defeat to Millwall in the semi-finals.
The feeling of dejection that met the final whistle at The Den had never been forgotten so, as Huddersfield looked to make it third time lucky in the end-of-season promotion-deciders by getting the better of Sheffield United, the Birmingham-born forward was glued to the unfolding spot-kick drama.
With Town 1-0 down after three penalties apiece, things looked grim for the Terriers. Then, though, Peter Clarke fired past Steve Simonsen just moments before Andy Taylor missed and after parity was restored Robinson’s old club were never behind again. They were, though, made to wait for success with it taking another 14 spot-kicks for the two Yorkshire rivals to be separated, Simonsen being the unfortunate fall guy to fire over and spark wild celebrations among the hordes from Huddersfield.
Robinson’s exit from Town may have come almost two years earlier but he admits to being overjoyed at his old club finally being able to put behind them the play-off heartache of 2010 – and 2011, when a 3-0 defeat in the final to Peterborough United had ended any hopes of promotion.
“I watched the play-off final last year,” the 24-year-old recalls to the Yorkshire Post, “and I was really pleased when Huddersfield won it, though I haven’t ever seen a penalty shoot-out go on that long.
“You just don’t get goalkeepers having to step up, it was totally mad. Things were so tense but it was all worth it in the end as Huddersfield went up.”
As Robinson watched the celebrations being led by his former team-mate – and Town captain – Peter Clarke, he could not possibly have imagined that within nine months he would be back in a blue and white striped shirt.
Not after underlining his importance to Derby by finishing 2011-12 as the club’s joint top scorer with 12 goals from 29 starts.
But that is exactly what has happened to a striker who, despite finding the net nine more times before the start of December, soon found himself omitted from the starting line-up. And, once Mark Robins had been named Town manager, Robinson was on his way back on loan to Huddersfield, a club where he had finished the 2009-10 campaign as the club’s second top scorer behind Jordan Rhodes.
“It feels great to be back,” says Robinson, who remains the only addition made by Robins since succeeding Simon Grayson. “I had spoken to a few of the lads who had played under the manager.
“One of these was James Bailey at Coventry. I wouldn’t say what I was told made my mind up, as I had already decided I wanted to come back to Huddersfield, but it was still good to hear all the positive things about the manager.
“The club has changed a lot, particularly in terms of the training ground (at Canalside). It was being done up when I was last here but we were training elsewhere (at Storthes Hall).
“Now, it (Canalside) gives the club a real professional set-up and is the sort of place players come in and want to work hard. I can see that Huddersfield Town have come a long way in the last couple of years and that is great.
“I don’t just mean on the pitch, as we were League One back then, but I mean the club as a whole, as it seems much more geared towards being successful.”
Before Town can push on, however, there is the less than the small matter of consolidating their hard-won Championship status over the final 10 games of the season.
A positive start has been made, courtesy of a seven-point haul from the last four games that has included wins over Burnley and Middlesbrough.
“Everyone got a lift from what happened against Middlesbrough on Tuesday,” says Robinson of Town’s dramatic 2-1 victory. “It meant we not only bounced back from a (4-1) defeat but, apart from those final 15 minutes at Brighton, also continued our recent form.
“I came in when the lads had not been on a great run. I found it surprising, because I knew there was a good squad at Huddersfield. But now I think we are showing the quality that will be needed to get out of trouble.
“Tuesday was massive. The celebrations (that followed Danny Ward’s stoppage-time winner) showed that. I was on the bench but cheering as madly as anyone. But now we have to push on and get safe.
“I know how much hard work went into getting Huddersfield promotion so we have to make sure that doesn’t go to waste. I’ll never forget Millwall. I only came on for the final half-hour down there (in the second leg) and we were already losing.
“I was desperate to get a goal back but it just wasn’t meant to be. It was a really tough night for everyone. The experience was awful but one we all had to use to help our careers.”