Robins welcomes Cup diversion ahead of plotting survival route

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FOR someone who has donned a hard hat throughout his managerial career, it was perhaps not surprising to hear Mark Robins speak about the construction business during his unveiling as Huddersfield Town’s new manager.

It was just as well with the plans mapped out to Robins when he spoke to the go-ahead Town board on Tuesday evening and throughout Wednesday considerable and multi-layered ones which would test the most skilled architect, never mind your average builder.

But the fact they are built on solid, lasting foundations was the key for Robins in his decision to leave just five months into a three-year deal at Coventry City.

In all of his previous jobs – at the Sky Blues, Barnsley and Rotherham United – Robins was not afforded that luxury for one reason of another, with his reputation as a fire-fighter starting to precede him.

Off-the-field issues have invariably dictated. It was the failure to receive assurances over the financial future of Coventry, who are locked in a rent dispute with Arena Coventry Ltd – the owners of the Ricoh Arena – which proved a major factor in his decision to accept Huddersfield’s overtures.

Now in his fifth full season as a Football League manager, Robins finally finds himself at a club where everything seemingly measures up.

Robins’s short-term goal may be Championship survival for Town, but the longer term ones are considerable. Namely developing a playing vision and a ‘one club’ philosophy linking the academy set-ups with the first team – to go hand-in-hand with the infrastructural developments at Town’s multi-million pound Canalside sports complex.

Mindful of losses over the past two financial years of £5.7m and £4.1m, Town’s goal remains developing a self-sustainable business able to rely on home-grown footballing talent with the days of chairmen splashing out millions effectively over given the new Financial Fair Play regulations.

Get all that in place and everything operating correctly and Town may have scope to realise their ultimate dreams of making the Premier League.

Robins, who takes charge of Town for the first time in tomorrow afternoon’s televised cup tie with Premier League outfit Wigan Athletic, said: “Short-term success will be making sure we pick up enough points to climb away from where we are.

“Long-term, we have to develop in every aspect in terms of the Canalside facility, youth development, recruitment, performance and analysis of performance and in all the fundamental things that add to the building blocks already here.

“Looking at it, there is potential for everybody in the Championship to go higher, absolutely.

“But you have to do things in the right way and there is no quick fix, even when you just throw money at things. You must have a plan and there is a coherent one here and it just so happens that is also to my way of thinking.

“There is absolutely a clear pathway here because the club have developed and understood what they need to do over a period of time to implement it. It is a long-time thing.”

For their part, Town’s board realised they had struck upon a like-minded footballing soul when they outlined their plans to Robins, who became their choice after whittling an initial 90 applications down to a shortlist of six.

Chief executive Nigel Clibbens said: “We started just talking first with Mark about visions and value and what he thought about football and how it would develop in the coming years with the Financial Fair Play and the Elite Player Performance Plan.

“Mark worked at clubs to try and get them to comply with that system and he is conversed with everything we are trying to do in building our academy and developing young players. That was a big issue for us.

“When you talk to people, you start to build a relationship pretty quickly when you start to talk the same language. We share a lot of values in terms of how Mark approaches football and how we as a club want it to go.”

Robins faces Premier League opponents for the second time in six weeks tomorrow before the serious business of garnering points to secure Championship survival begins at Nottingham Forest on Tuesday night ahead of the visit of fellow strugglers Ipswich Town on Saturday.

Tomorrow’s game represents a nice distraction for Robins, who is mindful of having two games in just over 48 hours – the City Ground encounter taking priority.

He said: “I was knocked out of the FA Cup at White Hart Lane last month, so this is a different challenge. But Roberto’s (Martinez) teams always play good football and it’s a game to look forward to.

“It’s another good opportunity to play against Premier League opposition and pit your wits against them.

“From what I saw in the second half at Leicester, we were more than good value for the win. The players have lifted themselves a little bit and there’s some really good talent here. Yes, we want to try and progress in the cup but we have another game quickly after and we will need the players recovered for that.”

Young fringe players Murray Wallace, Chris Atkinson and Jordan Sinnott did their cause no harm at Leicester and impressed the watching Robins, who wants his experienced players to help bring them and one-time Old Trafford academy player Ollie Norwood on in the future months.

Robins, who, as a youngster, gained invaluable experience playing alongside the likes of Bryan Robson and Mark Hughes at Manchester United, said: “I accept we are at the wrong end of the table. But I also accept we have some good players, including good young players.

“Going forward, we have to make sure the older heads nurture the younger ones and bring them through. That is what it is all about.

“You hear Sir Alex Ferguson talking about the sort of thing all the time. They know how to develop players and it can be tough and difficult because you have to do it getting results. But we will enjoy having a go and trying to give people a career in the game.”

Famous for scoring the goal that kept Ferguson in a job when United won a cup tie at Forest in January, 1990 – with the Scot lifting the trophy in the Spring – Robins says: “Sir Alex is always accessible and is brilliant for young managers making their way in the game. He is there to lend an ear if you need to.

“I am sure I may speak or bump into him at some point in the near future, as there are a few players there we might want to be taking towards the end of the season! You never know.”