Sheffield United v Crawley Town: Robson is insistent Blades can rise back to the top

WITH Jessica Ennis due at Bramall Lane tonight for the first time since her Olympic success, Sheffield United could surely not ask for a more inspiring figure in the quest to prevail in their on-going test of endurance.

Barry Robson

The Blades, the pacesetters of League One as recently as Christmas, have lost their way in recent weeks with a return of just five points from six outings having seen the Yorkshire club overtaken by several promotion rivals.

United’s recent travails, which culminated in a below-par first-half display against Coventry City in Friday night’s 2-1 defeat, have left supporters understandably concerned that their side are not so much going for gold this season as struggling to make even the top six.

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However, on a night when Ennis will be introduced to the Lane faithful in front of the stand that has been re-named in her honour, Blades newcomer Barry Robson insists there is plenty to be optimistic about in S2.

“This is a big club,” said the 34-year-old former Middlesbrough midfielder to the Yorkshire Post ahead of tonight’s league game with Crawley Town. “That is why I am here.

“I’ll admit that (after leaving Vancouver Whitecaps last month), moving to League One was a big worry. That was my one dilemma because I didn’t want to go to League One.

“I had offers from the Championship but, in the end, I knocked them back to come here and I’ll say now that there is no way I would have signed for any other club in this division than Sheffield United.

“People may have looked at me signing and thought it was strange. But when you are at a club of this size then it is a privilege to be here.

“It obviously wasn’t ideal to lose on my debut against Coventry. But we just have to stay strong and continue to believe in ourselves. The good thing is I know already there are players here who will do that.

“We just need to go on a run and I look round this team and firmly believe we can do just that. Every teams has its ups and downs, but I think we can finish strongly.”

Robson has been brought in by manager Danny Wilson to try to improve a goalscoring output that is the worst in the top 10 of League One.

The first return on the transfer came last Friday when it was the Scottish midfielder’s corner that Dave Kitson headed past Coventry goalkeeper Joe Murphy to cancel out Leon Clarke’s first-half opener.

That Clarke then went on to snatch a win for the visitors three minutes from time meant a frustrating end to the night and huge concerns that United may lose further ground when their rivals were in action the following day.

Defeats for leaders Tranmere Rovers and Doncaster Rovers, however, meant those fears were not realised and victory tonight against Crawley would thrust United firmly back into the race for the top two.

For Robson, any involvement against the Sussex side is again likely to be from the bench, but he is hoping to play a big part between now and the end of the season.

He said: “Before the Coventry game, I hadn’t kicked a ball since November – which is a good three months. But I have kept myself ticking over. I appreciate I’ll need to get a bit of the rustiness out of me over the next couple of games, but I’ll be okay.

“I enjoyed my time (with Vancouver). The game is in good shape out there and I feel my time will be useful when I go into management and coaching because it was a steep learning curve.

“The experience was great, as there are a lot of different cultures there and a lot of different people.

“That was a big reason for me to go as I wanted to learn about how things are done differently.

“I was fortunate enough to be at a fantastic club with some great people. The one problem was my family didn’t really settle that well, and they are so important to me.

“I also admit I missed the English game.

“I enjoyed the way the game is run, but you can’t beat the passion and emotion that you get back over here.

“I did have those offers from the Championship and it is testament to how big Sheffield United are that I picked this place.”

Asked if former club Middlesbrough had been among those vying for his signature after calling time on Canada, Robson replied: “I spoke to Tony (Mowbray) at great length.

“I was lucky enough to win a couple of Player of the Year awards while there and I would like to leave the legacy of me intact of working really hard and being a great team player.

“I didn’t want to go back so, in that sense, I was happy to leave it as Boro being a great club and me having a great time there.

“Anyway, coming here has been great for me all ready. My CV is all right at the moment, but I would love to have a promotion on it with Sheffield United.

“I hope to be a good team player and work hard for the team. I want to help Sheffield United win as many games a they can. Anyone who has seen my career will know I work hard.

“The manager hasn’t said there will be one specific role. Different games mean different approaches. I hadn’t played in a while (before Coventry) so I was a bit rusty.

“I tried to play one pass and it bobbled up and hit me on the knee. So, it wasn’t the sort of pitch I have been used to over the past six months. But it is great to be back and enjoying the English game.

“I know rustiness could be a problem at first but within the next month or so I can really find my feet.”

Last six games: Sheffield United DWLDLL, Crawley Town WLWLLD.
Last time: Never met.

Referee: N Miller (Co Durham).