'Criticising him is not productive or necessary' - Sheffield United boss Slavisa Jokanovic leaps to defence of under-fire Jack Robinson

Sheffield United manager Slavisa Jokanovic has leapt to Jack Robinson’s defence amid criticism of the centre-half’s recent performances.

By James Shield
Thursday, 16th September 2021, 8:10 pm

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s trip to Hull City, the Serb admitted he is aware Robinson’s position in the starting eleven is coming under scrutiny after mistakes against both Peterborough and Preston North End.

Despite accepting the 28-year-old can do “better”, Jokanovic insisted his team mates must also share responsibility for the “preventable goals” United have conceded since the international break.

Although Robinson’s error during last weekend’s victory over Darren Ferguson’s side did not prove costly - with Jokanovic’s men going on to win 6-2 - his failure to clear the ball towards the end of Tuesday’s meeting with North End saw the visitors snatch a draw in added time.

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Morgan Gibbs-White ( L) and Jack Robinson: Andrew Yates / Sportimage

Jack Robinson, all of the criticism is now on him,” Jokanovic said. “He can probably make a better job of the last few games. He can be at a better level but he is a good professional.

“We need to coordinate the defensive line better and then we don’t make some mistakes. At the same time, we must also negotiate through the late minutes better.

“These are moments when you need to be extra focused and concentrated so you don’t drop all of the work you do beforehand. About Robbo, we need to be more organised in the defensive line.”

“I will not blame my player for something he isn’t doing if he is putting everything in,” continued Jokanovic, having pledged to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with his squad after taking charge in July. “It isn’t necessary to do that. It’s isn’t positive or productive. We must be brave and show personality.”

Jack Robinson of Sheffield Utd (R) reacts with team mates Sander Berge (2R), Robin Olsen (C), John Egan (2L) and George Baldock (L) during the Sky Bet Championship match against Preston North End: Andrew Yates / Sportimage

With Ben Davies’ involvement at the MKM Stadium in doubt because of injury, Jokanovic must choose to persevere with Robinson or recall Chris Basham alongside John Egan if the on-loan defender is not passed fit. Having initially stated Davies was receiving treatment for a foot problem sustained before the international break, it now appears he is actually suffering from a calf complaint.

“If there is a problem, then we need to fix it,” Jokanovic said. “It is the natural position for Jack.

“Different situations and shapes, we might adapt at the centre-back position. John Egan plays in different shapes, for Sheffield United and also the national team. It is not an issue or a big deal.”

Despite seeing his team’s fortunes improve of late - another loanee, Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Morgan Gibbs-White, proving a revelation in midfield - Jokanovic is expecting a tough encounter in East Yorkshire.

Jack Robinson of Sheffield United looks dejected after the Sky Bet Championship match at Bramall Lane against Preston North End: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

“They will be physical and they will look to make it difficult for us,” he said. “We are ready for that.

“I am pleased with plenty of things I am seeing from my players. But there are also things we must improve upon, because we are still in the process. That is on-going and I believe we can get better.”

“I must stress, though, how much I believe in my players,” Jokanovic added. “I believe in every one of them. There are areas where we all need to work but we want to bring a good feeling, a good sensation if you like, to our supporters.”