Sheffield United defender delivers 'embarrassing' verdict on Nottingham Forest celebrations

“You look at their celebrations after the second goal and they thought they’d won it there and then,” Jack Robinson says with a mixture of menace and contempt. “It was embarrassing to be honest.”

Tuesday, 17th May 2022, 5:00 am

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The Sheffield United defender makes no attempt to disguise his anger at Nottingham Forest’s response to Brennan Johnson’s finish towards the end of Saturday’s Championship play-off semi-final first leg at Bramall Lane. Or, as Paul Heckingbottom’s side prepare for tonight’s return in the east Midlands, the sight of flares being lit in the away end after the youngster had doubled the visitors’ lead makes him even more determined to ensure United progress. The same goes for the sound of the travelling supporters singing about being on their way to Wembley.

The perceived slight

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Nottingham Forest's Brennan Johnson (third right) celebrates scoring their side's second goal of the game with team-mates during the Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final, first leg match at Bramall Lane

Forty-eight hours after Sander Berge’s late strike handed his team mates a lifeline ahead of the trip to the City Ground, Robinson has been summoned to the media suite inside United’s training complex at Shirecliffe to preview the deciding instalment of their double-header against Steve Cooper’s side.

And, despite there being 24 hours to go before he is thrust into battle, the former Liverpool centre-half already has his gameface on.

Yes, Robinson admits as he reflects upon events over the weekend, United were way below their best when Forest travelled to South Yorkshire. But with Berge scrambling home during the closing stages, after Jack Colback and Johnson had appeared to end their hopes of winning promotion, Robinson is adamant the tie is still very much alive. Particularly as United, it quickly becomes apparent, are utterly determined to make their opponents pay for what some members of Heckingbottom’s squad clearly regarded as a slight.

Sheffield United's Jack Robinson has got even more fired-up after watching Nottingham Forest's goal celebrations: Darren Staples / Sportimage

“You can never celebrate too early,” Robinson continues, neither his voice nor face betraying any sign of emotion. “It’s half-time, that’s what it is and there’s a hell of a long way to go. There’s 90 minutes left yet and we are going to fight for it and give it everything, 100 percent. Our fans will get behind us and we will put them under pressure at their own ground.”

The admission

Although Robinson accepts he would rather be in Forest’s position, protecting a lead rather than trying to eradicate one, the notion they could find it difficult to cope with the weight of expectancy has become a theme of United’s conversations over the past couple of days. If the match proves even half as fierce as the battle to control the pre kick-off narrative, then it will be an utterly captivating spectacle.

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom (left) and Nottingham Forest manager Steve Cooper: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

“You can’t say they were unbelievable on the day,” Robinson insists. “It was one of those games when maybe the occasion affects things a bit. They out-performed us on the day, fair play. It was one of those matches for us that can happen from time to time. But we have got more experience than them and, for me, that’s going to be crucial. Experience.”

“We’ve watched it back, the game,” he continues. “We’ve seen where we went wrong and we know we can rectify it. We know we can get tighter to them. We stepped off it a little bit. We’ll be much more-front footed this time, that’s what we’re planning to do.”

The Hecky effect

Robinson, aged 28, started his career at Anfield before joining United two years ago following a spell with Forest. Although he was signed by Chris Wilder, midway through the first of two seasons they would spend at the highest level before being relegated last term, Robinson has produced his best football since Heckingbottom’s appointment in November.

Jack Robinson used to play for Nottingham Forest: Darren Staples / Sportimage

“He’s given me that confidence, he’s never doubted me for a moment after coming in,” says Robinson, who also prospered when Heckingbottom spent a brief period in caretaker charge last term. “Hopefully I’ve given back that trust and repaid it. He’s been unbelievable for me, honestly, and I’m just glad to be playing for him.

“I’ve already told him that I’d love to stay here for the next few years at least. These are the games that you want to be involved in, without a shadow of a doubt. These moments are what you are in th game for.

“Hopefully we can go up and be involved in lots more like them.”

The pressure claim

In order to achieve that ambition, Robinson and his colleagues must inflict a rare home defeat on Forest who haven’t lost a league fixture in front of their own fans for nearly five months.

Jack Robinson is expected to start the second leg of the Championship play-off semi-final: Darren Staples / Sportimage

“Even when I was there, there was a lot of pressure to go up,” Robinson says, reminding his old club haven’t competed in the top-flight this century. “There will be massive pressure on them. Much more than us. We’ve got nothing to lose. We can go there, knowing exactly what we’ve got to be and give it our all. It’s clear in our heads.”

“I’ve got mates there still,” he adds. “Me and Joe Lolley, we’re good pals. We’ve spoke and bit and sent a few messages when we were waiting to see who we might all get in the play-offs. It can be all smiles beforehand. I’ve got no problems with that. I’m not part of the Roy Keane era if you like, where you couldn’t speak to people you know if you were up against them. But, as everyone realises, once we’re preparing, it’s totally down to business. We’re just focused on doing our best for our teams and our team mates. Nothing else. Nothing comes between that.”

Although Robinson is brutally honest about United’s display three days ago - “The only thing we can take out of it is the goal” - he insists Berge’s effort could be the pivotal moment of the contest.

“Going in one down instead of two, the difference is huge. We know when we’re at our best that we can beat anyone. Forest are a really good team. They’ve done great under Steve. But we’re a really good team too.”