Why Jack Robinson deserves a great deal amount of credit for coming in from Sheffield United cold to shine against Fulham

On Monday evening, an hour before Sheffield United went into battle with Fulham on their way to an eye-catching victory, Sheffield United’s social media admin pressed ‘send’ on a tweet and, probably, prepared themselves for the backlash that followed.

Wednesday, 22nd December 2021, 4:26 pm

The news wasn’t that the club was being liquidated, or another managerial change. Instead, it was the team news from Craven Cottage and despite a couple of Covid-19 absentees and Ben Davies missing for personal reasons, there was only one name on the lips of most of those replying.

Some of the harsher tweets about Jack Robinson may well have been deleted in the cold light of day - especially considering his imperious display at Craven Cottage against the Championship’s best striker, Aleksandar Mitrović - but some still remain.

A few were supportive, and a number don’t bear repeating in a family newspaper, but it would be fair to suggest that the reaction wasn’t overwhelmingly positive.

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Robinson hadn’t been seen in a Blades shirt in the league since mid-September, when United conceded a late equaliser at home to Preston and Robinson was pilloried for mistiming a header in the build-up to Emil Riis Jakobsen’s 95th-minute strike.

In isolation, the mistake wasn’t fatal. Sure, it was mistimed. But Robinson didn’t give the free-kick away in the first place, giving Preston essentially a free-hit into the United box. Nor did he slip as the cross came in, or miss his header in the middle as Jakobsen took the ball down and had the freedom of the steel city to pick his spot.

Still, it was enough for many to make their mind up about Robinson – who was, by way of refreshing the memory, a £500,000 signing from Nottingham Forest to plug a hole in a squad pushing for a place in Europe. He has remarkable pedigree, becoming the youngest ever player to play for Liverpool after coming through their academy, but perhaps his biggest crime in the eyes of some is simply not being his fellow Scouser and big pal, Jack O’Connell.

Jack Robinson of Sheffield United: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

Monday’s win at Fulham was remarkable for so many reasons, including a wondergoal from Iliman Ndiaye which featured the confidence, skill and sheer bravado so seldom seen from a United player (until they’re sold prematurely, anyway).

But it was the defensive rearguard action that pleased many. This wasn’t exactly a smash-and-grab victory – for all their possession and prowess, Fulham had one shot on target throughout the 90 minutes – but Chris Basham, John Egan and especially Robinson did a superb job to contain Mitrović and prevent him taking his Championship goal tally this season to what feels about 76.

Firm fan favourites Basham and Egan have little to prove to anyone, but Robinson deserves an immense amount of credit for his display at the Cottage. Especially considering the occasion, the opposition and how long he has been kicking his heels on the sidelines.

Jack Robinson of Sheffield United challenges Harry Wilson of Fulham: David Klein / Sportimage

Boss Paul Heckingbottom paid tribute afterwards to Robinson’s professionalism, the work done – to coin the phrase of one of his predecessors – away from the lights, to make sure he was ready to take his chance when it arrived.

It may, considering the busy Christmas period ahead and uncertainty about when Davies will return, be a timely return to form for both club and player.