Middlesbrough’s midfield maestro and current club captain Barry Robson made his farewell appearance on Saturday.
Our recently crowned Player of the Year is heading to Canada in the summer to join the Vancouver Whitecaps on a free transfer. A decision which left many fans shocked and disappointed due to losing such a vital and hard-working player.
Robson was signed in January 2010, alongside Willo Flood, Scott McDonald and Chris Killen, during Gordon Strachan’s transfer raid of his former club Celtic. The Scottish International is the best thing to come from Strachan’s disastrous spell in charge as he has made a huge impact at the club. The best way to describe Robson’s time on Teesside would be an equal mix of important goals and silly bookings. It is very rare that Robbo goes a game without finding the back of the net or his name in the referee’s notebook, sometimes both.
His greatest quality is that he is the sort of player who will come flying out of the blocks so to speak and battle right from the off. This is evident as he holds the record for the quickest ever goal at the Riverside after scoring against Reading within just 24 seconds, and I can’t imagine will be bettered any time soon. However, there is another side to his game and a red card on his home debut against Bristol City was a sign of things to come.
Robson has gone on to collect 26 yellow and 3 red cards in 85 appearances for Boro. His fiery personality is usually the cause of these bookings as he scraps and challenges for every single ball. But this is what makes him such a great captain as he leads by example and doesn’t expect anything less from the rest of his teammates.
The most memorable incident in which he was given his marching orders came during a 2-2 draw with Portsmouth last season. Robson punched the away side’s skipper Aaron Mokoena in the face during an off-the-ball incident. Liam Lawrence scored the resulting penalty in the 88th minute, only for Mokeona to later admit that Robson, who had earlier scored to make it 2-0, was retaliating because he had elbowed him, which the referee didn’t see.
The Player of the Year trophy is not the only award Robson has picked up this season. His stunning goal against Hull City on Boxing Day was voted as our Goal of the Season, amongst some good contenders. It was not only the best I have seen this season, but probably one of the best that I have ever seen at the Riverside.
The game was heading for a 0-0 bore draw until Robson decided to take matters into his own hands and struck the ball from around 35 yards out in the 87th minute. It seemed to be the wrong option at first as a number of passes were available and his distance from goal was very optimistic but to our delight the ball sailed into the back of the net and gave Boro an important win. It was a moment of magic from the utility player which single handily saved us and Robbo was capable of producing these consistently. One of my favourite goals of his was the superb volley away to Sunderland in this season’s FA Cup. It was our first North-East derby for a few years and fans were understandably animated and nervous. But Robson wasn’t phased by the pressure in the slightest and his goal sent the Boro fans into absolute madness in the away end of the Stadium of Light, which I will never forget.
He also received the Veteran of the Year award, courtesy of Match Magazine, which ultimately sums up why Robbo is leaving the club. It is obvious that at 33-years-old, he isn’t getting any younger and as each hard-fought Championship game goes by, he does look a yard or two off the pace.
It’s a shame because he really does have a great ‘footballing brain’ and I like to describe him as having the brain of Barcelona’s Lionel Messi but the body of Lionel Blair, the 80-year-old tap dancer, as it is plain to see what Robson is thinking and trying to do, just his body can’t keep up. Some of the passes he makes and goals he scores are definitely Premier League worthy, if only he wasn’t going to the MLS, which he will dominate, then he could have chance to prove this.
Even in his last appearance in a Boro shirt against Watford he proved how important he is to our side by setting up Marvin Emnes to score our solitary goal. It is going to be a huge task to find a player worthy of replacing Robson next season but I’m sure all Boro fans wish him the best for the future – after all he has been a great servant of the club.