Michael Robinson recalled as jovial giant who became hero on pitch and in studio

Michael Robinson’s decades in the spotlight encompassed a combination of goalscoring at club and international level, voicing Disney cartoon characters, and a career as a Spanish-language analyst.
Michael Robinson recalled as jovial giant who became hero on pitch and in studio
STUNNING THE FRENCH: Michael Robinson is beaten to the ball by France goalkeeper Jean Castaneda in an 1982 World Cup qualifier at Lansdowne Road. Robinson, who passed away yesterday, made 24 appearances for the Republic, scoring four goals, one of which came in this famous 3-2 win over the French. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
STUNNING THE FRENCH: Michael Robinson is beaten to the ball by France goalkeeper Jean Castaneda in an 1982 World Cup qualifier at Lansdowne Road. Robinson, who passed away yesterday, made 24 appearances for the Republic, scoring four goals, one of which came in this famous 3-2 win over the French. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Michael Robinson’s decades in the spotlight encompassed a combination of goalscoring at club and international level, voicing Disney cartoon characters, and a career as a Spanish-language analyst.

Robinson, who died aged 61, made 52 appearances for Liverpool and was capped 24 times for the Republic of Ireland.

With Liverpool, he won European Cup, First Division and League Cup medals, an average of one trophy every 17 matches. However, his career at Anfield lasted less than 18 months as he found it difficult playing second fiddle to the brilliant Ian Rush-Kenny Dalglish partnership.

Robinson’s father, also a professional footballer, and mother moved from Leicester to Blackpool while he was still in the womb but it was not long before his love affair with Liverpool began, with his dad taking him to his first Anfield game at the age of five.

After spells at Preston, Manchester City, and Brighton, Robinson — a losing FA Cup finalist with the Seagulls — found himself flying to a hotel in the Netherlands in the summer of 1983 to be greeted by Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan, club chairman John Smith, and club secretary Peter Robinson after a £250,000 fee was agreed.

“I will never forget what Mr Smith said,” Robinson, who forgot his passport for the flight and required his future wife Chris to race to the airport with it, recalled.

“‘Michael, at Liverpool we don’t sign great footballers, we sign people who are great at football’.”

Having already wrapped up the league and League Cup in his first season, Robinson found himself coming on as an extra-time substitute in the European Cup final against Roma in their own stadium with the score at 1-1.

He declined the opportunity to take a penalty in the shootout but Alan Kennedy ensured the club’s fourth European Cup came home with them.

By the following December he had left for QPR; two years followed at Osasuna, with Robinson admitting he did not know where it was in Spain or that it was not a place in its own right, expressing surprise when his wife eventually told him they were living in Pamplona.

Having arrived not speaking a word of Spanish he went on to mentor another ex-Red, Steve McManaman, when he moved to Real Madrid and impressively carved out a successful career as a television sports presenter, a role which resulted in Real Madrid president Florentino Perez trying to get him fired because of his criticism of his club.

Robinson’s media work was not limited just to football.

Michael Robinson. Photo: INPHO/Billy Stickland
Michael Robinson. Photo: INPHO/Billy Stickland

He would go on to cover cycling, tennis, and rugby amongst other sports, while he voiced the Ugly Sister in the Spanish version of Shrek 2.

It was during a media appearance on Spanish radio in December 2018 he revealed he had an incurable, advanced malignant melanoma.

“The nicest thing about Michael was that he knew his own limitations,” Mark Lawrenson, a team-mate at Preston, Brighton, and Liverpool, once said.

“He would tell you himself that he didn’t have a good touch for a big man and he was predominantly one-footed. But he was strong. When the chips were down he would give you absolutely everything.”

Graeme Souness paid a poignant tribute to “close pal” Robinson on the Football Show on Sky Sports: “He was a close pal of mine and I’m absolutely sick for his family. It’s a sad day for me.

“My friendship started with him when he first joined Liverpool, we used to go to the Top Hat on a Thursday night for dinner, his wife and my wife as well, then obviously we became great pals at Liverpool. He wasn’t a superstar but he more than helped us in that year we managed to do the treble, he played a big part in that, and he was good round the place, he was very popular.

“I’ve got so many fond memories of being in his company. If you were going for a night out, Michael would be the first one you’d invite, a real charming man, bon viveur and he could tell great stories.”

Souness added: “I can remember him phoning me up once, he’d been out to lunch with Seve Ballesteros and he was walking down the street in Madrid, half a dozen asked him for an autograph and only one asked Seve.

“He was rejoicing in that.”

A number of Robinson’s former clubs took to Twitter to express their condolences, with Liverpool writing: “We’re deeply saddened by the passing of former player Michael Robinson, aged 61.

“The thoughts of everybody at Liverpool Football Club are with Michael’s family and friends at this sad time. Rest in peace, Michael.”

The Football Association of Ireland tweeted: “The FAI is saddened to learn of the death of former Ireland international Michael Robinson. Michael played 24 games at senior level, scoring four goals during the 1980s. May he rest in peace.”

Former Republic of Ireland manager Eoin Hand told RTÉ Sport: “I’m so sad to hear of his passing. He was a young man at 61.

“My memories of Michael is in 1980 bringing him into the international team and he immediately was very, very popular with everybody.

“There was a lovely naivety about him. He was a very jovial fella, I kept in touch with him all through the years.

“He was a very intelligent guy. He went out to Spain, learned the language, and had a great career after in broadcasting.

“As a personal friend, we used to have great chats so I’m very, very sad to hear of his passing.”

His former Liverpool, Preston, Brighton, and Ireland team-mate Mark Lawrenson tweeted: “Gutted to hear of the Passing of Michael Robinson(AKA The Cat)..We played Cricket together in our Teens-He followed me to PNE Then Brighton-Rep of Ireland & Finally Liverpool..He even bought my house off me in Hove.Its a Sad day in Sad times.”

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