Home > Shamrock Rovers Player Interviews for programme > No Finnish to Robinson’s career

No Finnish to Robinson’s career

Former Hoops favourite Shane Robinson is currently scoring for fun in the Finnish league. Hoops Scene caught up with Shane for a chat about Rovers, goals and being an overseas Hoop…

Shane Robinson began his professional football career with Shamrock Rovers back in 1999 and played with the club over two spells in between a successful stint at Drogheda United. He now plays his football in Finland where he is club captain with Haka and Hoops Scene chatted to the midfielder recently from his base in Valkeakoski.

Robinson was the right man to lead Rovers out for the opening night in Tallaght Stadium in 2009 as he knew the significance of the occasion. The honour of captaining the team that night is one he is very proud of. ‘It is probably the memory that sticks with me the most,” recalled Robinson. “I’ve won leagues but as a one off night that was special.

“That first night in Tallaght was emotional for everyone that knew the history of the club. I was so proud to lead the team out and to make sure that we didn’t lose that game. I knew walking out onto the pitch, what was said in the dressing room and what was said the night before, that we wouldn’t lose the game. It was a night to remember.

“It was an honour for me and I felt I led the old team into the new ground as I’d been there in ’99. I thought of Derek Treacy and people like him that never got to play there. The likes of Derek sacrificed winning trophies to try and play in that ground. I was representing that group and the fans that night.”

“I knew exactly what it meant to people. I had played in Santry when nobody wanted to go to games and they still did. I played in Tolka and even played a home game in Turners Cross. When I was in my first spell, speaking to the board they were saying we’d be in the stadium next year and that was in 2003!”

Photo by George Kelly

During Robinson’s first stint at the club, the Hoops always seemed to be on the verge of getting to Tallaght but continued to play out of a succession of home grounds without much success. The winger left the club at the end of 2004 as Rovers went into financial free fall. It was a much-changed club when Robinson in 2009 arrived back for his second spell at Shamrock Rovers.

“It was a totally different club,” said Robinson about his return to Rovers. “The only thing that didn’t change was the supporters. It was funny in the first few games to meet supporters who I’d seen in Santry or Tolka and places like that. That was the thing I loved at Rovers. The people knew what the club had been through. They were there in the first year in Tallaght and I’m sure they are still there.”

So how did it come about that Robinson is playing his football in Finland? “I went to Australia when I left Rovers. There were options with other teams but I didn’t want to play elsewhere in Ireland. I enjoyed the year in Australia but I didn’t really enjoy the football. When my girlfriend and myself came back at Christmas, we were just coming home for a break but there were issues with a visa getting back. I was kind of struggling to think what I could do if I couldn’t get back to Australia when I got a phone call from Sami Ristila (Haka manager) who played with me in Drogheda. He asked me to come out to see if I liked it in the first instance.

“I came out in February and it was pretty cold! I took a bit of convincing to come back! I love it here though. It is a very professional club. I loved playing for Rovers where things were done right. But when you look at clubs here and the facilities that they have that they own themselves, it is great. Everyone is full time.”

Haka are currently sitting third from bottom in the Veikkausliga, the top division in domestic Finnish football with HJK currently top of the table. “We have struggled a bit this year. Our budget is one of the lowest here. There are 12 strong teams with good stadiums in the league. We are pretty familiar with each other over here as we play each other three times. I would describe the standard here as similar to the League of Ireland but totally different in the way they play. HJK are on a different level than the League of Ireland. They play Celtic in this round of the Champions League.”

While this season hasn’t been going too well for Haka, who finished 10th last year, on a personal level Robinson is having a good season. He has been in fine goalscoring form, netting his first career hat-trick and in Finnish tradition has picked up a bunch of flowers and a hat for the privilege! “That was my first hat-trick I’ve ever scored,” admitted Robinson. “Giving you a hat is what they do here – they take it literally but it was nice to get! The flowers are not very manly but if you’re getting flowers or a hat, you are doing fairly well!

“I’ve scored nine goals from midfield so far which is pretty good by my standards. I’m not particularly known for scoring goals so this is the most I’ve every scored. I scored seven last season so I’m doing alright.”

Robinson is currently enjoying the fine Finnish summer with sun set times much later than here in Tallaght where we will require the floodlights for tonight’s game. The lifestyle and climate are a change from Ireland. “The culture is totally different. The people are very different; they are very shy and not so outgoing. It takes them to have a drink or a sauna before they talk to you! It is all strange to me but I enjoy it as well.

“They really enjoy their summers as the winters are so harsh. I was home for four months of their winter. I don’t know how they do the winter. It is 24 hours darkness but now it is long evenings. It doesn’t get dark now so I’ve had to get the black out blinds!”

Just as Robinson was captain with Rovers, he is captain of Haka, so how is his Finnish? “Not so good,” admitted the 31 year old. “We all speak English. We have a pretty mixed squad. We have a Brazilian, a Sierre Leone international, an Estonian and Shane McFaul who was with Pat’s. It is easier that we speak English. I’m not sure the boys understand some of the bad language I throw into the pre-match huddle; I think it goes over their head!”

Not only does Robinson captain the club’s senior team but he also coaches one of the youth teams at Haka. “We train in the morning and I train the kids in the afternoon. I coach the year younger than the reserve team. I work with boys born in 1996, it is a national league and a good standard.

“Over here I’ve so much time as my girlfriend works in Dublin and only gets over once a month. We train at 10 in the morning and I wanted to something else to do. I’ve my UEFA B badge. I really enjoy it and I didn’t think I would half as much. You can see why people do get the bug. There is an enjoyment seeing effectively your team playing the way you want them to play.”

Last season, Robinson helped Shamrock Rovers out with some scouting when Rovers drew the Estonian champions in Europe. Robinson produced a comprehensive dossier on FC Flora Tallinn who play a short ferry ride south of Finland. When Rovers travelled to Estonia, Robinson travelled over to help with the pre-match preparations.

“I got on very well with Michael (O’Neill) even though he released me at the end of the previous season. I had great respect for him and he had respect for me and that is why he asked me to do it. It was nice to help in anyway I could. Michael was thorough in his preparations and he couldn’t make Flora’s league match as Rovers were playing Bohs. So I went over and tried to do my best. I got a bit of stick from the boys like Ricer and Twiggy though. They were expecting a 30 minute chat before the game and Ricer said that it seemed like four hours later they got out!”

Robinson keeps an eye on Rovers over the Internet and was disappointed as any fan with the Hoops’ early European exit. “I watch most of the live streams that are there. I’m as big a supporter as anyone really. It was very disappointing to see the results in Europe after last year’s progress. When you look back at where we were 10 years ago though and where we are now, we are in a much better position. I know for a fact that we will get the act together. It was a good win in Derry. Things will definitely be better for the end of season.”

Article from Hoops Scene 15/2012 (Shamrock Rovers v Sligo Rovers – 13 August 2012)

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