Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Thu 11 October 2007

"Mr. Robinson - you're trying to excuse me..."

Consider this: England manager Steve McLaren is about to announce his starting line-ups for the upcoming Euro 2008 qualifiers against Estonia and Russia, and if yesterday's edition of The Guardian is anything to go by, he's set to stick with Paul Robinson in goal.

So what's your first reaction to hearing that? "Has McLaren gone crazy?" "Is he out of his mind?"

I must be honest, mine was a somewhat watered-down version of those comments but when you read about the reasoning behind the decision, it gives you cause to think.

McLaren realises that all players tend to go through a bad patch at some time or another. Strikers stop scoring goals and goalkeepers start making mistakes. It's just something that happens. Yet in order to restore the confidence in a player like Robinson and get him back to his former self, McLaren feels it's important to show understanding and faith in times of crisis. As a result, McLaren intends to stand by his man for the two upcoming qualifiers despite the murmurs of dissatisfaction coming from certain quarters.

Putting yourself in Robinson's shoes for a moment, you can imagine how heartening it must be to know that your manager hasn't just thrown you on the scrapheap after making a few mistakes in recent games. Your determination to do well (or at least better) would swell and any thoughts of diminishing capability would be cast aside going into the crucial games England are about to play.

Well done, then, Mr. McLaren. You've decided to get the best out of your goalkeeper by sticking with him rather than dropping him.

Is this the right thing to do, though? Putting your England fan's hat back on again (you can kick off Robinson's shoes at this point), wouldn't you rather see the Spurs keeper work through his current inconsistent spell at Spurs, or at best on the England training field rather than in an important qualifying match?

Another mistake like the one Robinson made in the game against Croatia last year could seriously jeopardise England's chances of making it to Austria and Switzerland in 2008. So is McLaren taking a big risk picking Paul Robinson for the starting XI on Saturday and next Wednesday and if he opted for an alternative goalkeeper, would they be any better? What are the alternatives?

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