Ben Robinson relishes being back at Cambridge City
Full-back blossoms in third spell at Lilywhites
After a fleeting look at the first team on his maiden spell at the club, Ben Robinson has come back to Cambridge City with a vengeance.
The 24-year-old full-back has become a staple member of the Lilywhites’ back four since moving to Westwood Road last October.
And it has marked a big turnaround for Robinson, who is in his third spell at the club.
Robinson was part of the old youth system at the club before it transferred to Cambridge United, and he went off to Haverhill Rovers.
But through his association with then reserve team manager Simon Youngs, he returned to play in the second string, helping them win the title.
Chances to make the step up were few and far between, though, and Robinson was eager to have a crack at playing higher up the pyramid.
“The ground was fantastic, everyone within the club was brilliant and it was a shame that I couldn’t quite break into the first-team set-up,” he said.
“In the invitation cup games we had when Gary [Roberts] was the first-team manager, we had a couple of opportunities and I travelled with the first team once for a league game but never really broke into the team as such.
“I decided I was ready to step up a little bit, so I left the reserves seeking first-team football at a higher level. Haverhill were at Step Five and I thought that was a good starting point as they were local to me.
“I played for Haverhill for a couple of years and I was lucky enough to be spotted to go a little bit higher and went over to Sudbury.”
Robinson was going through a difficult time at Sudbury, and was contacted by Robbie Nightingale while he was still manager at Soham Town Rangers to make the switch to Julius Martin Lane.
At the same time, then City boss Dan Gleeson also got in touch, asking Robinson to return to the club and he jumped at the chance. But within a month there was a managerial change at the Lilywhites, reuniting Robinson with Nightingale and coach Dave Theobald, who had been in the first team at City when he was in the reserves.
And that reinforces a strong connection to the club that runs throughout the first team, – including for Robinson, who is from Haverhill.
“You look at the squad and they are players from in and around Cambridge and are locally based,” he said. “Cambridge City is a big club in the area. For us so to play for Cambridge City and to win for Cambridge City does mean a lot to people.
“It’s a side that’s got great history and should be a lot higher than it is. To win games for Cambridge City and to represent Cambridge City is a big thing for a lot of the players.
“It’s a very enjoyable time to be at City and it’s exciting because from the lows of last year, it’s a very positive start to the season for us and everyone seems in that positive frame of mind.”
The profile of the squad means that it is likely they will grow together. Most of them are under 25, but they also have a few mature heads. “It’s a young squad, people tend to forget that,” said Robinson. “With the exception of the experience of Ian Miller and Mark Coulson at the back, there are not many players over the age of 24 or 25.
“It is a young squad that’s learning and if we can keep that squad together for the remainder of the season, then I am confident we will be up there.”
And if early-season signs are anything to go by, then City are certainly heading in the right direction. “We didn’t have the best of starts,” said Robinson. “I don’t know if the mentality was right in the players in terms of we thought it would be easier than it was.
“But I feel as if now we’re starting to gel together a little bit, starting to click. We’ve got a lot of pace out wide, getting the ball to our threats and creating lots of chances.
“There are a lot of people contributing. You’ve got the boys from the back who go up for the corners, you’ve got the wide men; goals from all over the park which is always nice to see in a team rather than relying on one or two people.”
Robinson played his part in sealing City’s 4-2 victory over Thame United on Saturday, crossing deep to the far post in the 66th minute for Lewis Wilson to head the final goal of the Evo-Stik League South, East Division clash at Westwood Road.
It was the only goal of the second half after a topsy-turvey first period in which Dan West gave Thame the lead after 11 minutes but Jordan Gent (19) and Ryan Sharman (23) gave City the edge. Parity was restored in the first minute of stoppage time when West struck, only for Ross Paterson to strike seconds later and make City the happier side at the interval.