Robinson king of the Millers loanees

The Football League recently asked Twitter for each club’s supporters to name their best ever loan player and for Rotherham there can only be one man who gets that accolade. 

Of course, legend Alan Lee first came to the club on loan, but he achieved much more when he was a permanent player, and more recently Nouha Dicko excelled, but he did so over a much shorter period than my choice. Step forward Carl Robinson.

Never has one man had such an effect on a team as Robinson did during his temporary stay at the Millers in 2003/04.

Ronnie Moore’s men were floundering in Division One after a terrible start where they won just one game from their opening seven – the famous 1-0 success over West Ham.

That victory had also provided the only goal as after the sale of Lee, the Millers were totally blunt in attack.

The embarrassing 5-0 defeat at Sheffield United in mid-September prompted Ronnie into action in the transfer market and he brought in Robinson on a three-month loan which was heavily funded by the south-coast club.

The midfielder made his debut in the 4-1 defeat at Preston – where he helped his new club to finally end their goal drought – but things got much better after that as he seemed to single-handedly turn the season around.

Carl Robinson even made polo necks cool!


The Millers made a mockery of their early-season form by losing only two of their next 14 games while the Wales international was at the club and that was no coincidence.

Rotherham had never seen such quality in their midfield before. Robinson’s arrival highlighted how well Ronnie’s side had been doing to be competing in the second tier with players – with the greatest of respect – who were perhaps playing above their level.

He was a cool customer on the ball, never panicking if he was being pressed in possession. He could pick a pass out that no one else would see and his set-piece deliveries had Martin Butler, Chris Swailes and Martin McIntosh licking their lips.

But one of his most important qualities that maybe went unnoticed was his ability to turn defence into attack with one clever ball.

Robinson could ease pressure with a precise pass down the channels for the lively Darren Byfield to chase, often forcing the opposition defence into conceding a corner or throw-in in a position which Rob Scott or Shaun Barker could easily reach the six-yard box from.

That was a particular forte in the run of form in Robinson’s final six games at the club which yielded four wins and two draws.

Unfortunately the form of Robinson, who actually played against the Millers in the 1996 Auto Windscreens Trophy final, meant that he was never going to stay at Millmoor beyond his three-month stint and after a brief spell in Portsmouth’s side he went on to have loan stays at Sheffield United and Sunderland that season.

The Millers did miss him, but coped well without him as they went on to secure a 17th place position in Division One and ensure a fourth year in the second tier.

Robinson went on to better things and earned a permanent move to Sunderland before finishing his UK career at Norwich.

He moved stateside to play for Toronto FC and New York Red Bulls and he is now back in Canada as manager of Vancouver Whitecaps.

  • While we’re at it, there have been plenty of loan players at the club over recent seasons who certainly did not make the grade. The list is endless, especially under Andy Scott’s short tenureship, but special mentions must go out to the likes of Adem Poric, Julian Darby, Leandre Griffit, Ian Henderson, Che Wilson, Liam Henderson, Sam Wood, Joe Widdowson, Jordan Slew and Tom Elliott.

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