Fresh challenge spurs Robinson to new level

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The Independent Football

Twenty-four is no age for a goalkeeper, but until he moved to Tottenham Hotspur this summer Paul Robinson might have wondered where his career was going. His club, Leeds United, were falling as quickly as their debts were rising, while the large frame of David James stood in the way of his international ambitions.

The move to White Hart Lane, however, has reignited Robinson's career. Tottenham have defied expectations to climb to fifth place in the Premiership under Jacques Santini's management, while Robinson and his defence have conceded just three goals in eight matches.

Last month, moreover, Robinson was given his first start in a competitive England match, replacing James against Poland after the Manchester City man's error-strewn performance four days earlier against Austria. After his sound performance in Katowice it would be a surprise if he was not handed the jersey for the World Cup qualifiers against Wales at Old Trafford on Saturday and away to Azerbaijan next Wednesday.

"I'm playing as well as I have done for a long time," Robinson said. "It helps playing in a Tottenham team that's doing well. When I was at Leeds things weren't going right for us. When a goalkeeper has goals put past him every week it doesn't do your confidence any good and it doesn't look good for you.

"The move has given me a fresh start, a new challenge, new people to impress. I think it's given me that little push, that little step up that I needed. I'd been at Leeds since I was 14, seeing the same faces day in and day out. The move was just like a breath of fresh air."

Robinson learned of his selection for the Poland game at lunchtime on the day of the game. He had not been expecting the call, Sven Goran Eriksson having publicly backed James after the Vienna match, and was grateful to the man he replaced for his attitude and assistance.

"David was brilliant with me," Robinson said. "It's inevitably an awkward situation because you don't know how people are going to react, but before the game he came up to me, put his arm round me, wished me all the best and said: 'Good luck'. He asked me what I wanted him to do in the warm-up for me and he just made it a lot easier for me, knowing that things were OK between me and him. We get on really well. If the roles are reversed this week it shouldn't change anything."

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