Rocky Robinson puts pressure on Jol and England

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The Independent Online

Martin Jol and Steve McClaren still have faith in him, but the managers of Tottenham Hotspur and England may be starting to wonder how much longer they can tolerate Paul Robinson's mistakes.

The 27-year-old goalkeeper has dropped a number of clangers since he failed to make contact with Gary Neville's back pass in the Euro 2008 qualifier against Croatia 12 months ago and his latest blunder will have done little to help his beleaguered club manager's cause.

Jol, whose position has been under threat all season, watched powerless on the touchline as Robinson's failure to hold Gareth Barry's 22nd-minute cross helped change the course of Monday night's Premier League match against Aston Villa at White Hart Lane.

Martin Laursen stabbed home the loose ball, cancelling out Dimitar Berbatov's strike during Tottenham's high-tempo start, and three more Villa goals followed in the next 36 minutes before Jol's men staged their own comeback, scoring three times in the last 22 minutes to force an epic 4-4 draw.

Jol, perhaps generously, refused to blame his goalkeeper for the second goal, when Laursen scored again after Zat Knight had got on the end of another Barry cross, but he said Robinson had apologised for the first. "He said: 'It was my mistake, I hold my hands up, sorry'," Jol said. "But his confidence is fine."

McClaren will be among those hoping Jol is right, for England can ill afford a repeat of the errors Robinson made in Zagreb last October and against Germany this summer when they take on Estonia and Russia later this month in games vital to their hopes of qualification for next summer's finals.

The England manager included the 37-year-old David James in his last squad, but the Portsmouth veteran showed in Saturday's 7-4 victory over Reading that his own blundering days are not behind him. The third goalkeeper in McClaren's party last month was Scott Carson, who is currently on loan to Villa from Liverpool and is seen, along with Manchester United's Ben Foster, as the best hope for the future.

To compound Jol's problems, Robinson's errors have come at a time when the rest of the Spurs defence is missing the reassuring influence of Ledley King, who is still some weeks away from a return after knee surgery.

In Younes Kaboul, Matthew Dawson and Gareth Bale, Spurs have defenders of great potential, but Jol admitted his team were suffering from a lack of leadership on the pitch.

Villa's other goals should also concern the Tottenham manager. Gabriel Agbonlahor evaded Dawson's challenge to score the third, and Jol was not happy with the defensive wall when Craig Gardner hit the fourth from a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area. "Of the last nine goals we've conceded, six have been from set-pieces," Jol said.

Tottenham are still in the Premier League relegation zone, having won only once all season, and visit Liverpool and Newcastle in their next two matches. Monday's draw, on a night of lavish celebrations to mark the club's 125th birthday, will have done little to strengthen Jol's case, though the way the players mobbed him after Kaboul's injury-time equaliser was a clear statement of their backing.

"He had the support from everyone," Robbie Keane, the captain, said. "He's shown what a good manager he is over the past couple of years."

While Robinson appears to be playing his way out of the England side, Barry will almost certainly retain his place. The England manager, Steve McClaren, dropped a clear hint that the midfielder will retain his place for next week's game agtainst Estonia after his displays against Israel and Russia.

"I was not surprised at how well he responded," McClaren said. "I saw bits of it when we called him into the squad last summer and when he played in the B international against Albania. I have seen it at club level in his performances and I have seen him in training, when he and Steven Gerrard look comfortable.

"I had no hesitation in playing them together. They regard each other as good friends and it shows. They play like good friends. When you look at teams, you have pairings – and they have to be a good pairing."

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