Cult hero Mark Robinson gave Whitby Town fans lots of happy memories
Two escapes from relegation, a near play-off campaign or two and a number of great memories along the way.
This week brought the news that a Whitby Town cult hero and former captain, Mark Robinson, would be retiring from football aged 40.
Robbo – a former professional with Hartlepool United, Hereford United and Stockport County among others – became a hero for the Blues with his natural leader qualities displayed over a number of seasons and two spells with the club.
Before joining the Blues he also turned out for the England National Game XI team in the Four Nations Tournament in May 2005.
He was capped three times by the side, playing in matches against the Republic of Ireland, Wales and Scotland, scoring once.
Originally he arrived at the Turnbull Ground in July 2010, signing from Gainsborough Trinity for Harry Dunn, though made just a handful of appearances – six in total – before returning to Trinity.
He would return to the club, however, the following season under Tommy Cassidy, with future manager Darren Williams joining alongside him.
His second debut for the club would come away from home – a 1-1 draw at Chasetown, with the first goal coming from the penalty spot a few weeks later in the 2-1 defeat at Kendal Town.
That season proved to be a struggle early doors for the Seasiders, despite a mix of experience and young talent.
Ultimately, a poor run would cost Cassidy his job, with Darren Williams taking charge.
Changes were made and battle-hardened non-league winners were brought in to turn the tide around. Robinson wore the armband, and the club were on operation Great Escape.
Every week, the Blues’ skipper was leading. Every single week, not missing a single game as teams at the top were shook to the core - Chorley and Northwich being particularly rattled - and Whitby went on an incredible run which saw them, with two games left, needing at least four points to completely ensure safety.
Survival was completed in the final two games – a mad 48 hours in Derbyshire, a 4-2 win at Matlock followed up by a 1-0 win at Buxton. Williams, Robinson and their men had made it.
They’d completed the great escape – without Robinson missing a single game, a feat yet to be repeated by an outfield player since.
The following season, he nearly achieved the feat for a second season running, making 48 appearances – one sub appearance meaning he didn’t quite manage the full 49. Close enough though!
That season would see him make his 100th appearance, though in a game to forget – a 4-0 thumping by a young Ilkeston side who played most of their game with an outfield player between the sticks.
The memories of the following season, though, would go some way to be forgotten, with Darren Williams and David Campbell building the strongest Whitby Town squad for a number of years.
The Blues would go on to finish ninth in the Northern Premier League that campaign – Robinson making a further 50 appearances for a Whitby side who would do the double over FC United of Manchester – a team they had never beaten in the six years of playing against them – and Blyth Spartans, one being a famous 7-0 win at Croft Park, and the other coming courtesy of a late Graeme Armstrong winner at the cliff end of the ground to cause pandemonium in the stands.
The following season was somewhat more difficult for Whitby. With the squad of the previous season breaking up and a number of players moving on to pastures new, Whitby found themselves flirting with the bottom end of the table towards the back end of the campaign.
It would be the season Robinson made his 200th Blues appearance – a 2-1 away defeat at Nantwich, and the season he’d score his final Seasiders goal – a last minute equaliser at Halesowen Town in a 3-3 draw, assisted by Jamie Clarke.
It was back to familiar territory the following season, with Whitby struggling in the early stages of the campaign after succumbing to several late goals, leading to Williams and Campbell departing the club, and Chris Hardy joining from Guisborough Town.
Robinson again rallied players on the field to survival however, with a number of vital wins keeping the Seasiders in the division – ultimately a 2-1 win over Barwell securing safety.
Along the way, however, wins such as a 4-1 hammering at Colwyn Bay on a Tuesday night – a game that Robinson picked out as one of his favourites at the club – ensured that the job would be done.
In 2016/17, Robinson found playing time harder to come by, though found his new role as first-team coach, assisting Hardy and Lee Bullock in the running of first-team matters – and things could hardly have gone better for the Blues’ management team.
A rampant start saw Whitby fly to the top of the division early on, and maintain a play-off push, that was only to be proved impossible to achieve with a game remaining, following a 5-1 defeat at Blyth ensuring only a massive goal swing and a number of results going in their favour could get Whitby a top five place.
The club would taste success, however, winning the North Riding FA Senior Cup final at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium with a 3-1 victory over Pickering Town.
At the end of that season, Robinson would find himself moving on to pastures new, keeping the promise he made to himself at the start of his career – to finish his career with Guisborough Town – his hometown club.
In total, Robinson made 273 appearances for the Seasiders, netting ten goals, on the way to becoming a cult hero at the Turnbull Ground for his rapport with supporters, never say die attitude and class on the pitch.
Robinson’s presence was always felt too, on account of incredible fitness levels that saw him rarely off the pitch. If there was anyone to mould yourself on as a player, it was Mark Robinson.
High standards on and off the field that saw him forge a Football League career early on, and a long one that allowed him to finish at his hometown club later down the line.