'There's going to be a bit of emotion' - Robinson braced for hostile Jets return

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Carl Robinson is prepared for a spicy reception when he returns to face former club Newcastle on Friday evening, after departing the Jets in a blaze of acrimony 11 weeks ago.

As if defecting to take charge of A-League rivals Western Sydney Wanderers wasn’t inflammatory enough, the Welshman stands accused by the Jets faithful of luring Bernie Ibini to join him at Bankwest Stadium.

To complete Robinson’s metamorphosis from saviour to sinner, key midfielder Steven Ugarkovic has agreed terms to reunite with him at Wanderers next season.

“There’s going to be a little bit of emotion in the game and there should be, that’s what we want in the sport,” said Robinson of his return to the struggling club he led for just 11 games.

“But it’s also just another match for me.

“A lot has been written and a lot has been said but I haven’t said anything out of respect for the club. 

“Whenever I leave a club I don’t say too much because that’s how I’ve been brought up and how I think business should be conducted.

“I think, though, what’s happened over the last 48 hours (the Jets being saved from financial oblivion by a coalition of A-League club chiefs) will give people an understanding of the decision I made (in moving on).

“I had to make it for my family as well, not just for football reasons.”

The former Wales international has been in the game long enough - both as a player and coach - to know that whatever the mitigating factors, a significant number of Jets supporters won’t be in a forgiving mood.

“People will have their opinions and I respect that,” he added.

“I played for 12 different teams during my career and you gain respect by not saying too much when you leave because the truth always comes out, whether it takes a week, a month or years.

“Some people will change their minds about you and others won’t because they’ve made their minds up.

“But when you’ve played for both Sheffield clubs and Norwich and Wolves, and then Toronto, and you go on to manage Vancouver, there’s always going to be those (who give you a hot reception).

“The 10 months I was at the Jets - with a three-month break for COVID - was good.

“I worked with some good people and we got the best out of the team with some good results and good football.

“But the circumstances weren’t right (to remain long term).”

Jets fans may question Robinson’s loyalty but it’s a trait he inspires in others, with both Ibini - who previously played for him at Vancouver Whitecaps - and Ugarkovic willing to endure derision to follow him to Western Sydney.

He resists assertions of instigating those departures, in the case of Ugarkovic saying: “I can’t comment at players who are not at my club”.

Both the Jets and Wanderers suffered 1-0 opening round defeats, but Robinson is playing the long-game with a club he plans to lovingly restore to former glories.

“After three years of missing the playoffs there’s a desire by the supporters and the ownership to be successful again,” he said.

“But it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not likely you go from a ninth-placed team to the top spot straight away, although it’s possible.

“It takes work and you have to build to a point where you’re perennial contenders.

“Some teams do well for a year then drop by the wayside. We don’t want that to be us.

“I’m here to try and change the culture, environment and mentality of the club by setting the standard from the manager down.

“I’m all about bringing in players who mirror me as a professional.

“Over the next six months you’re going to see a totally different team to what you’re seeing now.

“We have a lot of players coming off contract and there’s a chance to put your stamp on things.

“This year was always going to be a work in progress. 

“It’s probably a three-year project - then you reset again.”