If the BBC can give Michael McIntyre a chat show, then we can do interviews too. Sort of. In the not too distant past, Boro’ midfielder-slash-forward Robin Shroot swapped England for Norway; making the move to IL Hødd. We asked him some questions, Robin answered them – a bit to our surprise. We haven’t editorialised this for two reasons – we don’t have the time and we don’t want to tell you what to think. These are his words as written. We hope you enjoy.
Let’s start at the beginning. Do you recall how your move to Stevenage came about? What were your first impressions of the club?
I signed for Stevenage after being released by Birmingham City at the end of my contract there. After staying fit during the summer, I received an invitation to train with Boro’ a couple of days before pre-season started, . I then embarked on what was a rather long trial period; four weeks if I remember rightly – signing a week or so before the season started. Of course, I had a positive impression of the club having just been promoted after their first season in the Football League. I remember a very friendly and happy Lindsay greeting me on my first day at the club, which is always nice!
Did you arrive at Boro’ with any particular ambitions/aspirations? And how did those change as your stay at the club continued?
I think my ambition in football has always been the same wherever I have played: to be the very best footballer I could be. And to realise the potential I knew I had, however long it took – while giving my best everyday. This serves not only yourself, but everyone around you well. If you are giving the best for yourself, ultimately you’ll only have a positive effect on everyone else.
Every moment in life is educational and that is how I have always viewed it. I gained good Football League experience in the first season; the FA Cup run that ended in defeat at Spurs; and then the playoffs. In the second season, I realised I could score goals given the chance; the third season, meanwhile, gave me a chance to learn huge lessons about myself when I wasn’t around first team football.
We’d just completed a second successive promotion when you joined – and that squad will go down as one of the club’s best. How much pressure did you feel coming into that fold?
I was joining a fairly unique squad. And one that’ll be difficult to recreate with any level of finance/group of players anywhere. I wouldn’t say I felt much pressure. It was more a willingness to do well and keep taking the club forwards after the success of recent years.
Your debut season was a hectic one – the FA Cup run, a change in management and the pain of the playoff defeat. What stood out for you as your personal highlight that season?
It’s easy to look at the things like the FA Cup and the playoffs as being unbelievable moments that you will always remember – as a fan or as a player. But, for me personally, it’s the period of being frozen out after the new manager came in. And again after a short run in the side after goals against Huddersfield and Exeter, before starting in the FA Cup away at Spurs. I then started against Sheffield United in the league after not playing for nearly two months. That was probably one of the most exciting games anyone at Boro’ has ever seen?! So, strangely, it was probably during this period of not playing or even being involved that taught me so much and made me stay focused for whenever I was given a chance. Like I say, education is key!
We have an idea of what the togetherness was like after GW left for Preston that season. But, as a player, what was it like to be a part of?
With all the squad achieved together over the past couple of seasons, there was never going to be an issue with togetherness during this period. And it showed when we picked up vital wins during Mark Roberts‘ tenure.
And, with the arrival of Gary Smith, how did things compare and contrast from GW times?
It’s a difficult question to answer. Any manager taking over a team that had built up such momentum will always encounter challenges they may not have encountered before. Just look at David Moyes at Manchester United this season. Gary did exceptionally well to get us into the playoffs after so many draws in his early tenure. People had a negative perception of Stevenage teams. But you don’t get into the playoffs in the third tier by just beating teams up. I think Gary saw that we had the ability to play more than we were given credit for. And he encouraged us to do so slightly more from the back.
Into the second season and things had started so well, with us right up there in the early part of the season. Were there any particular reasons as to why things started to go so wrong?
We built up such a momentum in the first half of the season that we genuinely believed we could go all the way. We hadn’t played particularly well, but were getting results; always key if you want to go up. One thing then led to another, however, resulting in a huge loss of confidence. That obviously affected results in the second half of the season. We never thought we would get relegated though.
GS left in March 2013. What did you make of the decision and what was the feeling at the club at that time?
As a team, we were very disappointed when Gary announced after the Bury game he was leaving. Yes, we knew results were not going our way and performances hadn’t been the best. But we always felt we would turn it round eventually with the players and experience we had in the squad. Even with just the one more win that season following his departure, we were still clear from the relegation zone.
With GS gone, the candidate that everyone expected to see walk through the door next was GW. How did you/the squad feel in anticipation of his return?
No one truly knew what to think or what it was going to be like. But, as with everything in life, you have to be open-minded and see how things pan out. I suppose we thought the club had gone in a completely different direction. But the people making the decisions obviously thought we were in trouble and that something had to change.
You made quite a few appearances at the start of this season, but the team always seemed to change from one game to the next? How hard is it for a footballer with that uncertainty?
I never played regularly from the start in my time at Boro’. So, it’s difficult for me to answer that fully. But not knowing if you would be playing from one game to the next – or what position – always played on your mind. No matter whether you play or not, all any player wants is consistency and the belief of the manager. Even if you have one or two off games, you still want to stand a chance of playing the next game and getting a run in the team.
After the unfortunate error against Coventry, you didn’t play for Boro’ again. Do you think that mistake was held against you from that point?
It is really difficult to answer as I don’t like speaking negatively or incorrectly about things. The mistake against Coventry was perhaps the final straw for the manager with regards to myself. I don’t think he liked or, for want of putting it better, understood my views of football. That’s why I think, from that moment, he thought I was better away from the group. Maybe he thought my mistake justified his decision in not having me around any longer. But it wasn’t just me to be cast aside.
It soon seemed as if certain players were left out – yourself, Dani Lopez and others. What was your view of the situation? Was there ever a chance of getting back into the first team?
Again, it’s a tough question to answer. Myself, Dani Lopez, James Dunne, David Gray, Ben Chorley and Marcus Haber all had to train with the youth team. It became quite apparent to us all that we’d never play again. I think this again comes down to the way that we played – or wanted to play. And the manager maybe didn’t agree with that. My view on the situation? It is what it is. And you have to respect what the manager does. His decision is final.
I’ve seen a lot of strange things in football. But none are quite like when it became evident we were no longer wanted. The lengths that some went to try and force us to leave were somewhat strange. But again, I respect the way they wanted to do things and thank them for the huge opportunity they gave me at the club. I loved every single minute at Boro’ – no matter what happened.
How did the move to Norway come about? Did you have any interest in staying in England?
It had always been a huge ambition of mine to play abroad. I had the chance to train with a Norwegian Premier League side in January. This opened up my eyes to the fact I had to come and play abroad if I wanted to realise my potential. I had a fantastic week; though I couldn’t sign at Sarpsborg at the time, they recommended me to Hødd. They’d won the Norwegian FA Cup two years ago and played in the Europa League last season. I did have a couple of chances to stay in England. But, to be totally truthful, I’d had enough of English football and wanted to grasp the opportunity to move abroad.
What are your hopes now you’ve moved to Hødd?
To improve and enjoy my football as much as I possibly can. You play your best football when you are happy. I want to build a career in Europe and Norway is hugely progressive as a footballing nation. Just look at how well Mats Mohler Daehli is doing at Cardiff City. And the fact that Norway beat England 3-1 in the last U21 tournament!
How will you remember your time at Boro’?
I really hope people appreciate my honesty, because the last thing I want to do is upset people. The fans were genuinely one of the best, most supportive group of football fans and people (more importantly) I’ve ever met. I met so many wonderful people at the club – and know a lot of people on the terraces personally. I had opportunities to move on from Stevenage. But I didn’t because I genuinely thought I could be part of achieving promotion to the Championship. Maybe that’s because of the rapport I had with the fans and the fact I genuinely loved playing in front of them.
I felt loved and also felt they had confidence in me. That inspires you as a player, and makes you realise you have to try and reward the people that come through the doors to watch the games. I believe I’m quite different to your stereotypical footballer. I travelled back from games on the train with the fans. And I did my utmost best to make sure I showed my appreciation to them. I know sometimes people will always have negative opinions of you – that’s life –but I hope they know that I did my best and gave a sh*t every time I pulled on the shirt! It does upset me the way things ended, especially the incorrect reports. But that’s life – and it’s how you bounce back which determines how far you go.
If not your own, do you have any particular favourite songs from the fans?
Luke’s is the most creative song I’ve ever heard. We all used to sing it on the bench when the East Terrace started it up. “Your right back is terrified, Freeman‘s on fire….” – LMFAO! Whoever invented it, bravo you!
Do you have anything extra you’d like to say to the Boro’ fans?
I just hope what I said here comes close to portraying my genuine and sincere thank yous to the Boro’ faithful. I just hope they realise that I’ve never – and would never – say anything other than positive and loving things about them. Anything I’ve said that may question the ethics of the club is completely separate and unrelated to the wonderful and undoubted support the club has – home and away.
The fans are the most important people at any football club. It’s testimony to them that other groups of supporters and clubs around the country think so highly of them. I’m genuinely sorry if you feel that I ever pissed you off or fell short of what you expected of me as a person and as a player. But I’ll be back in the future on the terraces to support the Boro’ boys!! Good luck for next season!