Liverpool and Brighton striker who became a popular broadcaster in Spain

Tuesday June 09 2020, The Times

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The Duke of Wellington may have liberated northern Spain from Napoleon, and George Orwell, Laurie Lee and WH Auden may have fought in the Spanish Civil War, but ask most Spaniards today to name the first Englishman that comes into their head and the chances are they would say Michael Robinson.

In so far as Robinson, a bluff broadcaster from Blackpool, was known in his native land it was as a professional football player. In the 1970s and 1980s he played at centre forward for Preston North End, Manchester City, Liverpool, Brighton and Hove Albion, QPR and finally Osasuna, a struggling club in the north of Spain. He played 24 times for Ireland and won the league and the European Cup with Liverpool, the team he supported as a boy where he was overshadowed as a player by the likes of Kenny Dalglish, Ian Rush and Graham Souness.

Born in Leicester in 1958, Michael John Robinson was raised in Blackpool where his father, Arthur, returned after fighting as a commando in the Second World War. Robinson moved to Spain on January 6, 1987, and like Cortés on setting foot in Mexico, had trouble with the language. All he knew when he landed at Bilbao airport was “Hola”, “Cerveza, por favor” and “Uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco”.

Seeing that a battalion of journalists was awaiting him, he asked the flight attendant how to say “i don´t understand” in Spanish. Robinson cut his way through the throng repeating over and over, “No entiendo”.

It would not have crossed his mind then that he would remain in Spain for the rest of his life, much less would he have imagined ending up as one of the country´s most recognised media personalities.

A bon vivant ant tireless raconteur, he was a tall, broad man who thrived on company, food and drink; he took to the Spanish way of life and the Spanish way of life took him. Upon hanging up his boots in 1989 he moved to Madrid and got a job as a football pundit on Spanish television. Two years later he shot to stardom as the presenter of the most popular football TV programme in Spain, El día después (The Day After), which he hosted until 2005. Analytical and irreverent, insightful and funny, the programme´s identity reflected his own. He was as warm and natural in front of the cameras as he was holding up the bar with his friends.

He partnered the match commentator at the most electrifying live games, analysing the unfolding action. He had his own sports programme on Spains´s biggest radio station, Cadena Ser, and appeared weekly as a panellist on a current affairs show..

He was married to Christine (née Sharrock), who survives him with his children Liam, who works in television production in Madrid, and Aimée, who works in public relations in Australia.

Robinson was endlessly curious and spoke with equal energy and intelligence on Lionel Messi, Pep Guardiola, Nelson Mandela and Catalan independence. He saw humour in nearly everything, poking fun at the vanity and imbecility of mankind, qualities he did not shy away for identifying in politicians. He undermined Spanish stereotypes of the English as cold and repressed. Unembarrased by the clumsiness of his Spanish, almost rejoicing in it, he splashed his speech with local idioms (“that guy touches my cojones” would be one).

By the time of his death, his fame rivalled that of Spains´s greatest native sportsmen. On his way back from lunch with Seve Ballesteros, the Spanish golfer, six people stopped them to ask for Robinson´s autograph. He delighted in the fact that only one stopped Ballesteros.

Michael Robinson, footballer and pundit, was born on July 12, 1958. He died of skin cancer on April 28, 2020, aged 61

Photo: Michael Robinson, won the league and the European Cup with Liverpool ⎟ PETER ROBINSON/PA