Boo me if you want, unrepentant Wanderers coach tells jilted Jets fans
Western Sydney Wanderers coach Carl Robinson says jilted Newcastle Jets fans are entitled to boo him if they want — but the ones who know the full story behind his sudden departure from the club are already trying to arrange catch-ups.
Warmly embraced by Jets fans after a brief but impressive stint in charge last season, Robinson will return to McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday night, this time as the clear villain in their eyes.
Carl Robinson will face the Newcastle Jets on Friday night for the first time since leaving them high and dry on the eve of the A-League season.Credit:Getty
The Welshman walked out on the troubled club three months ago, gutting their football program by bringing his assistant coach Kenny Miller and, eventually, star forward Bernie Ibini with him.
He has also reportedly lured key midfielder Steven Ugarkovic to the Wanderers next season, adding to the bad blood that has pooled since his shock exit, which left Newcastle high and dry on the eve of the new A-League campaign.
"Hopefully after this game I can actually draw a line under it," Robinson said on Wednesday.
"I was there for 11 games, I wasn't there for three years. I think it's a good story because I left but there's reasons why I left … my reasons, personal reasons, that I won't go into.
"It takes a big man to walk away and not say anything. It's easy to react. I don't do that. I have respect for them, I had respect when I was there, and now my job is firmly focused on Western Sydney.
Bernie Ibini and then-Jets coach Carl Robinson, whom he followed to the Western Sydney Wanderers.Credit:Getty
"I don't know what [the fans are] going to do … But people who know me, know the situation. Well, I don't think they'll boo, because they already want to try and meet up with me."
Ibini can also expect a hostile reception whenever he's on the ball, having been accused by Jets chief executive Lawrie McKinna of “taking the piss” by using mental health issues as an “excuse” to get out of his contract after Robinson’s departure. Ibini denied those allegations and McKinna has since posted a formal apology on Twitter.
"I haven't spoken to him about him going back. I don't need to do that," Robinson said. "He's a seasoned pro … he'll control it how he wants to control it. I know that he'll have a big impact on the game because he's a really good player."
Robinson cited Newcastle's ownership concerns as one of the reasons he left when he was unveiled by the Wanderers, and said he was pleased to see that a consortium of rival A-League clubs — including Western Sydney — have committed to bankrolling the Jets after ex-chairman Martin Lee's licence was stripped by Football Australia and the Australian Professional Leagues.
The club has offered $10 tickets for adults and $5 for juniors on Friday night as a gesture of goodwill to mark Newcastle's fresh start, although the stadium will be operating at only 50 per cent capacity.
"It was important they got help, and they did," Robinson said.
"Our chairman's been involved with that, very pleased that they've been able to do that so they survive. Even if they want to boo me, they can. It's important that [we] look after our own.
"Life in general's about helping people. If you don't want to help people then you're not really a good person, for me."
Meanwhile, Robinson admitted that new signing Jordon Mutch had "lost his way" over the past two years but backed the former Premier League midfielder to get his bearings again at the Wanderers.
Mutch is due to link up with the red and black at the end of the month, having penned a contract for the remainder of the season in the hopes of earning a longer-term deal.
The 29-year-old is best known for his time at Cardiff City in the English top flight but also played alongside Ibini and under Robinson at Vancouver Whitecaps in 2018.
However, Mutch has only played a total of nine senior league appearances in the past two years at clubs in Korea and Norway.
"It was a no-brainer for us to bring him in. He's got quality. He did very well for me," Robinson said.
"It's a short-term deal for him to come and enjoy his football. He wants to come and work with me. He's probably lost his way a little bit … [but] you don't become a bad player overnight.
"He probably had his most enjoyable time in football when he was working with me, even though he was at a Premier League club, which might tell you something."
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