Martin MacMahon: Vancouver DP Robson says all the right things

The new designated player handled the media well in his introductory press conference, but the former Celtic man won't get to play until July 4 due to the transfer window.
VANCOUVER – Barry Robson said all the right things on Monday at BC Place.

The latest Vancouver Whitecaps signing told reporters at his introductory press conference that he didn’t expect to walk into the team. He even made a joke about how the team didn’t need him since they were in third place in the Western Conference already.

The Scotsman handled the media with ease, shrugging off hard-hitting questions relating to Vancouver’s annual precipitation by reminding more than one reporter about what part of the world he happens to hail from.

The former Middlesbrough man came off confident but modest, and didn’t touch on his technical qualities when asked to describe himself, instead focusing on his effort and work rate.

“I like to think I give 110 per cent,” Robson said on Monday. “That’s what I’ve built my life and career on. Those are principles you need to have in football. I’m not going to be brilliant every game, you’re not going to stand out every game but I can give you 110 percent and that’s all you can expect from any player.

“That’s what I’ve always built myself on and that’s what the players I’ve played with have expected. That’s what I expect from myself and I’m sure that what the coaches and managers and every single supporter expects. As long as you’re doing that, if you’re playing well, great, if not, as long as you’re giving everything there’s not much you can do.”

At the end of the day, what came off as modesty was in all reality polite humouring on the midfielder’s part. He didn’t come to Vancouver to sit on the bench, and he won’t if he’s fully fit. There may be a brief period of adjustment where he may not play 90 minutes every match, but if that does take place it will be just that – a brief period.

So the questions spring up – who will be the winners and losers within the squad? Of course, if the team improves with his addition – and there is little reason to believe it won’t – the official line will be that everybody is happy with the team’s improved fortunes.

Of course that’s hogwash; for when any team bolsters its lineup there are those who lose their place in a team or a squad.

The player who is likely to come under the most pressure with the former Celtic man’s arrival is John Thorrington. While Thorrington brings bite to the midfield, he doesn’t have the range of passing or set-piece ability which have defined Robson’s career.

When asked about Thorrington, his coach and teammates regularly cite his experience as a big reason for his selection – but with Robson’s achievements he should be able to slot in centrally and add his own veteran presence, meaning the team will improve technically without losing the composure that Thorrington is generally credited with bringing to midfield.

Gershon Koffie could on the surface of this move also potentially lose some playing time, but given his potential and his almost daily improvement and evolution, that seems unlikely.

Jun Marques Davidson is the third and deepest sitting central midfield starter, but his strict holding role won’t be under threat as Robson’s strengths lie more in the attacking side of the game.

As for losers deeper down the depth chart? Well, the club must do one of three things to come into compliance on the international player front. Currently the squad has 10 international slots, which are all occupied.

The club must trade for another international spot, jettison a current international player, or one of its international players must become a domestic player. It’s understood that the Whitecaps will opt for one of the first two options, and on the surface of things it’s hard to see any alternative than defender Michael Boxall moving on should he be unable to claim domestic status by June 27, when Robson officially joins the roster.


Given the New Zealand international centre back has yet to play a minute in any competition for the ‘Caps in 2012, it will be hard to justify his occupation of an international roster slot going forward.

That said, Robson’s arrival may be the catalyst for a more spectacular move, especially given the scant playing time stars Eric Hassli and Camilo have received in recent weeks.

As for the winners? Well, the forward group will benefit. Robson’s distribution and ability to dictate play in midfield will create more chances, and his set-piece prowess will give an increased threat from corners and dead ball situations anywhere outside the area, meaning there should be more goals to pick up from those central defenders and attackers capable of getting on the end of quality balls into the box.

Just how effective he’ll be will first be tested on July 4 as Vancouver takes on the Colorado Rapids on the road in the first match following the transfer window.

Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for Canada.