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On the eve of his return to the Premier League, Robinson is looking at a big year ahead

Last year was a great year for Antonee Robinson, who helped lead Fulham to promotion and the United States through qualification. But next year will build on that with his return to the Premier League and a likely spot in the US team’s World Cup squad. ASN’s Brian Sciaretta spoke to Jedi about the past year while also looking at the great opportunities that await.

THROUGH

Brian Sciaretta


Posted

August 04, 2022

5:50 p.m

THE PREMIER LEAGUE SEASON begins this weekend and for Fulham the aim is simple – to get through the season and chart a new course for the club to survive as regular contenders in the English top flight. Antonee Robinson joined the club two years ago and featured in both relegation in 2021 and impressive promotion last season.

Robinson turns 25 this week and it’s going to be a pivotal year. The hopes are that unlike the previous two campaigns in the top flight, Fulham will find a way to survive in the Premier League. Then there’s the mid-season World Cup, which offers Robinson the opportunity not only to compete in the biggest tournament, but potentially to compete against the country where he was born and raised.

This Saturday Fulham have one of their most challenging opening games when they host Liverpool at Craven Cottage. But the team is optimistic going into the season and there is plenty of motivation for the group to set a new tone for the London-based club.

“Especially for the lads who stayed out of the season we were relegated it was a chance to redeem us and fight back and earn our way back into the Premier League,” Robinson told ASN. “I just think it means a little bit more – the fact that we took the team to the Premier League this time around. For me personally, being part of the fight for promotion makes me want to keep us in the Premier League where I feel we belong.

Robinson was a key part of Fulham’s promotion bid last season and it was certainly the most demanding season he has ever played. He made 33 starts in 36 games for Fulham last season and played 3,028 minutes. Combined with 13 World Cup qualifiers totaling 1060 minutes, Robinson played 4088 minutes for club and country in the 2021/22 season.

But last season Robinson also won for the first time. His career to date has been centered on Bolton, Wigan and Fulham and every season up until 2021/22 has been a relegation battle. Over the past year, Robinson has been able to participate in successful promotion and World Cup qualifying campaigns, scoring two goals for the US team.

“Last season, even though I was on a winning team, it was still just a really physically intense season,” said Robinson. “The championship has always been the same every year I’ve played. It was very difficult especially in the World Cup qualifiers but I came out the other side with about 50 games and good football at times, was pretty good with the national team and then was successful at Fulham. Overall it was a really good season to boost my confidence as well.”

All this means is raising the stakes for next season when Robinson plays in the Premier League and World Cup as opposed to the league and qualifying.

Looking at the lessons of Fulham’s 2020/21 relegation, he can recall certain games in great detail. That season Fulham lost their first six games, again struggling to survive but squandering late goals on defeats or draws towards the end.

“The vibe on the team feels pretty similar, to be honest,” said Robinson. “We are pursuing the same goal. It’s just a couple of different faces and it’s the guys who’ve been in that position before that have a glimpse into the experience of how it went last time to try and avoid the mistakes we got into fell last time.”

“A strong start would definitely help,” he continued. “Even if you take out the weak start last time out in the Premier League, we had it under control towards the end of the season. A few results along the way would have kept us safe – and we never capitalized. We went through a series of draws and losses. We just couldn’t win a game to save our lives. Like when we play Villa and throw the game away. We should have beaten teams like Leeds and Burnley who were around us. We have been punished. So going forward we know how important it is to have the mentality to see a game through. Things like that are going to be massive this year.”

During Robinson’s time at Fulham, one of the constants has been Tim Ream, who at the age of 34 has been instrumental in recent promotional efforts. Robinson is on good terms with Ream and the two Americans formed on the left side of Fulham’s backline last year. Ream was named to the league’s Team of the Season by the Professional Footballer’s Association.

It remains to be seen if Ream will be a consistent starter for Fulham in the Premier League but Ream is likely to see minutes this season and Robinson points out the St Louis native has an important role to play within the team that is developing also extends outside the field.

“As Tom Cairney was injured a lot last season, Tim was captain for most of the season,” Robinson said of Ream. “He’s started every game, which – for someone his age who starts every game in the league and does as well as he has – is honestly just incredible. He has a real calm on the ball and a warrior spirit. He fought, threw his head in tackles and got cut every week. Having that as one of your baseline players really lifts the team.

“Off the field he basically took over the duties of co-captain almost with Tom,” he added. “When it came down to talking to management, staff and things like that, trying to organize things off the field and making sure all the lads were happy and all the coaching staff were happy and we were working together – he’s been huge to us .”

In November, the Premier League is taking a break for the World Cup in a unique time frame. The World Cup will be a whole new experience for Robinson and the US team as DeAndre Yedlin is the only player recently crowned by the US team who has played at a World Cup.

Robinson senses the excitement of the players on the team but recognizes that the battle for squad spots remains competitive. Even with his strong commitment to qualifying last year, he doesn’t see himself in the Qatar ban category – but that’s a source of motivation for him.

“There are some guys on the team like Weston and Christian that everyone expects to leave when they’re fit,” said Robinson. “Then there are people who are fighting for places – from the lads who are in MLS and the others in the European teams like me who go into the season thinking I need to play at the highest level that I can ever played to make sure I’m on my plane to Qatar.”

But despite the competition, the team stays very close to the field. The players of the team are in regular contact with each other and connect things that sometimes go beyond football. For example, Robinson is one of four pianists in the player pool, along with Weston McKennie, Erik Palmer-Brown, and Konrad de la Fuente. Robinson proudly points out that he taught himself this skill in his teenage years by watching YouTube videos.

“The group at the last camp showed that we are all still on the same side of our plan,” he added. “I think everyone can see how brotherly the group is.”

After qualifying for the World Cup, the United States learned of their fate that they would be in a group with England and Iran, and it was later determined that Wales would be the last team added.

Now that the Premier League season is set to begin, the prospect of playing against the country he grew up in only makes it more exciting.

“It’s definitely a surreal feeling,” said Robinson. “My dream was to play in the World Cup one day, but I definitely didn’t dream of playing for the USA against England. It’s just something I couldn’t have written as a kid, so I’m hoping that if we go and put on the show that we can, I can make that dream come true. Play against England? Obviously I grew up here, have lived here all my life and all the family and friends who will be watching my game for me, of course, but just the excitement of having the connections on both sides is truly amazing. ”

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