JACK Robinson must be one of the most frustrated – yet cheerful – characters at the Harlington training ground.
The 23 year-old has endured a torrid time with injuries over the past 18 months. Having joined QPR from Liverpool in the summer of 2014, he was enjoying a successful loan spell at Huddersfield when he suffered a knee injury in March 2015.
Having made 31 appearances for the Terriers, a chondral defect to his right knee sidelined Robinson for more than a year.
He worked hard to return, and made his long-awaited QPR debut in our 2-1 home win over Charlton Athletic towards the end of last season.
Incredibly, the Liverpool youth product’s performance was so impressive that he was voted by the fans as their man of the match.
Six months on from that moment, he is yet to make his second competitive appearance for the R’s.
“It has been so frustrating,” Robinson told www.qpr.co.uk.
“I finished the season strong. There were no problems, but we didn’t need to push anything. I got that 90 minutes out of the way and in everyone’s eyes it made sense to end the season with that, and be ready to really go for it this year.
“I came back for pre-season and started off perfectly, no problems.
“But then I started to get really bad shin splints, which just got worse and worse. I tried to play through it, but in the end I had to see a specialist and it got to the point where it was leading to a stress fracture.
“We had to let that settle down and then, when I was working my way back from that, I tweaked me knee.”
Robinson would be forgiven for feeling down on himself, but there isn’t an ounce of self-pity as he talks at the Harlington training ground, just a determination to do all he can to put his injury problems behind him.
“I worked so hard to get to that point last season where I made my debut, and I thought I would just push on from there,” he said. “It hasn’t worked like that, but that’s football.
“Sometimes you have set-backs. That’s life.
“In the end, I sat down and thought about what I needed to do, what I needed to change in my life that would help me get fit and keep fit.
“I’ve changed everything – my diet, my mental approach to training, how I train, the lot.”
After making a steady return to training earlier this month, it’s been a case of ‘so far, so good,’ for the defender.
“Over the last two weeks I have gradually been re-introduced to training with the lads,” he explained. “It started with 30 minutes, then 35 minutes, 40 minutes and so on. I am now up to an hour of training.
Known as a tough tackler, have Robinson’s team-mates been going easy on him?
“To begin with there was a bit of that as I was gradually returning to it but now I’ve pushed on, there isn’t the need for it,” he said.
“I was getting on the lads sharp today and I certainly wasn’t pulling any tackles, and I wouldn’t want them to pull out either.
“If I was to go into a game, no-one will be pulling out of any tackles, so I need to have that in training.
“Within the next two weeks I should be back to full training, and then if I can get a couple of Under 23 games in me, I should be available for the first-team squad.”
Once he overcomes that hurdle, Robinson’s next target will be to break into Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s starting line-up.
And with resident left-back Jake Bidwell now a regular in the treatment room, Robinson certainly believes there is an opportunity for him to do precisely that.
Bidwell, who was in excellent form for the R’s following his summer arrival from Brentford, suffered a dislocated shoulder during our 1-1 draw at Burton Albion a fortnight ago.
It’s an injury which is expected to keep him sidelined for between two and four months.
“It was an unlucky moment for him to pick up the injury in the way he did,” Robinson said.
“We are mates and you certainly don’t want to see any team-mate get injured.
“At the end of the day, I want to play ahead of him and he wants to play ahead of me. That’s just how it is in football.”