Retro game: Preston 2 Sheffield United 2 - two goals for Michael Robinson and the visit of an Argentinian midfielder to Deepdale

Preston North End’s draw with Sheffield United at Deepdale early in the 1978/79 season saw Michael Robinson twice on target for the Lilywhites.

By Dave Seddon
Wednesday, 29th April 2020, 11:45 am
Michael Robinson challenges in the air in Preston North End's 2-2 draw with Sheffield United at Deepdale in August 1978
Michael Robinson challenges in the air in Preston North End's 2-2 draw with Sheffield United at Deepdale in August 1978

Robinson passed away on Tuesday at the age of 61 in Spain, having been diagnosed with malignant melanoma a few years ago.

It was at North End where Robinson kicked-off a career which was to see him go on to win a league title medal with Liverpool in 1984 and the European Cup in the same season.

Robinson had got a run in PNE’s first-team towards the end of the 1977/78 campaign, which saw them promoted.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Michael Robinson scores Preston North End's second equaliser against Sheffield United at Deepdale in August 1978

That had seen him play in a three-man attack with Alex Bruce and Mike Elwiss.

When Elwiss was sold to Crystal Palace for £250,000 in the wake of promotion, Robinson was given the job of partnering Bruce for the 1978/79 season.

North End started life in the Second Division very well, knocking Huddersfield out of the League Cup over two legs and then drawing 2-2 at Cardiff on the opening day of the league season.

They beat Blackburn 4-1 at Deepdale, then came the visit of Sheffield United.

Michael Robinson sees a header tipped over the bar in Preston North End's draw with Sheffield United at Deepdale in August 1978

In the visitors side that afternoon was Alex Sabella, an Argentinian midfielder who had been signed that summer from River Plate.

The Blades had been interested in signing Diego Maradona, but finding him too expensive, made their move for Sabella.

Many years later, Sabella had a three-year spell as Argentina manager and took them to the 2014 World Cup final, where they were beaten by Germany.

Sabella’s talent stood out at Deepdale that hot August afternoon, but so too did Robinson.

Both players got on the scoresheet, Robinson with PNE’s two goals and Sabella with United’s second.

North End boss Nobby Stiles had to put out a rather mix-and-match side for this clash.

Regulars John McMahon, Gordon Coleman and Danny Cameron were out injured.

Sean Haslegrave played as an emergency right-back, with Alan Spavin drafted in to play in midfield – this was right at the end of Spavin’s second spell at PNE.

Sabella had two early chances for the visitors, with Ricky Thomson missing a decent opportunity for the Lilywhites.

Simon Stainrod, on as an early substitute, gave United a 31st minute lead with a shot which beat Roy Tunks.

PNE equalised within nine minutes, Robinson bringing the ball down on the edge of the box and driving home a superb shot.

In the 65th minute, Sabella restored the Blades’ advantage.

However, back came PNE again and Robinson got his second goal of the contest with 72 minutes on the clock.

Substitute Eric Potts sent over a corner which Bruce flicked on, Robinson meeting it with a diving header at the far post which flew into the net to the delight of most in a 13,208 crowd.

PNE: Tunks, Haslegrave, Baxter, Cross, Wilson, Spavin, Burns, Doyle, Thomson (Potts), Robinson, Bruce.