Robinson TFC's top priority

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:52 AM ET

Toronto FC coach John Carver's off-season priority is to get the best 11-man unit available on the pitch for the 2009 Major League Soccer season at BMO Field.

And yesterday he said the first step in that direction is to attempt to convince Welsh international Carl Robinson to stay on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Robinson, who is universally accepted as the top defensive midfielder in the league, has been getting calls from English clubs to bring his talents back home.

The pressure on the 32-year-old Robinson to go back to where big money soccer is the rule began with his appearances in World Cup qualifiers for Wales this past summer, picking up his 50th cap.

"He's back on the radar for a lot of clubs over there," Carver said. "But it is my intention to get his name on a contract for TFC next season."

Carver, knows however, that if it becomes a war of chequebooks, TFC has little chance to retain Robinson's services.

Robinson already is among the best paid players on the team at $330,000 U.S. a season, but he could easily double or triple that playing in the English Premier League or even the tier 2 League Championship next year.

While he has steadfastly kept to the mantra that he loves playing in Toronto, Robinson is, above all else, a family man who takes his responsibilities as a father and husband very seriously.

"It's not just about an individual decision or selfish decision from me -- it's a family decision," Robinson told CBC Sports. "I love (Toronto). But I have to do what's right for my family."

What brought Robinson to Canada in the first place was that the pressure of playing in England often outweighed the rewards.

He said that he had lost much of his desire for soccer in his final year in the EPL with Sunderland and that was a key to his coming to TFC in 2007 in the first place.

Being in North America the past two season has rekindled his love for the beautiful game, he said.

And that has been reflected in his play for Wales. He admitted in a column he penned last week for his hometown County Times newspaper after he made his 50th appearance in a game against Liechtenstein, that he is feeling the tug of home.

"I had a great big smile on my face as I entered the game," Robinson said. "A boy from Llandrindod Wells was going to win his 50th cap for his country. What a feeling.

"I got my jersey signed by all the lads as well as the match ball, which I will cherish," he said.

Saturday's season finale against the Earthquakes in San Jose, could, therefore, be Robinson's last game for TFC, but Carver is hoping that he can make the midfielder see the advantages of staying put.

"People look at Robo and see a defensive midfielder but he brings way more than that," Carver said. "He's a leader on the pitch and in the locker room."


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