This interview appeared in the matchday programme last night and is reproduced by kind permission of Lincoln City. To avoid missing the excellent interviews every week, make sure you buy your copies of the programme in advance by clicking here.
21-year-old midfielder Robbie Gotts was in the headlines over the summer, with almost quarter of League One clubs coveting his signature.
The Leeds United youngster eventually came here, to the LNER Stadium, where he is settling in nicely, as he told Gary Hutchinson over the weekend.
“It is the first time I have lived away from home so I had to get the cookbooks out quite a bit,” he said. “The club have been good to me to be fair, there are player houses in a village just outside the city, 20 minutes from training and five from the stadium which is nice. Even people in the village were messaging me, saying ‘if you need anything, we’re here’, which was nice. It just goes to show how good the fans are, I just can’t wait to get them back in the stadium because I’ve heard all about them.
“I got put in the house with Alex Bradley, who went out on loan, so the captain Liam Bridcutt comes and stays a couple of nights which is good so I have some company. I’ve got neighbours which are three other players, all similar age to me and they helped me settle in too. I even got an invite from next door one night and they cooked me up a Spaghetti Bolognese which was nice, I just need to repay the favour.”
Having the captain and leader stay might be daunting for most young players, but with his Leeds connections, it is a real treat for an aspiring future Leeds regular.
“I’m a Leeds fan, when you’ve been there since the age of six you can’t go with another club, you’d get battered for supporting another club. When I first met him, with him having played for Leeds, it was instant respect. I was just asking him for stories from his time at Leeds, and about his other clubs, because he’s played right up there.
“He’s a great leader and a really important influence on the team, he holds us together and if we’re going through a bad patch, he helps pull us up back up.”
Robbie has had to bide his time for chances, spending time on the bench before forcing his way into Michael’s plans, but he has nonetheless been impressed with the standards, both on and off the field.
“When I arrived, we were playing teams off the park and it was nice to watch, but the test is when you are not playing so well, like Swindon last week. It was a tough game, but I think at the end, all the lads felt we deserved to win. Sometimes, when the game isn’t going your way, they’re the best ones to win. So, when you dig deep and show a bit of character and defend the box, then you do well and I think we did that against Swindon.
“We have a good squad, a good togetherness, and we all know our roles and what we need to do to win a game. Even when I first arrived, it was good to see the high standards in training, not only on the pitch but off it too. It showed the fine margins in football, and for me, watching on, I just wanted to learn. It was daunting, thinking ‘how am I going to get into this side?’ but I just stuck at it, trained hard and waited for my chance.”
Robbie was a coveted player over the summer, but the speculation and intense battle for his signature wasn’t something that came with pressure, as the down-to-earth youngster revealed.
“I feel like when it came to it, I was grateful to be going out on loan. I just wanted to kickstart my career for want of a better word, to take it to the next level, and Lincoln was the perfect place to come and learn. When you play games, you get better, it’s like anything, you get better by doing it. There was no pressure really, I just wanted to get out and learn.”
Much of the speculation around Robbie’s future came on social media, a platform on which players are judged, criticised and praised constantly. As a young player, feels it best not to pay too much attention to what is being written or said about him, advice he also offers other players.
“I try not to look. I think everyone tries their best to blank stuff out. The trouble is, there are people giving an opinion on the game who don’t really know about the game. Of course, everyone is a bit curious to see what people’s opinions of them are, but the advice I always try to give is to not look at it, because I don’t think it is that good for you.”
What has been good for him, certainly over the past two years, is the environment at Leeds United as a key part of their respected Under 23 setup. It has produced quality players for many years now and Robbie has a few theories as to why that might be.
“I think it is the fact the 23s basically train with the first team every day. You do the same training as the first team, with the same intensity. We do this game called Murder Ball, on a Wednesday that’s just chaos, 11 v 11, man to man on a full-size pitch. You just need to sprint about and if you’re not sprinting you can’t do it. Also, working against the first team and seeing how structured they are too, as a team. You feel like you can’t do anything against them, especially in tight areas, but it becomes useful when you go into a game, as well as with the fitness levels.”
Fitness levels are certainly something that Gotts has in abundance, having been making gut-busting runs deep into last week’s game against Swindon, and he believes that could be down to the change Marcelo Bielsa made when he arrived at Leeds.
“Intense, if I had to explain Leeds change under the gaffer in one word. It is just different at Leeds, for instance here we do a lot of small-sided games, which I wasn’t really used to. I haven’t done on of those in a couple of years. When the gaffer came in at Leeds, we stopped doing all that. It is interesting, looking at what we did on the training pitch at Leeds and then how it comes into play into games. We used to do a lot of game-specific stuff, passing, and moving, defending when you’re off balance and stuff like that, which is really good to watch and be involved in.”
For now, the young midfielder-cum-defender is just content to be involved in our successful start to the season and will be keen to get more minutes on the field as we return to action against Wigan Athletic this evening.