“WEIRDLY, I never missed playing. Even though I was so young, it so seamlessly went from my day job coaching and then to coaching adults.”

Before embarking on a successful managerial career, Dorchester Town boss Leigh Robinson patrolled the midfield for Baldock Town in the Dr Martens League Eastern Division.

Already a coach at the time, a bad knee injury curtailed Robinson’s ambitions as a player. It proved a firm jolt into the world of management.

“I was playing at the same sort of level (as Dorchester),” Robinson told Echosport.

“I had a bad knee injury and at the time my day job was coaching anyway in schools. I never really got back into playing.

“I found my way, quite young, 24, 25 moving into coaching and then management. I was a midfielder, but those days seem so long ago now.

“Weirdly, I never missed playing. Even though I was so young, it so seamlessly went from my day job coaching and then to coaching adults.”

After moving the width of the UK from the South East to the South West in 2003, Robinson settled and soon found himself at Wellington.

Introduced to the Tangerines by a mutual friend, Robinson landed the assistant job to Kevin Evans in the 2006/07 season.

“We were a club that hadn’t really done anything – a perennial bottom-half side in Western League Division One,” Robinson recalled.

“I spent a year there under Kevin, he left in the summer and I took over – I was only 26 at the time.”

Signs of Robinson’s talent as a manager soon exploded into life.

“I won the league in my first season, which Wellington had never done before,” he said.

“That took them up to the Western Premier where we then finished seventh on a tiny, tiny budget. Those were a couple of really, really good years.”

Robinson then joined former Dorchester boss Craig Laird as joint-manager at Bridgwater Town for the 2009/10 season.

After finishing third in Southern League Division One South (SLDOS), the Robins lost 4-3 in extra-time to Cirencester having led 3-2 with 10 minutes of normal time remaining.

It was a year before Robinson’s next job – his fabled time with Taunton.

“It was in a very different situation to what it is now. They were in the (SLDOS), they didn’t have a clubhouse because it had just been decimated by a fire,” he said.

“Crowds were down to 200-something. We had a really small budget and the first season was a struggle.

“At the start of the following season, we found a bit more money, raised the budget and made better signings.

“From then on, we just went up and up and up in terms of finishing in the play-offs, winning Somerset Premier Cups and then we got to the FA Cup first-round proper a few seasons after.

“We ended up getting promoted without losing a game – we lost one game but it didn’t count because Yate, who beat us, that game got taken off them for an ineligible player.

“It was magnificent to see Taunton go from where it was to crowds of 700.

“I was there for six seasons and pretty much we improved every season.”

By now, Robinson’s reputation had skyrocketed and Truro City soon came calling, dangling the carrot of National League South football in the 2018/19 campaign.

“At the time it was a real wrench to leave Taunton,” Robinson confessed.

“I wanted to manage in the (National League) South and I thought Taunton would have a good chance to get there, but not a guaranteed chance.

“At the time, they were in the same league as Weymouth and I thought it was going to be tough to beat them to the title – which did happen in the end.

“Everything at the time really fitted to go to Truro. They were playing at Torquay but as a manager that made things very attractive in terms of less travelling and attracting players to play at Plainmoor.

“Myself and Michael Meaker (assistant) went there and we were doing really well.

“We only had two points from eight games and by Christmas we were well clear of relegation and I had a Manager of the Month in November, which was nice.

“Then, the club dropped a bombshell and said we had to go back to Truro which neither myself or the players were expecting.

“It caused a lot of problems logistically and we lost a lot of players. It made things difficult because the (Treyew Road) ground was really underprepared.

“February time the club was taken over by the Cornish Pirates and they got rid of us when we were outside the relegation zone with six games to go.”

Sacking Robinson and Meaker proved a poor decision.

“They ended up getting relegated because the environment, as soon as we went back to Truro, the feeling was so different to Plainmoor,” Robinson said.

“(Paul Wilkinson) who took over couldn’t then rescue it because the environment became really unstable.

“It was a real learning curve for me that no matter what you do as a football manager in your job, if things are unstable off the pitch that will manifest itself on the pitch.

“That’s what we saw in that season. At Plainmoor we were settled and flying, then there were rumblings of the takeover and funny things off the pitch.

“That manifested itself on the pitch in a negative way. That’s not something I’ve experienced before because Taunton was such a settled environment.”

Robinson stayed in Cornwall for 2019 and helped out Helston before talks over Christmas with Dorchester finally landed him his next managerial position in early January.

“One thing that led me to Dorchester was that I did know what a fantastic club it was in terms of the facilities,” he explained.

“While on the pitch it’s been very tough, I could not have asked for any more from the people who run the club.

“Any time you want something done as a manager it’s done in the blink of an eye – they’re absolutely fantastic.

“Whether it’s getting a player signed or there are wages that need sorting out, they do it without messing around.

“I’m delighted with the support we’ve had and now just need to repay them with a good team to put on the pitch and follow that with results.”

Rock-bottom of the Southern Premier South in March, Dorchester were handed a reprieve when Covid-19 forced the voiding of leagues from Steps 3 and below.

During the summer, Robinson wrung the changes and despite having only taken seven points from his 16-game tenure, fortunes appeared to be on the rise before the second national lockdown.

An excellent 1-0 win over table-toppers Tiverton and progress to the FA Trophy first round hint at the green shoots of recovery.

In essence, the Dorchester job followed the template for every manager’s role Robinson has overseen.

Although the Magpies confirmed their boss had stepped down yesterday, Robinson’s successor Robbie Herrera now has the chance to pick up the blueprint and continue his predecessor’s trend – rebuild, then win.

n Leigh Robinson was speaking to Echosport in April during the first national lockdown.


t: 01305 830999

e: neil.walton


twitter: @EchoSportNeil