Loyal Justine Robinson has admitted that captaining Hartlepool United Ladies is a privilege and revealed that she has turned her back on offers to play outside the town in the past.
Playing for clubs in her hometown has been a priority for the 27-year-old since she first caught the football bug when she starred for both the Girls and the Boys teams at Stranton Primary as they won the Primary School Trophy two years in a row.
Driven on by her desire to be as good on the pitch as her older brother Stuart, ‘Jussy’ kept on improving and was picked up by St Francis at the age of 13, despite interest from other clubs outside of Hartlepool.
In 2012 she chose to stay in the town again to sign for Seaton Carew which became Hartlepool United Ladies in 2015 – and during the summer she was handed the captain’s armband.
“It’s real honour. I am born and bred in Hartlepool so this is a big thing for me,” explained Robinson, an attacking midfielder who is also capable of slotting in to the centre of defence.
“Since I have started playing football I always wanted to play for teams in the town – I’ve been asked to go to the likes of Middlesbrough and Sunderland when I was younger but I’ve always wanted to stay on home ground.
“I even quit playing for two years at one point and there were people knocking on my door from out of town but I turned it down because I couldn’t see myself playing anywhere else but Hartlepool.
“When I got the chance to represent Hartlepool United it was a dream; I am a Pools fan and I am here at The Vic whenever I’m not working to cheer the First Team on and try and bring them some luck.”
Since Hartlepool United Ladies was formed two years ago, there has been huge and sustained success for the team under the stewardship of Manager Andy Stuart.
Promotion in their first season from the Durham County Women’s League Division One came at a canter, earning them a place in the highly-regarded Northern Section of the North East Regional Women’s Football League.
The belief in the squad saw them take life at a higher level in their stride and they quickly emerged as contenders for the title with some excellent results early on.
Even though they eventually missed out on the title, a league shake-up meant they went in to a play-off against Sheffield Wednesday which they won 3-2 and secured a glorious second promotion in succession.
“The first season was a walk in the part for us really,” Robinson admitted.
“We knew we shouldn’t have been in that league so the aim was achieved to get promotion and then, after that, last year was a massive challenge, particularly against Durham Cestria who were very strong.
“I just think we lost a bit of concentration towards the end of last season and dropped points in games we were expected to win – but thankfully we got a lifeline with the play-offs.
“It was a big game for us against Sheffield Wednesday and we actually went a goal down early on but I knew myself that we just had to win the game and we all showed great determination to come back and win 3-2.
“It was an amazing feeling to know we’d won promotion for the season running.”
This term has started solidly enough for the Ladies; they opened up their Premier Division campaign with an enthralling 3-3 draw at Wakefield at the end of last month, bouncing back from a disappointing League Cup exit at the hands of South Shields.
An eye-catching win at fellow Premier Division new girls Farsley Celtic in the SSE FA Cup on Sunday has boosted confidence further and Robinson reckons they could be the surprise package once again this term.
“It’s going to be a real step up this season, we all know that.
“We need to see where we are ability-wise because it is all new for us but I do feel like we would have won that first league game had not lost a bit of focus in the second half which cost us.
“All we want to do is try and enjoy our football like we have been doing and see where it takes us but I think there is a belief that we can challenge for a top three finish if not even promotion again.”