Robbie Tinkler graduated from the Middlesbrough Academy and failed to make an appearance. The full-back was on loan to North Ferriby United and Gateshead before joining Gateshead permanently. He was a key player for the Heed last season before the unfortunate circumstances that lead to demotion to The National League North.
Tinkler is now vice-captain for Aldershot Town and has had a great season for The Shots. The right-back discusses his time at The Shots, the Gateshead situation, the baby on the way and some interesting hobbies too.
From the beginning, where did football start for you?
“I think I was about six years old and my Dad played football so I always wanted to follow in his footsteps.
“Obviously being at such a young age, you love to go outside in the garden and hit the ball against the wall. Right foot, left foot and I just kept on doing it and that is where the love of the game came from.”
When you were growing up, did you always want to be a defender?
“I was a midfielder for a large part of my career. I only played right-back from the age of 18. In the under-16s, I played at right-back and I started to learn that position very quickly.
“When I went to Gateshead, I arrived as a right-back and I was getting good in that position. I would say I’ve only been a right-back for a few years.”
From your time at Middlesbrough, was it quite difficult to break into the first team?
“Yeah, at the time the manager didn’t have that much of a youth philosophy. It was much more engaged in the experience but having said that part of you has to be good enough to get there and you have to question whether you were.
“At the time, I thought I was good enough. It was a great opportunity but the chance just didn’t come so one day, you have to decide to just move on and think where you can go realistically. Anywhere that offers good first-team football for you is always one of the best places to go.”
After that, you went on loan to North Ferriby and Gateshead before joining them permanently. Describe the journey from Middlesbrough through to Gateshead?
“First of all, going to the North Ferriby set-up was a bit of a rush. I was looking for a loan for the second window in a row and nothing was popping up. The minute I heard that North Ferriby were interested, I jumped at the chance because then I could get some first-team football under my name.
“When I joined North Ferriby, I was given a lot of freedom. I went there and scored a few goals which is always great in your debut season. I enjoyed it there and it was a great platform for me to express myself.
“Heading into Gateshead, it was a little different because obviously the expectation was there at Gateshead but we didn’t deliver in the first half of that season. We had to go out and prove that we were still one of the good sides at that time.”
There was one season in particular where you nearly got into the play-offs with Gateshead but last season there was a lot of financial difficulty going on at the club. Was it a shock to hear this or had it been coming for a while?
“Gateshead are a close-knit club and we spoke to the owner back then almost every day. It was such a strange situation but they gave us a guarantee that everything was ok at the club and the next day, you’d find out something else that got you really worried about the condition of the football club.
“We all had to continue with football and put our head down and concentrate on the games that we had left. We couldn’t let off-field matters bother us and just focus on the results that we had to get.
“If you take away the points deduction, I believe we would’ve finished about 9th or 10th that season so obviously it was a great achievement before the financial problems began and I think that we’d have been promoted if we had the same team at the start of that season.”
How has the move to Aldershot Town been for you since coming in?
“It’s been really good. I’ve really enjoyed life down here. We’ve settled in nicely and we moved to Fleet which isn’t very far from the ground at all. It’s a lovely little area.
“My partner moved down with me just over a month after I did. She found work down here really easily so the move couldn’t have gone more perfect if we tried.
“It’s the first time we’ve been away from the north-east so we’re quite happy how things have turned out.”
You’ve been selected as vice-captain for Aldershot Town this season. What is the level of responsibility you feel on the pitch? Do you feel any pressure?
“No, I don’t think there is. I was captain of my under-23s team in the past and I was vice-captain last season with Gateshead so I had a bit of experience going into it.
“It’s as much pressure as you put on yourself. It is unnoticed because it happens so naturally but whatever you have to do, you just do it. That’s the type of person that I am and I’ve found it fairly easy to slot into.”
I believe you have a baby on the way if I’m not mistaken. How are things coming along? How exciting is it that you have a new member of the family soon?
“It is so surreal. We came down and had the pleasure of telling everyone at certain stages. We showed them all of the reveals so it’s been really fun.
“I’m really looking forward to it and we’ve got another month or so to get through before the baby is here. I’m hoping that the current situation cools down before that but we’re really happy at the moment that it’s been a smooth process.
“He’s been really healthy all the way through so now we’re just waiting for the day.”
Being a defender, who would you say has been your hardest opponent in career up to date?
“I think if I go right-back, I’ve played against the likes of Patrick Roberts and he made a right fool of me when we played each other. It was in the FA Youth Cup a few years back and I certainly want to forget about my performance against him.
“There was also Jordan Graham when he played for Wolves. He was another trickster I really didn’t like. He gave me a real tough time that game.
“However, I don’t think there’s a specific individual that haunts me. It’s game by game where it changes.”
Outside of Aldershot Town, are there any interesting hobbies that you get up to that the fans wouldn’t know about you?
“I’m quite interested in renovating homes. I’ve only managed to do two so far but I love to learn about it. I like all the trades and some of them I’m really keen on.
“I’m into my golf as well. I’m quite average at my golf but as I said earlier, I love to learn new things. I quite enjoy it every so often.
“I’m a bit of a multi-sportsman. I like cricket too but obviously, you don’t get to play them as often as you’d like because of the work and football commitments.”