Player profile: Rob Atkinson

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by Alistair Wilkinson

5 January 2010

It feels like this 22-year-old, 6'1", lovely-haired lad has been around for ages: two periods with the Mariners covering a pair of loans and finally a permanent move last January make Rob seem like he's been around the Park for longer than he actually has. The fact that erstwhile central defensive partner, Ryan Bennett, was just 19 added to the illusion that Atkinson is our experienced centre-half, the level head upon which the back four should rest. This is far from the truth as our Mr Atkinson has less than 100 league games to his name, and his time before joining Town was spent out on loan at Scarborough, Rochdale and Halifax.

He made his league debut in March 2004 against Luton Town, managed at the time by Mike Newell. In the following season he made 20 appearances for Scarborough before going on to make a total of eight starts for Barnsley, six of which were in the Championship. His first team opportunities were limited at such a high level and so out he went on loan again – firstly to Halifax (four appearances) and then to Rochdale (for another two). Halifax's and Rochdale's missed opportunities were our gain as he joined Alan Buckley's revival in 2007 and made 29 appearances for the Mariners.

All these loan spells at such a tender age are pretty much the sort of thing I like to hear, as it at least shows that he wanted to get out there and play some football.

And play some football he does. Atkinson is a strong presence in the middle who can bring a ball a down and doesn't like to waste it. He can mix it with the big boys and can be relied upon in a scrap – hey, he's not had much else in his two spells here, so at least we know he can dig in and help pull us out of it.

He had a slow start to this season, but then who didn't? Linwood might offer a more physical presence but Atkinson is a good footballer who's still learning his trade. This is perhaps his biggest problem at the club: a player at his stage of development perhaps needs a more experienced head to be thrown at the ball. One too many 'perhapses' in there but this is the awkward position that Atkinson finds himself in. Perhaps we're asking our younger players to grow up too fast but he's old enough and good enough for first team football – and I'm glad he's getting it here at Blundell Park.