IT says a lot for Lee Robinson that, seven years after he last saw Stefan Klos, he remains in touch with his inscrutable fellow goalkeeper.
Now based in Switzerland, is it too much to imagine that Klos will be looking on from afar as Robinson lines up against the Ibrox club for Raith Rovers in Sunday’s Ramsdens Cup final?
Perhaps. But it is not completely fanciful. Robinson received a text from Klos just 12 months ago following the final of the same competition.
Robinson played a major part when Queen of the South defeated Partick Thistle on penalties and, when Robinson finally found a moment’s peace amid the celebrations after his two penalty shoot-out saves helped secure the win, he switched on his phone and was surprised to read a congratulatory text from Klos, whom he once understudied at Ibrox.
“Stefan was someone I was close to,” explained Robinson, who spent five years at Rangers at the start of his career.
“He still sends me an odd message here and there. After the Ramsdens Cup final last year, he was in touch by text, even though he now lives in Switzerland.
“I had four years with him and it was a shame how his time there ended,” Robinson added, with reference to the German international goalkeeper losing the No 1 jersey to first Ronald Waterreus and then Lionel Litezi.
“He was a great guy and a brilliant goalie. He was never bothered with all the things that come with being a footballer – and sometimes that’s the best way to be. I like that attitude – he’s low profile and [his disappearance] sums him up.
“I learned a lot from him, even though we are different types of goalies. He’s one of the nicest people you could meet – it’s rare in football to meet someone so genuine and down to earth.
He’s done everything in the game – winning the Champions league and playing with Dortmund.
“He was a hero at Rangers and had such a good career. It’s nice to see someone do so well for themselves and stay the same person they’ve always been. He’s not bothered about being in the limelight. I didn’t socialise with him because he was a family man, but we always had a laugh at training.”
Although it meant training with world-class talents such as Klos, being at Rangers was not always a happy experience, Robinson admits.
However, he blames himself for this – and his subsequent decision to walk away from the game for several months after a first spell at Queen of the South suggests he had things to work out for himself.
“Now you think it’s odd but, at the time, I was young,” he explained. “I did appreciate the facilities at Rangers. I’d be back after training for a kickabout at Murray Park, but I wasn’t that happy. I may have been a bit impatient. I was 20 years old and thinking I should be playing when, in truth, I was miles away from it.
“You shouldn’t want to walk away from the game because it’s a good life, but those five months [away from football] were good for me.
“Financially, it was hard but I was back with my family.” He kept fit back in Sunderland by playing tennis and then returned to Queens, where he played such a central part in last year’s final, also converting a penalty in the shoot-out as well as saving twice.
Robinson isn’t certain Klos will be in touch after Sunday. Even if Robinson is in the winning team, the identity of the opposition means the German might not be so eager to offer his congratulations.
“He might have forgotten about me – it’s a year since my last one from him!” said Robinson, who has taken advantage of first-choice goalkeeper David McGurn’s Achilles tendon injury to establish himself in the Raith team.
“It was great to get a message from him – someone who has been at the top of the game and is such a great keeper. I’d be happy just to win the game. Stefan doesn’t need to contact me but he did last year and he did before that in the few other times I’ve done well.”