IN THE space of a season, Lee Robinson was transported from marshalling the sticks at Esh Winning to occupying a spot on the bench for Scottish giants Rangers.
It was the stuff of fairytales and only got better for the Sunderland-born keeper, who had joined Rangers after a successful trial at 16.
The following season, he made his first-team bow as a 19-year-old and was rewarded with a bumper three-year deal from then manager Paul Le Guen.
But with success came complacency.
Robinson admits he lost focus as he was farmed out on loan to Greenock Morton, St Johnstone and Queen of the South before joining Kilmarnock after being axed by the Gers.
Even then, it didn’t prove the jolt to the system which Robinson needed – he made just one appearance for Kilmarnock before deciding to spend six months away from football altogether after being released by Queen of the South in January, 2011.
But last season, after being re-signed by Queens, Robinson’s career took off.
Robinson won the Player of the Year title as Queens slumped out of Scottish Division One and this season, under the auspices of ex-Sunderland winger Allan Johnston, he has helped the club romp to the Division Two title.
Robinson told the Echo: “At the end of my first season at Rangers, I was on the bench. I’d gone from the Northern League to being among the subs at Rangers within one season.
“It just got better and better and maybe I took it for granted and didn’t work hard enough.
“I was not really happy with football or enjoying it and that’s why I left Queens in 2011. But the time away from it did me good.
“Now I do everything right and obviously want to play at the highest level that I can.
“I would say that the last few years has really been the start of my career.”
Johnston, an instrumental part of the Peter Reid side which won promotion in 1999, took charge at Queens last summer after a season working as the club’s player-coach.
He has masterminded the club’s instant return to Division One, suffering only their second league defeat of the campaign at Stenhousemuir on Tuesday night.
“I knew him from Kilmarnock, when he was still playing, but there aren’t many managers who have made such a good start to their career,” said Robinson.
“He has worked with some really good managers like Peter Reid, Dick Advocaat and Steve McClaren and he seems to have got a bit of them all.
“He is a quite a calm and laid back guy and wants the lads to play football. There’s no lumping it up, he wants them to express themselves.
“His assistant, Sandy Clark, is experienced after spells at Hearts and Aberdeen and he has been good for the gaffer in his first job.”
Robinson believes Queens will hold their own in the second tier after beating Division One champions Patrick Thistle in the Scottish Challenge Cup final this season.
The 26-year-old, who was released by Sunderland at 12 before playing for Washington Juniors, added: “Last year we got relegated after we had a bad start and never really recovered.
“Personally, I did quite well and it was the first time I’d played a whole season. I got all the Player of the Year awards. But for the team, it was quite disappointing.
“This year has been really good. Before Tuesday, we had only lost three games and two of those were against SPL sides in the cups.
“If we keep the squad together we could do really well.”