The Welshman who went to North America before David Beckham in 2007

By Michael PearlmanBBC Wales Sport
Carl Robinson
Carl Robinson says one of his managerial mentors was his former Wales boss John Toshack

Ten years ago David Beckham announced his intention to quit the pantheon of the Santiago Bernabeu and the elite level of European football to join LA Galaxy.

The news that Beckham, football's most famous face and biggest name, was to join the MLS stunned the footballing world.

However, Beckham, England's former captain and one of sport's most marketable stars, was not the only player to cross the Atlantic in the January transfer window of 2007.

Ten years ago Carl Robinson left English football after making more than 500 appearances for the likes of Wolves, Portsmouth and Norwich to join Toronto.

While the MLS has provided a temporary showcase for the likes of Thierry Henry, Kaka, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, for Robinson, North America is now home.

He finished his career in the MLS via a stint in New York playing for Red Bulls, eventually retiring in 2012.

A coaching career had been planned long before he got the chance to become a manager in his own right with Vancouver Whitecaps in 2013, an opportunity he says would "never" have come had he stayed in the Football League.

Robinson has led Whitecaps, by no means a big financial player, to two MLS Cup play-off appearances, two Cascadia Cup titles and qualification to the CONCACAF Champions League for the first time.

David Beckham
David Beckham made 115 appearances for England

The 'global superstar' who changed the game

Talking to BBC Wales Sport during a pre-season training camp in south Wales for the Whitecaps, Robinson admits Beckham-mania transformed the MLS at the precise time he arrived.

"I signed around the same time as David, a lot of people followed him, but I went before him, he wasn't an influence in my decision," he explained.

"But since David has come over? Brilliant. He's had a massive impact on football in Major League Soccer and north America.

"That was the beginning really, because if you fast forward five years, the increase in quality, the number of spectators, the media coverage, it all improved.

"That was due to David, because he was a global superstar. He's had a phenomenal impact and the sport has grown year-on-year."

Carl Robinson receives golden Wales cap

From Llandrindod Wells... to Manhattan

Robinson says his life has been culturally enriched by living abroad.

"Toronto was a great city, I lived there three years and we loved it and were happy to settle there," he said.

"But, you can get traded at any time without a players' say, and before I knew it I was off to New York.

"I had a fantastic 18 months there. Living across from Manhattan in Hoboken, New Jersey.

"Opening and closing your curtains looking over the Manhattan skyline every night is something no-one can ever take away from me.

"It is a bit different to where I grew up in Llandrindod Wells - which is the sort of place where you can leave your door open and the car running. You can't do that in New York!

"Everyone thinks of NYC or LA when they think of moving to America, I was very, lucky."

Carl Robinson
Carl Robinson played 74 times for Toronto FC

'Would not have had the chance'

Robinson thinks he has advanced on the coaching ladder more than he ever could have done in England or Wales.

"I wouldn't (have had the opportunity)," he explained. "In MLS there are 17 or 18 ex-players out of 22 coaches. It is a great breeding ground.

"Going to America was the best decision I ever made. Every month I get 20 or 30 calls from British-based players, wanting to come out to America.

"But they can't because of the designated player rules and rules on foreign recruits.

"No team wants to just flood themselves with English players.

"There was a small window of opportunity and I count myself very lucky to have made the move."

Robinson worries that Bob Bradley's perceived failure as Swansea boss - where he was sacked after 85 days - has damaged the reputation of US coaches in the UK.

"Bob is a fantastic manager and I was thrilled when he went to Swansea. I follow Swansea very closely and I thought he would help them steer clear of trouble.

"I was surprised and disappointed he didn't get a transfer window to try and re-jig the squad like Paul Clement has had, but he is a great guy and excellent coach."

Carl Robinson
Carl Robinson's Vancouver Whitecaps will face New York in the Champions League quarter final in February

Happy to stay

Robinson says he has no intention of leaving Whitecaps before the end of his contract, which runs until 2020,external-link especially as managerial job stability is a rarity in England.

"Will I come back? Probably. But when? I don't have a clue," Robinson said. "It is about opportunity.

"The average shelf life of a Football League manager is for under a year and that sort of thing does go through your head when you are thinking about your next move.

Carl Robinson
Carl Robinson played for Wales 52 times

"But I live and breathe English football and I have since I was eight years old.

"I watch the goals, I watch games at 4am. It is in me. I want to get to the best level I can as a coach."

Whitecaps' 2017 league season begins when they host Philadelphia Union on Sunday, 5 March.

Wales the ultimate aim

Robinson is ultimately targeting the top job for any Welshman.

"I wanted to play for my country and it would be an honour at any stage of my career to manage Wales," he said.

"If there was a Welshman who doesn't want to manage Wales, they aren't really Welsh. It is the ultimate."

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