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 Bryan Robson in his younger days

Robbo ready for new challenge

As Bryan Robson is linked with a return to management in Nigeria, the former England skipper talks in the Thursday Exclusive about Gazza, Fergie and his own fascination with Brazilian football...

Football thrives on being unpredictable. It can even shock someone as experienced and worldly-wise as Bryan Robson.

"I was at Old Trafford on Saturday for the United-Fulham game and I had never seen anything like it," admits the former England skipper, who has remained a football enthusiast in the two years since he vacated the hot seat at Middlesbrough.

"For the first time I can remember United could have lost by five or six goals even though the match finished 3-1. But I'm convinced it was a one-off - I just can't see it happening again and at the end of the season I think it will be either Manchester United or Arsenal as champions again, with Chelsea outside bets.

Robson has been in the news over the last few weeks with Nigeria expressing an interest in making him their new manager.

Until the deal is signed - and it hasn't been so far - Robbo is reluctant to discuss the job specifically.

But whoever he manages, England's Captain Marvel has definite beliefs in the way the game should be played.

"My favourite teams have always been the Brazilian sides," he said.

"I was a great fan of their football growing up and that didn't change after I was lucky enough to play against them a few times in my career.

"Everyone knows about their skill but they are about more than that. Their workrate is excellent as well, and once you play against them, you understand and respect that.

"I would always want my team to work hard and play with great skill as well."

Sixty-five of Robson's 90 England caps came as captain. It's his belief that skill and work-rate don't have to be mutually exclusive and he is disappointed that players like Nicky Butt are pigeon-holed as destructive players without people appreciating their ability.

"If I had one complaint about my own career, it was how the press underestimated me as a football player.

"They seemed to think I was a tackler and that's it. But although I might not have had tricks, I could pass the ball well.

"I think people in the game understood that better than some outside the game and that's why I think I've been lucky enough to get compliments from lots of other players and managers. It's lovely when skilful players like David Beckham write nice things about me in his autobiography and more combative players like Roy Keane do the same. I think I had more skill than I was given credit for and people like Nicky Butt probably suffer from the same kind of thing."

Indeed, in TheFA.com's search to find the greatest England XI, only Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton currently have more votes than Robson so far.

Disappointingly, injuries prevented him performing at the business end of the 1986 and 1990 World Cups but Robbo is excited about the future for England.

"The match in Turkey proved that when our better players perform as a unit, we have got a real chance," he said.

"When England really needed a big performance in Istanbul, the players gave one. It was outstanding.

"In international terms, Steve Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand and Michael Owen are still young. Supporting them are the contingent who grew up at United and now have so much European experience - Phil and Gary Neville, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes, David Beckham. It is a very good combination and though it's a brave man to shout and say we are going to win something, the signs are good."

It's surprising that Robson looks back on his career only partly fulfilled, perhaps a reason he is so keen to succeed as a manager.

"It was fine to win the championship and The Double at United but we never went on to win the Champions League in my time," he said. "We were out of Europe for a long time and in those days second place didn't get you in the Champions League.

"With England as well there were disappointments. I enjoyed the 1982 World Cup but four years later I dislocated my shoulder in Mexico and then snapped my Achilles in 1990.

"I just felt I was the peak of my career during those two World Cup tournaments and it would have been nice to have seen how far I could have helped England go."

A fit Bryan Robson alongside Gazza at Italia 90 is a mouthwatering prospect and Robbo is delighted his former colleague is on the comeback trail with Wolves.

"I am delighted for Gazza. I hope he can impress Dave Jones in the reserve games and continue playing for another year or so.

"I did play with Gazza a few times for England and we gelled together well. I would protect the midfield and Gazza could turn it on further up the park. There's no doubt he was a world-class talent in those days."

Robson transformed Middlesbrough in his first managerial job. He signed world-class talent like Juninho and Ravanelli, won two promotions and reached two cup finals.

He is ready for another crack and if it happens to be Nigeria, expect a little samba soccer at next year's African Nations Cup.

Bryan Robson was speaking to Joe Bernstein

 

Bryan Robson - Stat Pack


Bryan Robson


Nationality: English
Place of Birth: Witton Gilbert, Chester-le-Street, Durham
Date of Birth: 11 January 1957
Weight: 13 02 
Height: 6' 0''
Clubs: West Bromwich Albion, Manchester United
Position: Midfielder

 

Year

Club

Apps.

Goals

1974/75

West Brom Albion

3

2

1975/76

West Brom Albion

16

1

1976/77

West Brom Albion

23

8

1977/78

West Brom Albion

35

3

1978/79

West Brom Albion

41

7

1979/80

West Brom Albion

35

9

1980/81

West Brom Albion

40

10

1981/82

West Brom Albion

5

0

1981/82

Manchester United

32

5

1982/83

Manchester United

33

10

1983/84

Manchester United

33

12

1984/85

Manchester United

33

9

1985/86

Manchester United

21

7

1986/87

Manchester United

30

7

1987/88

Manchester United

36

11

1988/89

Manchester United

34

4

1989/90

Manchester United

20

2

1990/91

Manchester United

17

1

1991/92

Manchester United

27

4

1992/93

Manchester United

14

1

1993/94

Manchester United

15

1

 

ROBBO READY FOR NEW CHALLENGE
30 October 2003

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