The talking stops - now for action
Nov 13 2004
By Brian Dick, Birmingham Post
West Bromwich Albion v Middlesbrough
The midweek fanfare had died down, backs had been slapped,
pleasantries exchanged and Bryan Robson finally got down to business.
Yesterday, three days into the job, the new West Bromwich Albion
manager fielded the opening question of his first pre-match press
"Any team news Bryan?" and we were off and running. The King is
dead, long live the King.
He then spent as earnest a 15 minutes as can ever have been
witnessed detailing how a new manager goes about turning the Titanic.
Captain Marvel chose to start with a message to his crew. He
recalled how on Day One, as Big Brother would term it, he gathered
his men together and offered an amnesty for past sins.
What had gone before, under his predecessor Gary Megson, no longer
counted he told them.
"I know that Gary's management style was to push a few players to
the side because they had fallen out or they weren't seeing eye-
toeye," he said.
"But for me, at this moment of time, it is about everyone coming
together and proving what they are worth."
That must have filled the hearts of Messrs Wallwork, Marshall and
Hulse with great cheer for it was they who bore the brunt of
Megson's philosophy and virtually disappeared from professional
football in recent months.
However Robson, as inclusive as his attitude is, stressed that he
would not allow himself to be seen as a soft touch. The onus, he
said, was firmly on such players and he told them so.
"I said to all the players that we hadn't got the best out of them
so far as a club," he continued. "There are internationals who
haven't been involved. I asked them if that is because of coaching
aspects, fitness aspects or their own mental approach.
"They have got to show me that they have a desire to play in the
Premiership and that they are good enough to
and be part of this team.
"I need to see that from them because I seen players at this club
play at international level and perform very well at that really
high level but yet they can't get in the team at the moment."
He asked his players to demonstrate their determination to succeed
in the English top-flight. "It's time for people to stop talking a
good game and show me one.
"You get too many people who actually do that in football. They talk
a good game but when they actually get out there where it matters
they don't perform." That broadside would have sent
shivers down several highly paid spines.
So that's the troops rallied, what about the strategy? Under Megson
Albion developed a reputation for successful, yet dour, attritional
football which won them a few plaudits but few admirers.
Robson on the other hand comes with a reputation of favouring
continental flair and while not quite a member of the Kevin Keegan
We'll Score More Than You school of thought, his Middlesbrough went
The 47-year-old said it was not the time for fantasy football. His
team might even be dour and attritional but above all they had to be
"In the initial period the first priority is to get good results,"
he said. "Whether that is through playing defensive football,
counterattacking football or real high-pressure football only time
"I have to assess the squad and see what fits them and what gets
results. You are dictated to by the type of players you have in the
squad and what type of football they can play."
His new reign starts, as they always seem to, against his old
employers as the men from the Riverside call in tomorrow.
Latterly Albion have sprung a few defensive leaks, they have
conceded nine goals in the last three games two of which have been
against Crystal Palace and Southampton, and only Arsenal have scored
more on their travels than Middlesbrough.
That is a worrying statistic for Robson, who admits to admiring what
Steve McClaren has achieved with his old club.
"They are a good team, full of confidence and Steve McCLaren has got
them playing good attractive football. But that also gives you a
chance of getting at them. We have got to try and excite our fans
with positive football."
Pearson casts sentiment aside
Nigel Person's route to The Hawthorns has seen many twists. Ged
If anyone at The Hawthorns is expecting West Bromwich Albion to be
involved in a relegation dogfight next May, at least they can feel
comforted to know that they're in the safest of hands.
It is five-and-a-half years now since the Baggies' new No 2 Nigel
Pearson, in his first job in football management, steered lowly
Carlisle United to one of the greatest final-day escapes in history.
It was Carlisle's goalkeeper, the celebrated Jimmy Glass, who got
all the headlines by heading hopefully upfield for a late corner and
scoring the injury time winner that kept the Cumbrians in the
Football League. But who was the Carlisle manager who sent him up
for that fateful corner? None other than Pearson.
Just the mention of that name brings back a warm reflective smile,
as if he's just stepped into the middle of a Bisto advert. "Aah,"
murmurs Pearson, "Jimmy Glass!"
The whole experience is still liable to bring the 41-year-old East
Midlander out in a muck sweat every time he even thinks about it.
But, just like his team that day, he survived.
"I don't care what level you're at or whoever you are in football,
the expectations and pressures are the same," said Pearson. "You've
got to be able to cope.
"I joined Carlisle the day before Christmas and it was like a crash
course in football management.
"I learnt more in five months than I might have done at a top club
in ten years.
"I came from a high profile club at Middlesbrough to go and work
with hard working, honest toilers. And it was like a breath of fresh
"How you deal with it can be the making of you and I would not swap
that experience for anything."
Having had just three clubs in an exemplary 18-year playing career -
Shrewsbury Town, Sheffield Wednesday and Boro - as an uncompromising
centre half who knew where the back of the net was at set pieces,
Pearson's path into management has been slightly more intricate.
Almost six years since leaving the Riverside, his decision to link
up again at Albion with his old Boro boss Bryan Robson at The
Hawthorns is his fourth job in that time.
The second of those jobs, at Stoke City, was under Robson's Albion
predecessor Gary Megson.
"I've known Gary a long time," he said. "From our days together at
"I've a lot of respect for him. It's never easy when
people lose their jobs, but his record speaks for itself and I'll
contact him soon, when the time's right.
"He brought me in to help him at Stoke the summer I left Carlisle.
And we were together for the next three months before a new
Icelandic consortium came in and wanted Gudjon Thordarson, so Gary
"I had another two years, and I've been at the FA for the past two-
and-a-half years, coaching the England Under-20s.
"It's been a varied route, but I've no regrets about anything I've
done. Sometimes it's how you come out of different experiences that
counts for most."
Now Pearson is faced with the task of bringing together all his
wealth of footballing knowledge to try and help Robson keep the
Baggies in the Premiership. And he is not the only one baffled as to
why it has taken three-and-a-half years for Robbo to be given
another chance of managing a team in the top flight - given his
record on Teesside.
Pearson twice skippered Robson's Boro to promotion. And, although
there was a relegation suffered in the middle, the former Boro
captain sees that as a mere blemish in an overall facelift.
"Let's face it," says Pearson, "when Bryan arrived, Boro were what
you might call a middle of the road club, not very high profile.
"But, with the help of Steve
Gibson's money, people's perception of us as a small town club was
forced to change. With Bryan Robson there, a change of image and a
new ground, all of a sudden, the club could attract big name foreign
Now Pearson is no longer on the end of Robson's team talks, but back
in the dressing room, imparting advice of his own.
"This week's been a bit of a blur, to be honest," he said. "We've
only been at the club a few days and trained with the lads for the
first time on Thursday.
"The players' application is crucial. But, so far, we're delighted
with their response."
Boro's visit is nothing, Pearson insists, to get too misty eyed
"We had good years there," he said. "But we can't afford to go down
the sentimental road.
"We are at West Brom, we want to get the right result for West Brom
and we're up for the task."
But, as one mischievous Albion fan reminded him even on his first
day, Pearson has already made people happy at The Hawthorns once
"It was in my days at Shrewsbury," he said. "We'd actually won there
the previous season, but I stuck one in my own net from about 40
yards, and it was the winner too.
"This Albion fan didn't waste any time reminding me of it."