Albion offer Robson role of reviving club fortunes

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The Independent Football

Thirty-two years after he first arrived at West Bromwich Albion as a skinny schoolboy who was immediately prescribed a daily cocktail of raw egg and Guinness, Bryan Robson returned to The Hawthorns as manager yesterday and promptly pledged to beef up the Premiership credentials of a side lying in 17th after one win in 12 games.

Thirty-two years after he first arrived at West Bromwich Albion as a skinny schoolboy who was immediately prescribed a daily cocktail of raw egg and Guinness, Bryan Robson returned to The Hawthorns as manager yesterday and promptly pledged to beef up the Premiership credentials of a side lying in 17th after one win in 12 games.

During his first spell at Albion, Robson made 198 League appearances as an often recklessly brave midfielder before leaving to join Manchester United for a British record fee of £1.5m some 23 years ago. The former England captain's first game in charge will be on Sunday at home to Middlesbrough - the club which gave him his start in management.

Robson, 47, succeeds Gary Megson, who left Albion in acrimonious circumstances last month after twice leading them to promotion and once to the play-offs in his four full seasons. He has been awarded a 12-month "rolling" contract and will have Nigel Pearson, the England Under-20 coach and former Middlesbrough captain, as his No 2.

The Albion chairman, Jeremy Peace, and his board have taken something of a gamble in offering the man that Bobby Robson dubbed "England's Captain Marvel" the opportunity to work at the top level again. His principal achievements as manager have come in cup football. He led Middlesbrough to three Wembley finals, none of which they won.

Robson did win promotion with the Teesside team in 1995 - they were relegated after two seasons - and again three years later. Funded by an ambitious chairman, Steve Gibson, he signed exotic names like Fabrizio Ravanelli and Juninho plus high-profile performers such as Paul Merson and Paul Gascoigne, yet they finished in the top half only once.

His star has been on the wane since December 2000, when the former England manager Terry Venables (whom he had assisted as a coach with the national team) was employed by Gibson to try to prevent another demotion. Robson, marginalised within his own club, departed the following summer. After being linked to the post of coaching Nigeria, he had five months at Bradford City last season but left after they went down.

Describing his new employers as "really forward thinking", Robson said his main aim was to get Albion "established" in the top flight. He conceded that his final year at Middlesbrough was a "blip" on his record. "I think that has been held against me," he said. "But the feedback I've had is that the fans have been right behind me to get this position. Now everyone at the club has to pull together so that our supporters are watching Premiership football again next season."

As well as the chance to rebuild his reputation, Robson has a financial incentive to keep Albion out of the bottom three. Peace, looking forward to a new partnership after the breakdown of his relationship with Megson, refused to divulge details of the rewards incorporated into the manager's contract, but said: "This club heavily motivate people towards bonuses. We believe in motivating people for success."

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