Robson plays down Earnshaw rift

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The Independent Football

Bryan Robson, the West Bromwich Albion manager, has insisted there is no problem between himself and Mel Eves, the agent for his leading scorer, Rob Earnshaw.

Bryan Robson, the West Bromwich Albion manager, has insisted there is no problem between himself and Mel Eves, the agent for his leading scorer, Rob Earnshaw.

Earnshaw was left out of the Baggies' starting line-up for Sunday's home Premiership derby with Birmingham. That happened hours after Eves had criticised the way Robson had been handling 10-goal Earnshaw in a newspaper article. But Robson and Eves reached an agreement after Albion's 2-0 win, which gave the club a lifeline in their campaign to stay in the top flight.

And Robson is full of praise for the way Earnshaw is striving to develop his all-round game rather than just being regarded as an out-and-out goalscorer.

Robson said: "Mel said he had been misquoted. He said he had talked to a reporter about Earnie's goal ratio, but insisted he hadn't said anything like Earnie should be in the team.

"As with all of our players, Earnie's got to play for the right to be in the team. No one has a divine right to be in the team and the competition for places up front at this club is very healthy at the moment."

Robson insisted: "When Earnie gets his chance again, which he will do, he has to be nice and sharp and get about his game, but I think there has been an improvement in Earnshaw's overall game.

"In my first game here I thought he was only interested in scoring a goal and his overall contribution to the team wasn't quite good enough, but he's worked on that and it's good that he's taken that on board.

"Earnie's still a young player and has just come from the Championship so he is finding out the quality you need in the Premiership.

"He's still learning his trade and he's still learning about the Premiership, but he's doing all right. He's scored 10 goals in 17 starts, which is a great ratio.

"When you're a player like Rob, if you're not scoring you have to look at what you're doing for your team-mates and that's the part Rob needs to improve.

"But he is getting better at that side of his game and he will learn with people like Kanu, Geoff Horsfield and Kevin Campbell around him - they're good, experienced players."

Kieran Richardson believes West Bromwich can pull off the shock of the season by winning at Chelsea next week - and do a favour for his permanent employers, Manchester United.

Richardson, on loan from United for the rest of the season, helped West Bromwich move off the bottom of the Premiership for the first time since late November with Sunday's emphatic win over Birmingham.

They are still five points adrift of safety and their game in hand is against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge next Tuesday. But Richardson feels Albion deserve some tangible reward after a series of promising away performances which have yielded little in terms of points.

Richardson said: "We feel we deserve a win away from home. The Chelsea game is big for us and they are flying.

"They are going to be hard to stop, but I personally feel we can go there and get the win - and if we get three points it will do Manchester United a favour as well. It would be fantastic to help Albion get a win and help United as well in their bid for the championship. I personally feel we can beat anyone. I don't fear anyone."

Richardson is aware of the significance of Albion's win over a lacklustre Birmingham and has his sights on hitting the target at Stamford Bridge.

He said: "Sunday was massive for us. I've come close to scoring a few times for Albion and I had a shot which hit the post on Sunday. Hopefully against Chelsea it might go in.

"I've come close a few times. I hit the crossbar against Southampton. I like taking shots from long range. I feel I've got the ability to score goals from long range."

* The Football Association is to look into events after the final whistle in Manchester United's goalless draw at Crystal Palace on Saturday. Several United players surrounded the referee, Mark Clattenburg. Video evidence and Clattenburg's report will be studied before the FA decides whether any action should be taken. The visitors were apparently incensed at being denied a penalty in the late stages as they pushed for a winner.