Robson sees change in fortunes against Blackburn

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The Independent Online

The West Bromwich Albion manager, Bryan Robson, has hailed the impact of the fit-again Kieran Richardson and admitted his surprise at how well the midfielder has adjusted to his first taste of regular Premiership football.

The West Bromwich Albion manager, Bryan Robson, has hailed the impact of the fit-again Kieran Richardson and admitted his surprise at how well the midfielder has adjusted to his first taste of regular Premiership football.

Richardson missed Saturday's 4-0 reversal at Middlesbrough with a dead leg but will be available for tonight's home encounter with Blackburn Rovers. The England Under-21 player has made a massive contribution to Albion's gallant attempt to remain in the top flight after joining on loan from Manchester United during the January transfer window even though he has operated in a central role rather than playing on the left flank.

Robson has indicated he would like to extend Richardson's loan period next season although the player is keen to try to make his mark at United. Robson said: "Kieran is important to us. He has surprised me to a certain degree because he hardly played any games for Manchester United. I have always liked him as a player but to come in under the circumstances we were under, battling to stay in the Premiership, and perform the way he has done is excellent.

"He has got a good temperament. He is a strong character and he wants to succeed in the game so that's why he plays the way he plays and I am sure he will say he feels the benefit of playing regularly."

Robson knows the importance of tonight's encounter and victory in West Bromwich's game in hand over Southampton, Crystal Palace and Norwich will move them back out of the bottom three. He said: "I want to put that game against Middlesbrough behind us. I've got to lift the players for an important game. We've got to make sure we don't just bounce back as far as the performance is concerned but in terms of putting the pressure back on Crystal Palace and Norwich by winning.

"We know that if we win this game, then we will be in a strong position going into the final three games of the season. Yes, Saturday was a little bit of a blow for the lads because everything in the last two months has been going well for us.

"But when you do get a knock-back it's all about how you respond to it and I'm expecting a really good response from the players."

Robson believes the criticism of Blackburn's style of play under his former Manchester United team-mate Mark Hughes has been harsh. He said: "I think it has been a little bit over-played. They are very well organised, a strong side and we've got to stand up to that. If that is the way the game has got to be played, as long as my players compete in a sensible manner and we get the three points, I'm not really bothered what the game is like. I still keep in touch with Mark Hughes. He has done a superb job."

The goalkeeper Russell Hoult is expected to be fit despite suffering a slight groin problem at the Riverside Stadium as Albion look to protect an unbeaten home record stretching back to Boxing Day.

The Blackburn manager was equally lavish in his praise for Robson. Hughes said: "Bryan had fantastic qualities as a player. He has those qualities as a manager as well. He was one of those few players who had the ability to change the shape of a game.

"He had a great influence on the players around him and on the team. If things were going badly, Bryan would be able to sense it more often than not and try to do something about it. Because of his will to win, he could do that.

"He has got good people around him as well at West Brom and he seems to be enjoying it again.

"Obviously they don't want to be in the situation they are in but he has his team playing the way he feels they need to. They are having a go. They have fantastic support and he will have fired up. It is important we are on our game."

They will have to do without Paul Dickov who has a knee injury and may not play again this season.

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