Robson seeks smarter Boro

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As baptisms to the arcane world of football management go, Bryan Robson's must rank as one of the least comfortable. The bright new Riverside Stadium has lost some of its sheen of late as the Middlesbrough team Robson spent some pounds 20m to assemble has slumped to a 10-game winless run. With Boro within two points of the relegation places, Captain Marvel has every right to feel distinctly sour.

Yet Robson remains confident that his bejeweled squad can turn things around if they show the very qualities -brains allied to brawn -that made the former England and Manchester United dynamo such an outstanding player during his own career on the pitch.

"I can't fault the players' attitudes but they've got to start thinking about the game more," said Robson, who saw his side falter against a determined Leicester on Tuesday night.

"It's not just about putting in effort and commitment. Sometimes you've got to have knowledge of the game, like understanding when you should quicken the pace or slow it down," he said.

"We're going to have to try and remedy that in training and, hopefully, I'll have some of our more experienced players back soon, because experience always helps."

To cap Robson's problems on the field, the distraction of the unsettled Brazilian, Emerson, has been equally irksome off it. The peripatetic midfielder has again gone missing, and Robson will be hoping that Emerson will, as reported, arrive back on Teesside today.

Middlesbrough's other Brazilian, Juninho, is also missing - through an injury to his ankle that will keep him from the playing field for up to three weeks. Juninho's influence this season has been as telling as Emerson's, particularly his link play with Fabrizio Ravanelli.

His loss will be deeply felt as will that of the captain, Nigel Pearson (neck), Steve Vickers (knee) and Alan Moore (hamstring).

Robson said he was unsure of when Emerson would finally arrive back in England after going absent for the third time in three weeks, but it is believed the Brazilian is now ready to return after nursing his wife, Andrea, back to health after worries that she was about to suffer a nervous breakdown.

Far from being on the verge of medical attention himself, Robson is putting a brave face on a difficult situation.

"We've got to show a little bit more fight and character and start to come back when we go behind. We haven't shown that for a long time now," he added.

If Boro required a lesson in how to nurture that single-minded spirit, they need look no further than Leicester, who moved up to 12th in the Premiership following their third away win of the campaign.

Martin O'Neill's team was pieced together at a fraction of the cost of Robson's, and the Middlesbrough manager must be acutely aware of the old adage that money does not always buy happiness.