Robert slams his critics

Last updated : 11 November 2002 By Martyn Elliott

Defensive stalwart Laurent Robert
In an interview with the Independent the Frenchman acknowledges his doubters and speaks about his frustration at being out injured at such a crucial time.

"It's not been the best of weeks. What can I say? I've been training hard to get back to my best form – and I actually felt I was close – when the blow suddenly came. I didn't really think there was much wrong with me at first, but then we did an X-ray on Thursday and it was clear I had a fracture.

"People seem to have this image of me as a wimp. Well, I'm not, I may not be Alan Shearer but I can stand up for myself. I'm a fighter.

"It's so frustrating because I was just getting into my groove. I had a back problem at the beginning of the season, but managed to come back from that, so I'm disappointed that this cheekbone business has happened.

"It's a really tall order," Robert says about the Feyenoord game, "but we have to believe in ourselves. We had a slow start, dug ourselves out of the hole, and have a good shout now. We just can't afford not to take it.

"The Champions' League is the most important tournament in the world. It's the one place everybody wants to be. We're no different at Newcastle. We've come this far, so there is no reason why we can't keep going. There's certainly no point in fighting like crazy all last season to be in the Champions' League, if we then end up falling at the first hurdle.

"I believe one of our main problems in the first few weeks," he says about our poor early season form, " was that we were not getting the ball up to the forward players enough. I spent most of the opening fixtures defending. Since myself and Nobby have been getting more regular service, everything is OK again.

"We have been improving steadily over the course of the season, but if we want to become a great team and reach a new plateau, then we have to find a better balance to our play.

"The majority of our football takes place on the right," he continues unsurprisingly, "What we need to do is come over the other side more. If we do that, we'll be better off.

"Look at our League game against Middlesbrough, I only touched the ball three times in the first half. How can I influence play in those conditions?

"The boss acknowledges the problem. He spoke about it during the interval of that match and said I should be given more passes, but it's hard for the team to change their ways in a flash. In the end, what happens is that I defend a lot.

"I've taken on board what the fans and the manager have had to say," he says about tracking back, "and I've been working on that aspect of my game during training. Everything was a bit of a shock for me at first, but I'm used to the football here. I'm more English now."

Clearly things must look a lot different at pitch level, because I don’t remember Robert spending too much time defending since he left PSG.

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