Robert takes the plaudits

Last updated : 15 December 2003 By Martyn Elliott

Not only were they keen to give the Frenchman credit for Saturday’s display, they were also keen to point out that both his attitude and form have improved markedly since the early stages of the season.

Referring to what his reaction would have been if Robert had reported that he was unwell before a game earlier in the season, Sir Bobby told The Times: “There would have been a temptation for me not to play him.

“If he’s bloody awful when he’s fit, how good is he going to be when he’s not very well? I’d have got nowt from him.”

He continued: “He’s probably decided that it’s easier for him to play well than it is for him to see me again.

“I think he’s sick of being lectured by the boss. We were worried about whether he would ever pick up the clues, but I think he has.

“What’s happened is that he’s got used to English football and its culture and he’s prepared to work hard.

“A year ago, he would be coming off and his shirt wouldn’t be wet, but he’s exhausted now.”

Shearer meanwhile, is hoping that Robert will continue with what has been his most consistent period of form since he joined the club, if for no other reason than it will help him score more goals.

He told The Journal: "We all know the ability Laurent has. He can be frustrating at times but we know the brilliance is in there - it's just a case of getting it out of him.

"For the last two months or so, Laurent has been on fire and we hope it will continue.

"I will benefit from that, the team will benefit and he will get all the headlines as long as he keeps doing it. I don't mind that; the more the merrier.

"Laurent has been excellent. He has been scoring goals which is something he knew he had to start doing. He was frustrated that he hadn't scored many earlier in the season but he has addressed that and we all reap the rewards when he plays like that.

"The key is consistency, everyone knows Laurent has the ability. But rather than producing it once every three games, he is doing it every week.

"Ability-wise, he has it all. He can produce those spectacular shots every week. If he has got two or three yards in front of him, he won't pass up the opportunity to shoot."