Former France winger Laurent Robert has expressed a desire to make a return to Newcastle United. The flamboyant Frenchman had a spell on Tyneside from 2001-2006 and was an integral part of Sir Bobby Robson’s side that reached the Champions League. He gained cult status at the club for his penchant for remarkable long-range efforts and despite being criticised for not tracking back enough, he is remembered fondly by most fans.
Robert’s finest moment in a Newcastle shirt came against Tottenham as he scored two goal-of-the-season contenders and set another up for Alan Shearer. He ended his Toon career with 21 league goals in 129 appearances. In his prime Robert was the kind of player Newcastle fans love to see; a flying winger with good delivery and a ferocious strike, he was a hero back then. But after leaving Newcastle his career suffered as he endured spells at Levante, Derby County and Toronto FC. At the age of 34, his best years are behind him and while a return to Newcastle is a romantic idea, it may not be the most sensible.
His trials at lesser clubs suggest that Robert is no longer capable of producing the kind of form that endeared him to the Toon Army. It must also be considered that Newcastle United now is a different world to the one that Robert inhabited. He was a flair player, a luxury player even, but a luxury that Robson’s team could support and benefit from. Back then the club was on the cusp of something great and Robert’s magic was worth his defensive deficiencies; but now not so. In the Championship, every game that Newcastle play is a battle, there is no room for luxury players to stand idly on the touchline and wait for the ball. Newcastle need players with a real combative spirit; every club in the Championship raises their game when they meet Newcastle, they are the biggest scalp in the league, the biggest team to play in that league in years.
While Robert will always be something of a cult-hero at the club, it is in the past; his association with Newcastle United ended long ago and should be looked back on fondly, but to revisit the past would on this occasion be a mistake; there is no room for sentiment when the prize of promotion hangs in the balance.