I've had a season ticket at Newcastle United for five years.
I saw the Robson years, and had to endure the abysmal Souness Era. I saw many players come and go—Acuna, Cordone, Bassedas, Cort, and Gavillan, to name but a few.
One who impressed me—and who I've always tried my hardest to defend—was Laurent Robert.
I watched Robert in one of his first games for Newcastle, Robert Lee's testimonial match against Sporting Lisbon. He hit one of his trademark free kicks—a bend around the wall then suddenly straightened up.
I was mildly optimistic that we'd made a terrific signing, especially after missing out on Bolo Zenden, who'd joined Chelsea.
In the following seasons, Robert made important contributions to the Newcastle attack. He was one of the finest crossers in the Premiership at the time, and Shearer thrived on the service. Not since the days of David Ginola had Newcastle fans seen a winger with such pace and ability.
Away from the blistering free kicks and the amazing goals, though, Robert was under constant scrutiny from the fans at St. James Park.
Some commented on his lack of defensive ability. I would responded by making the same claim about Ginola, only to hear that defending wasn't part of Ginola's game.
Some inconsistency there, perhaps?
Yes, it's good to see your winger defending, but not all the time. I'd rather see him hugging the touchline in the opponent's half.
Another criticism of Robert was that he never really got involved in games—that he was only ever there when a free kick needed to be taken.
From my very high vantage point in the Milburn Stand (Level 7), it was plain to see that Robert just wasn't fed the ball—no matter how much space he had. With all the play pushed to the right side, how was he supposed to play an active role in the game?
In the end, it was Robert's behaviour towards the end of his Newcastle career that forced him out the door. He was late for training, and along with Dyer and Bellamy formed what became known at Newcastle as "the Brat Pack".
Still, I'll remember Robert fondly—even if others tell you what a waste of space he was.