Andy Griffin: lack of consistency denied my Portsmouth and Newcastle team-mate Laurent Robert move to world's biggest clubs

Laurent Robert played just 17 times for Pompey during a disappointing loan spell in 2005-06Laurent Robert played just 17 times for Pompey during a disappointing loan spell in 2005-06
Laurent Robert played just 17 times for Pompey during a disappointing loan spell in 2005-06 | JPIMedia
Pompey flop Laurent Robert’s talent warranted a presence at some of the world’s biggest clubs.

But Andy Griffin is convinced a lack of consistency proved decisive in preventing the mercurial Frenchman reaching such global heights.

Robert was a revelation at Newcastle following a £9.5m switch from Paris Saint-Germain under Bobby Robson, making 181 appearances and netting 32 times.

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Griffin was a St James’ Park team-mate of the left-winger – then the pair reunited at Fratton Park in the summer of 2005.

Robert’s south-coast arrival was understandably greeted with much fanfare, yet yielded just 17 matches and one goal, before sent back to Newcastle halfway through a scheduled 12-month loan.

And Griffin reflected on the flaws of a player he regarded as among the finest he lined-up alongside.

He told The News: ‘Laurent was a sensational player and, for me, his best years were at Newcastle. When he came to Pompey I don’t think he was anywhere near as successful.

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Harry Redknapp is all smiles with Laurent Robert and Lomana LuaLua during his first training session after returning as Pompey boss in December 2005. But within a month, Robert had left. Picture: Robin JonesHarry Redknapp is all smiles with Laurent Robert and Lomana LuaLua during his first training session after returning as Pompey boss in December 2005. But within a month, Robert had left. Picture: Robin Jones
Harry Redknapp is all smiles with Laurent Robert and Lomana LuaLua during his first training session after returning as Pompey boss in December 2005. But within a month, Robert had left. Picture: Robin Jones | JPIMedia

‘Looking at some of the best left-footed footballers I’ve played with, you’ve got Ian Harte, Patrik Berger and Laurent Robert.

‘Laurent at Newcastle was sensational on his day. Other days he didn’t have a care in the world and you’d then have to carry him, but, in saying that, the next game he would get the winner and be unstoppable.

‘He was an exceptional player and, generally speaking, his time at Newcastle was a huge success.

‘With some of the goals and some of the assists, he was a remarkable player, but very much his own man. If he didn’t want to work on a Saturday afternoon then he wouldn’t – and there was nothing you could do about it.

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Laurent Robert was sent off against West Ham in December 2005 following two bookable offences. Picture: Matt Scott-JoyntLaurent Robert was sent off against West Ham in December 2005 following two bookable offences. Picture: Matt Scott-Joynt
Laurent Robert was sent off against West Ham in December 2005 following two bookable offences. Picture: Matt Scott-Joynt | JPIMedia

‘His inconsistency is probably one of the reasons why he didn’t go to an Arsenal at that time, although he wouldn’t have joined Manchester United because Ryan Giggs was there.

‘The reason why he didn’t make that further step to one of the top, top teams around the world was because of that little bit of inconsistency.

‘You look at some of these maverick players and I often use Mario Balotelli as the number one example – wonderful ability, but it’s their mindset.

‘They are almost battling their own mind. It’s “Should I give my all today? Oh no, I won’t”. Almost too cool for school, so to speak.

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‘They are battling themselves all the time and therefore don’t deliver consistency – and consistency is key for success.

‘Consistency can come in different forms. I was consistent because I cared and always gave my all.

‘Dare I say I wasn’t consistent with the ball because that wasn’t my strength, but certain players would constantly be battling against themselves. Marko Arnautovic at Stoke is another which falls into that category.’

With Newcastle boss Graeme Souness keen to offload Robert in the summer of 2015, he arrived at Fratton Park.

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Alain Perrin recruited the former French international, although there was confusion over Pompey’s claims that the arrangement was on a permanent basis.

As it turned out, Robert, who had 12 months of his Toon contract remaining, had agreed to a loan switch for the 2005-06 season, with a clause to sign a two-year Blues deal upon its conclusion.

However, having failed to convince, and with Harry Redknapp returning for a second spell as manager, Robert’s loan was cancelled in January 2006.

His final Pompey outing was as a substitute in a 2-1 defeat at Blackburn – and, at the age of 30, his career subsequently embarked on a nomadic existence.

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Griffin added: ‘Lauren at Newcastle was an exceptional player, but at Pompey it just didn’t work.

‘I guess I was surprised when he went to Pompey. He was such a big player at Newcastle and so influential, certainly under the Bobby Robson era.

‘Bobby was a very good man-manager, who’d give Laurent a day off here and there to go back to Paris. He wouldn’t give me the day off to go back to Wigan, but it was about keeping certain players happy, fluffing their feathers and trying to get the best out of them,

‘Graeme Souness comes in and you can see the writing’s on the wall already. With Souness, if you’re not going to work hard then you’re out.

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‘I am very much along those lines too. You don’t want to be carrying players, we are all in it together, we are all fighting, we are scrapping.

‘Laurent was all right, a nice guy, decent fella.

‘A lot of people in the football world will know I had a scuffle with him at Newcastle in training once, we had a little flair up, but I’ve had a few flair ups because I was the kind of player who trained as he played.

‘Laurent was fine at Pompey. He came in, did his stuff, would have a laugh and a joke, strut around a bit, show glimpses of that beautiful left foot he possesses and then go home.

‘Personally, I never, ever had an issue with him at Pompey.’

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Robert’s most controversial moment during his ill-fated Fratton Park spell arrived in October 2005 for a trip to Sunderland.

Having been selected for the Stadium of Light fixture, at midday he declared himself unfit for duty, prompting Perrin to promote Matt Taylor from the bench.

Some supporters then reportedly spotted the Frenchman walking away from the ground before kick-off.

In his absence, Taylor marked his surprise recall with two goals in a 4-1 success, including a sublime 45-yard first-time attempt which served as his favourite Blues goal.

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As for Robert, his sudden unavailability meant just four of the five allotted substitute spots were filled for the Premier League game.

Griffin said: ‘I genuinely can’t remember the Sunderland incident, but can recall Matt scoring a belter from the half-way line, that was a phenomenal goal.

‘I’m not sure what happened with Laurent that day, but that doesn’t surprise me about him.

‘Perhaps his ego took a bit of a hit, maybe he wasn’t pulling his weight in other matches or in training so the manager put him on the bench.

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‘Then Laurent has thought “I’m a bit better than that”. I don’t know the full story.

‘The football club is paying your wages and, whether you like any decision or not, you just have to roll with it.’

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