Bryan Robson and Lothar Mattheus seemed destined to share an unhappy relationship.

Having spent the second half of the 1980s disputing supremacy across the continent's football pitches they are at loggerheads once more after the jewel in Robson's crown - Zoltan Gera - returned from international duty in a rather pitiful state.

The West Bromwich Albion midfielder had spent ten days with Mattheus' Hungarian national side earlier this month and played all but 14 minutes of their World Cup qualifiers against Sweden and Malta.

But when he returned last Friday it soon became clear that the 27-year-old's previous owner had been none too careful.

Gera was dehydrated and missed his side's desperate 2-1 defeat after being given a special programme to recover his fitness. Speaking yesterday Robson made his irritation crystal clear.

"He came back really physically drained," the Albion manager said. "From Friday when he came in training he had tests with the doctor and we gave him a rehydration programme all the way through the weekend to try and get the kid to recover.

"I would be expecting better of a national side to make sure the players are not dehydrated. You know they can come back injured but you look for them to come back as close to 100 per cent fit as they possibly can when it is not an injury."

The club phoned the Hungarians' team doctor to stress their concerns about Gera's condition and this latest incident is likely to call into question the demands made of a man who is his country's equivalent of David Beckham.

"I have spoken to Lothar Mattheus about it before," Robson said. "Even in friendly games he tends to play Zoltan because he is his star player - every time he goes on international duty.

"But even people like Beckham and [Michael] Owen go away with England and [ Sven- G^ran] Eriksson doesn't play them every time.

"He will give them a bit of a break whether he plays them for 45 or 60 minutes. In friendly games he tends to rotate it. As a manager that protects your player.

"He had a knock on foot, an infection in hand which had not fully cleared and then he was dehydrated. When you have got all those things going on there was no way I could play him in an important game for us last weekend." That is the crux of the matter.

For Robson the solution is simple and lies at his former club Manchester United. "I would like to see him use Zoltan in the way Wales use Ryan Giggs.

"You know that the star player is going to play in matches but if he plays in every Hungarian international game and then he plays all the games for us, obviously the kid is going to be drained. You have got to look at the right way to get the best out of him."

Meanwhile Russell Hoult has been reunited with former Hawthorns manager Gary Megson by joining Nottingham Forest on a month's loan.

The goalkeeper will be immediately available for the League One game against Rotherham this Saturday although Robson has retained the right to recall the 32-yearold if they suffer a goalkeeping injury crisis.

Hoult has yet to make a first-team appearance this term, with on-loan Liverpool keeper Chris Kirkland currently Bryan Robson's first choice and Poland international Tomasz Kuszczak deputising on the bench.

Robson said: "Russell's injury disrupted his start to the season and meant he didn't really get a chance to challenge Chris and Tomasz.

"That's why it's best for him to go out on a month's loan and play first-team football. I can gauge where his fitness is while he's playing for Forest."

Despite being plagued by back, hip and groin problems during the past two seasons, Hoult only missed four games as he helped the club to promotion and subsequent Premiership survival.

Another player who won't feature in tomorrow's trip to Sunderland is striker Kanu who is still out with a hamstring problem and there are doubts over Geoff Horsfield's participation following the emergence of a calf strain this week.

The latter's absence would be a serious blow to Albion because he has been in good touch in front of goal this season and even though Robson has six striker to choose from, Horsfield has been a consistent performer.