Sir Bobby Robson talks to Chief Football Writer Hyder Jawad about his hopes his namesake...

Bryan Robson's talents as a potential England head coach were first spotted in the cauldron of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

Nearly two decades on, having revolutionised West Bromwich Albion, he finds himself on imaginary lists - and possibly real ones - of names to succeed Sven-G^ran Eriksson.

During the intervening years, Robson was assistant England head coach to Terry Venables and a relatively successful manager of Middlesbrough, but his stock was never as high as it is today.

Robson was the England captain during the 1986 World Cup but moves were already afoot to give him coaching responsibilities at international level, with a view to grooming him for the top job.

The England head coach at the time was Bobby Robson, who made Bryan Robson the captain, and built a team around the Manchester United midfield player for virtually the whole of the 1980s.

It was Bobby who wanted to put in place a system that would make selecting future head coaches of the England national team simpler.

It was not a new idea. Bobby remembered only too well a conversation three decades before that he held with the then England head coach, Walter Winter-bottom, who emphasised the need for long-term thinking.

"It was in the days when I was playing for England," Bobby says. "It was during a training session and Walter spoke to me about what I'd do for my future. He told me I should take my coaching qualifications at Lilleshall.

"So when I was in charge of England myself, 25 years later, I had the same attitude. Encourage appropriate players to look ahead to when they would no longer be playing.

"And that was why, during the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, I suggested that Bryan Robson should take his qualifications with a view to being groomed by the Football Association to maybe even take over England.

"I suggested it to Bert Millichip [former West Bromwich Albion director, then the FA chairman] but nothing came of the idea. It works well in Germany. But now we have managers taking over who have not really had much international experience.

"Graham Taylor took over from me [in 1990] and he was new to that level, and so, too, were Terry Venables and Glenn Hoddle. I always thought the best way was to groom people so they gain experience while they are going along."

Under Venables, however, Bryan Robson was appointed on to the coaching staff for the 1996 European Championships. Even then, Robson was seen as a future England head coach.

The problem was that Bryan's career stuttered. He left Middlesbrough under circumstances that did not promote his career and, apart from an unfortunate stint with Bradford City, spent time out of football.

Only when West Bromwich Albion stepped in eight months ago did Bryan return to the game at Premiership level.

"I was absolutely delighted that West Brom avoided relegation on that final day of the season," Bobby says. "I had six or seven enjoyable years as a player with West Brom in the 1950s and early 60s, so I have a great affinity for the club.

"And you know something: I predicted in my Sunday newspaper column that morning that West Brom would avoid relegation. There were four clubs all fighting to stay out of the bottom three. You will never repeat that again.

"But when West Brom survived, it gave me so much joy, not just because of the club and the fans, but for Bryan Robson. This was a great achievement for him, given that he had been out of the game and was looking for the right job.

"West Brom was a good job for him and the chance to prove what a good manager he is."

Bobby Robson (now Sir Bobby Robson) stopped short of predicting that Bryan will eventually take over as the England head coach. But the potential is great that the FA will eventually turn to a man who has worked miracles at The Hawthorns and who played 90 times for the national team from 1980-92.

"It is about getting the right CV," Sir Bobby says. "You have to remember, when I took the England job in 1982, I'd been the manager of Ipswich Town for 14 years. It takes time to learn the job and build a reputation.

"My hope for Bryan is that he will stabilise West Brom as a Premiership club within the next three years and prove to everybody what a great manager he is. That has to be the priority for now. And once he has his achievements at West Brom behind him, he will have a CV that is second to none.

"I have said it for quite a while that England would prefer to have an Englishman as the national-team manager. And there are other people in the running, like Alan Curbishley. It will be interesting but it is a matter for the future, not now."

One of the great imponderables of Sir Bobby's reign as England head coach is how well the team might have done in the 1986 World Cup had Bryan not been injured.

The captain was injured before the quarter-final against Argentina in Mexico City in 1986. England lost 2-1 to the eventual champions but might not have lost had Bryan been fit.

"Bryan was an amazing player for me," Sir Bobby says. "It was me who nicknamed him 'Captain Marvel' because that is what he was. He was the best player in the country when I was in charge of England and did an amazing job.

"England was lucky to have a player like that around at the time and West Brom are lucky to have him as their manager. Appointing him was a good move. They took the plunge and seem to have reaped the rewards."

The similarities between Sir Bobby and Bryan Robson are stark. They both hail from the North East, both made their names as players with West Bromwich Albion, and both flourished on the international circuit with England.

"You could say we have a lot in common," Sir Bobby says. "But hopefully Bryan will do well with West Brom, just like he did for most of his time with Middlesbrough, and then he will rightly get the credit he deserves."

* Sir Bobby Robson will be signing copies of his autobiography, Farewell But Not Goodbye, at Borders in the Bullring tomorrow from 12.30-2pm.