Chief Football Writer Hyder Jawad talks to the Albion boss about his time with Terry Venables

Whatever Bryan Robson goes on to achieve with West Bromwich Albion, there is no doubt that his managerial career can be defined by a paradox: his biggest mistake was also his best decision.

When Robson was in charge of Middlesbrough in 2001, his decision to employ Terry Venables as a coach was seen by some as desperation. Middlesbrough were sleepwalking towards relegation but the influence of Venables ensured that the club retained their Premiership status.

Robson might have been acting in the best interests of Middlesbrough but he suffered for his decision. It was nearly four years - when he took over with West Bromwich Albion - before he put his managerial career back on track.

The Robson-Venables pairing could have been a dream team to rival that of Brian Clough and Peter Taylor in the 1970s. It worked well with England during Euro 96 and flourished with Middlesbrough five years later.

But only now can it be said that Robson has recovered. When Albion play away to Middlesbrough tomorrow, Robson will have gone full circle.

"It was not really a regret to bring in Terry at the time," Robson said. "What it was at the time was that Gordon McQueen had a major knee operation and could not get out on the training pitch and I was looking about for a top coach and there wasn't really anyone about.

"Terry was out of a job at the time and I had worked really well with him with England so that is why I brought Terry in because we were struggling at the time.

"But then, quite a few injuries came back. Paul Ince and Alan Boksic came back from injury and that made a big difference to the team at that time, as well as Terry's few ideas as well.

"The main thing for me was to keep the club in the Premiership. That is why I made that decision. In hindsight, that is why I probably did not get back into the game and it has taken me a long time to get back into the game because of that decision, to bring Terry in. People perceived that I needed someone to help me.

"Would I bring in someone like Terry again? Probably not someone as high-profile. You look back and it probably was a mistake - but it was not a mistake for the club."

The implication, then, is that Robson put the interests of the club before those of his own. Such strength of character is one reason why Albion were so keen to employ him as their own manager.

"I do not think people do give you the credit," Robson said. "For a club like Middlesbrough to go to three cup finals was a big achievement by me as a manager.

"In the one cup final, Emile Heskey scores a last minute goal for Leicester to take it to a replay and the year after, we take on Chelsea and go into extra-time before they beat us. I thought my achievements at Middlesbrough were pretty good.

"Terry kept saying to me 'you go and do the press' but I told him to keep on going and I didn't have a problem with that, as long as we are preparing the team properly.

"[A high-profile double act as managers] is what Steve Gibson [Middlesbrough chairman] wanted to put in place. He was wanting to keep us both on but Terry had business commitments at that time and said it was always only going to be to the end of the season.

"It is something I would have looked at as continuing if possible. It would just have been about the way it was structured.

"As an individual, it [ bringing Terry in] knocked me back but, as a club, it was the right decision to do. It knocked me back a long way.

"When I first went into the job, there was a lot of media stuff in London saying a former England captain cannot make a good manager because of how Bobby Charlton and Bobby Moore fared as managers."

If Albion avoid relegation, Robson is sure to be lauded as the finest England-born manager. Even if they fail, his achievements in restoring self-respect at The Hawthorns should not be ignored. Even the Middlesbrough supporters appreciate what he has done with Albion.

"I think the Boro fans will be fine with me," Robson said. "They were when they came down here earlier in the season. Since I've left Middlesbrough, I've had a lot of good fan mail from the fans and since I've been at West Brom. Loads of fans have written to me to wish me all the best with this club so I hope we get three points off them.

"In my seven years at Middlesbrough, all sorts of experiences went on there - promotion, relegation, cup finals, dealing with top stars and also building a club from where there wasn't too much. They were 14th in the First Division the year before I took over.

"I look back with a lot of satisfaction. It was helpful with Steve Gibson and the finances and he put things in place."

In one sense, Robson is part of a managerial dream team. The appointment of Nigel Pearson as his assistant has worked well and suggests that Robson knows the value of good staff.