Ian Clarkson on a gut-wrenching year for Albion's amenable manager
Bryan Robson might have been expecting a naff cutlery set, a cheap trinket or even some dodgy garments of clothing.
However, Robson's first anniversary present at West Bromwich Albion usurped all of those in its disappointing nature as he mulled over the newspaper and saw his team sitting in the bottom three of the Premiership.
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Statistics will say that Albion are one place and one point worse off than when Robson arrived last November, but the mere fact that they are still in English football's top flight is a cause for celebration in itself.
It hasn't been a bed of roses for Robson since he breezed back into The Hawthorns on November 9 last year.
After Gary Megson's acrimonious departure, Frank Burrows had been holding the fort and his parting gift was a 2 - 2 draw at Southampton.
Yet Robson inherited a top-heavy squad and spent his first two months sifting through every single player as he assessed all his options.
But, after Robson's abortive 28-match spell in charge at Bradford City that ended in relegation, supporters were starting to question his managerial skills despite an excellent record at Middlesbrough.
The depths of disenchantment were reached in the festive period when a heavy defeat at Birmingham left jeers ringing in his ears and fans lamenting Megson's departure.
Christmas Day saw Albion rock-bottom of the Premiership and a five-goal beating at the hands of Liverpool on Boxing Day left Robson still seeking his first win as Albion manager and his team in dire straits.
Yet his will is strong and he is, without doubt, a fighter. Never once did he duck his obligation to the local press for a weekly conference and finally tasted success at the 11th attempt against Preston North End in the FA Cup.
It took another two games before he broke his Premiership duck with the club, as they beat Manchester City 2-0 on January 22.
Thirteen games of pain after a two-and-a-half year sabbatical from Middlesbrough, interspersed only with a relegation stint at Bradford, would surely have left some managers scuttling for cover but one thing that Robson possesses in spades is strength of character.
Yet, he also possesses a tactical acumen that is often overlooked; he worked with one of the doyens of coaching, Terry Venables, during a spell with England as well as at Middlesbrough.
During his break from management, he went through the rigmarole of obtaining all the necessary coaching badges and is now a fully-fledged Pro Licence holder.
And with all those tools at his disposal, he admits it would be foolish to dismiss them and remove himself from the training ground.
"The feedback I got from a lot of players at Middlesbrough was that they wished I had done a lot more with them on the training pitch," Robson said.
"They enjoyed the work I did, but they thought I allowed the other coaches to take it too often.
"When I came to Albion, I made a conscious decision that I would allow [assistant manager] Nigel Pearson to do a fair bit, but I do a lot more than I did at Middlesbrough. Nigel has been a big part of it, as he has good ideas on the training pitch and he is very good at keeping morale high when results aren't going well.
"He thinks about different ways of keeping training interesting and different. Whether you go for a meal with the players, whether you go for a bonding trip or whether you go for a game of golf, all these bits and pieces have to be put together.
"It is good to make the change on the training pitch, though, as the players quite like that. It gives us a good balance and it is far different to my days as a player at Manchester United and Albion.
"Ron Atkinson and Alex Ferguson didn't take any sessions, although they were always there watching."
Robson's squad has been revamped to such an extent that only three players started at West Ham United who lined up in Robson's first game against, ironically, Middlesbrough a year ago (can anyone remember Cosmin Contra?)
Signing a plethora of new players, allied to the pressures of becoming the first manager to keep a side in the Premiership after being bottom at Christmas, has meant Robson's job has been hectic, to say the least.
Another relegation battle looks a certainty this season, yet there are no visible signs that the manager is feeling the strain. In fact, he is relishing the battle and longs for the time his background work garners a tangible reward.
"I have enjoyed my first year in the sense of staying up and also winning the fans over after the start I had," he added.
"The biggest disappointment on my anniversary is that we are in the bottom three, as there is more within this squad of players and I want us to play better. There are encouraging signs from our young players such as Curtis Davies who was outstanding on Saturday at West Ham.
"Darren Carter has pleased me with his progress while Diomansy Kamara has fitted in nicely and looks a real threat.
"I knew it was going to be a tough job, as a lot of the lads in the squad had played most of their career in the Championship apart from maybe one season.
"It was a case of changing the mentality that they are good enough to stay in this division."
Robson still regards keeping Albion afloat in the Premiership last season as his biggest achievement in football.
That is some statement considering he has 90 England caps on his sideboard, along with winners' medals from three FA Cups, two Premierships and a European Cup Winners' Cup.
His long-term plan for Albion is obvious as he is slowly adding young talent to augment his established squad of players to establish them as a force.
There is no short-term fix but Robson knows that time is a precious commodity and he knows that the immediate is of paramount importance to the majority of supporters.
Robson is the ultimate realist and he has committed himself to another campaign of strife as they try to avoid the drop along with nearneighbours Birmingham City and Aston Villa.
Yet, despite all the travails and pressure, he has not an ounce of regret about putting his neck on the line again in the media circus known as the Premiership.
He said: "I've experienced all types of pressure before and I had a break from the game when I left Middlesbrough, so that has refreshed me to the game.
"I want to be more comfortable in the league table but I enjoy running the club and working with the players and everything that goes with the job; that is why I came back into the game.
"What can be difficult is handling the press and saying the right things when things aren't going well for you.
"You get the same problems getting the best out of your players and keeping the morale in your camp when results aren't going well but, I haven't found it difficult with this set of lads.
"Nevertheless, the only time I felt relaxed this season was after the Portsmouth game, as we had four points from two games and it gave us a nice solid start to build on. That hasn't happened.
"You can't look seven or eight years ahead in this game, but I want to be here for a few years as it will mean I have done a good job.
"We have some exciting young players who can improve and come on together. If you have good young lads, then you can build your team each summer with a couple of additions rather than wholesale changes. Twelve months from now, I want this club to be in midtable in the Premiership."
Robson has gone from rock bottom to the heights in 12 months and will be craving a large dose of boredom and Premiership respectability.
But after two promotions, two major cup finals and relegation at Middlesbrough, along with a demotion with them, it seems Robson and tranquillity aren't comfortable bedfellows. Hold on to your hats for another gut-wrenching 12 months, but the smart money is on Robson still being in charge of a Premiership outfit come November 2006.