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Asia cup diary.

Laurent Robert is renowned for his ability to dance around defenders and evade crunching tackles, but the Frenchman has become equally adept at avoiding interviews.

Hiding behind his apparent lack of English, the former Paris-St Germain player simply flashes a hapless smile and insists he cannot conduct a meaningful conversation in any foreign language.

However, his cover was blown when Sky Sports News screened a faultless performance from the winger during the summer and yours truly happened to tune in.

Recalling the programme in detail I approached Laurent, pen poised, and requested a pre-season interview. "Non, merci," replied the ever-polite international. "My English not so good," he smiled, clearly sensing victory.

"But what about that Sky interview," I asked. It was a question he clearly understood. And a query he could not avoid. "I was on holiday," he replied. "This is work." On that point we agreed and Laurent has now promised to talk to The Journal before the start of the season.

NEWCASTLE United's Tony Toward is the man charged with ensuring everything runs smoothly for the Magpies in Malaysia and one of his most important tasks is liaising with the demanding North-East Press pack.

Well, wannabe journo Tony is really coming up trumps, but any hopes of boarding the media bandwagon full-time have been thwarted.

In Kuala Lumpur Mr Toward's pass guarantees entry to five of the six limited access areas, including the VIP hospitality lounge, changing rooms, tunnel and official hotel. But one zone remains strictly off-limits.

Not even TT is allowed to infiltrate the media section, much to his obvious chagrin. Yet he turned down the offer to swap passes and chose to stick with five-star hospitality and proximity to Newcastle's players, over deadlines and warm bottled water. Talk about a missed opportunity!

WITH golf on the agenda for Sir Bobby Robson's squad yesterday, the club's backroom staff made the most of some rare time off to go shopping in KL's incredible Chinatown.

Physio Derek Wright, fitness coach Paul Winsper and kit man Ray Thompson couldn't wait to spend their ringgits on T-shirts, sunglasses, watches and bags in what can only be described as a bargain hunter's Utopia.

But Derek and the boys missed the best deal of the lot. The local takeaway was offering soup, pork fried rice and a can of pop for the princely sum of 70p.

No wonder club website reporter Ian `Wincey' Willis offered to treat two of his pals to lunch - just as long as they bought their own drinks!
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Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jul 26, 2003
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