LAURENT ROBERT LOVED TO KICK THE BALL AS HARD AS POSSIBLE
Words: Charlie Morgan
Image: Offside Sports Photography
Laurent Robert had the hardest left-foot thwack in Premier League history.
It may not be technically true, but you can prove anything with stats, can’t you? For me, that statement is not up for any remote discussion. He knocked out a teammate with a left-foot clearance—take a second to let that sink in: think about all of the times your coach told you, as a kid, to not fear the ball. The ball won’t hurt you, Charlie. It’s just a ball! But with Laurent… yeah, the ball will hurt you. Will he be remembered as a cultured, tactically astute winger who could marshal a flank? Absolutely not. But do Newcastle fans love him? Oh yes we fucking do.
Largely, this was because, given even the faintest whisper of an opportunity, he would try to blast the ball through the net, through the Gallowgate end, and halfway down the Tyne. Give some men an inch, and they’ll take a yard: Laurent Robert would take forty. He wouldn’t try to open the proverbial can of beans with his left foot. No, he’d smash straight through it, delicious beans flying everywhere. Pure bean anarchy. He really was a sight to behold.
He scored some truly obscene goals, and here are the best:
Look at him shape up once the ball’s in the air—no cursory look for a teammate to cross to, not even as much as a pitiful glance. Laurent is fucking shooting. And yet, for all this single-minded focus, the actual effort he puts into hitting it is fairly negligible (much like his defensive responsibilities, incidentally). With as little as a lazy stretch of the leg and no follow-through, the ball somehow flies past a despairing Kasey Keller. Cue pandemonium: Laurent has arrived.
Tottenham—2003 (Second Thwack)
And that volley wasn’t even his best goal in that game. Robert picks up a nice switch from Gary Speed, chesting it out invitingly. Olivier Bernard runs the overlap—pointless. A second touch, Laurent knows what’s coming… Of course he’s going to shoot. He unleashes the most obscene thwack I might have ever clapped eyes on. It’s a dipping, near-post howitzer that’s already in the net before the Geordies can screech “Lauron, doon’t foockin’ shoot, lad!” But he did foockin’ shoot. He always foockin’ shoot. We’d soon realise.
Apologies for the rustic Romanian house soundtracking the video, but this must make the list. Can you imagine Robert sitting his teammates down pre-match and, with the eloquent use of slides and cue cards, try to justify why, should they get a free kick 35 yards out on the far left-hand side, he should hit one. Liverpool have put one bloke in the wall, but they could’ve put the entire team in front of it: that ball has, to this day, stayed hit. Are you fucking joking, Laurent? I would struggle to garner that much pace on a ball if I strapped it to an air-to-surface missile.
The next few are all from this video, with the specific timings below:
Man United—2001 [1:31]
Remember when Newcastle could beat United 4–3 at home? Ah, glorious times. Anyway, Laurent was magnificent throughout and set the tone with a ludicrous free kick. It just slots into the Laurent Robert Formula for Obscenities perfectly: take one indecent angle, add ridiculous distance, multiply by whipped left peg, minus any dip = absolutely no chance for whatever poor sod is in net.
Just watch it. Fucking watch it.
And his right peg wasn’t bad either. Against Arsenal, old Laurent finds himself in an unusually central position via a flick on from Al Shearer’s big old noggin. Shapes up, right foot’s the only option—mais ce n’est pas un problème. Je suis Thwaque Cousteau. An uncharacteristically low shot, but it’s the same result. In the net, the Gallowgate goes mad, Laurent runs off grinning.
This was Robert’s fifth goal of the season—all of which came from direct free kicks. This one silenced the Karaiskakis Stadium like an argument on a crowded train carriage. Nobody’s arguing with Laurent here, not even Alan Shearer, as he manages to get it up over the wall and into the top corner seemingly without the ball taking off. This became a hallmark of Laurent’s flawed, but majestic, genius that flowed through his Copa Mundials and around St James’s. Shocking yellow kit, mind.
Porto—2005 (for Benfica) [6:43]
Five yards on from the centre circle. One defender in a meagre wall—there’s no fucking way he’s shooting from here. The ball swings out to the left of the goal. Then, halfway through its thundering trajectory, it utterly misbehaves. It dips and swerves back. Violently. The keeper is left mystified. The ball hits the net. The Benfica fans can’t quite believe their collective eyes. Neither can we. Long live the thwack king.