R.I.P. Sir Bobby Robson
The Telegraph obituary:
"Sir Bobby Robson, who died on July 31 aged 76, was England's football manager from 1982 until 1990, the year that he took the side to within a kick of the World Cup Final.
Robson was appointed to the England job in succession to Ron Greenwood on the strength of his successes over a decade with unfashionable Ipswich Town, which he had transformed into a club capable (often more through hard work than through skill) of challenging for European trophies.
By comparison with the situation at Portman Road, as England coach Robson had almost an embarrassment of natural talent at his disposal, including Glenn Hoddle, John Barnes, Paul Gascoigne, Chris Waddle and Peter Beardsley. His chief problem, it would emerge, was not also having luck on his side.
Robson's time as manager was, more than that of his predecessors, characterised by the press's disenchantment with his performance. This began when the team failed to qualify for the 1984 European Championships, and by 1986, when he took England to the World Cup in Mexico, he was under severe pressure from the media. Fleet Street wanted him to build the side around the gifted but sometimes flighty Hoddle, but in fact the issue was how Robson would compensate for the loss through injury of his dynamic namesake Bryan Robson. In the event, the side overcame a poor start to reach the quarter-final against Argentina.
Here, however, fortune notoriously favoured the Argentine playmaker, Diego Maradona. Although his second goal of the game was a work of sporting genius, his first – in which he punched the ball into the England net – was no more than the act of a cheat. Yet his offence was not spotted by the officials, and though Gary Lineker almost headed an equaliser, it was ultimately "the hand of God", as Maradona's goal became known, that separated the sides and eliminated England. Robson had every right to feel hard done by.
Four years later in Italy, Robson again found himself pilloried by the newspapers. Not only had England performed wretchedly in the 1988 European Championships, but details of an alleged love affair had also surfaced, and the FA had crassly announced that whatever happened in the World Cup, Robson would be replaced at its end. Normally a genial man, for much of the tournament Robson wore the air of a man under siege.
The side was once more handicapped by the absence of Bryan Robson, and by the inexperience of some players caused by the ban on English clubs entering European competition after the Heysel disaster; but the emergence of David Platt, and Robson's acceptance of the players' wish to employ a sweeper system, brought the team through to a semi-final meeting with Germany in Turin. It was the first time that England had reached this stage since 1966.
Yet again, in a match that was always bound to be close, luck went against Robson. The Germans scored with a freak deflection off Paul Parker, and though Lineker equalised magnificently, the outcome fell to be determined by penalties. Waddle ballooned his over the bar, and England were out. They subsequently lost the third-place match to Italy.
There were many observers who felt that, had the result in Turin gone the other way, Robson's side might well have prevailed in the Final against Argentina. Instead, the nature of his defeat haunted Robson for years afterwards, and he could never speak about it in a manner that implied he had come to terms with it.
He was England manager for 95 matches, 47 of which he won and just 18 of which he lost. In an era in which both press and public had yet to accept that England had lost ground as a power in world football, his was a more than respectable record, and far more creditable than some of his successors. Robson was not a master tactician, but judged by the only mark that really counts in the game, his achievement in taking England to both a quarter- and a semi-final of a World Cup means he should be considered second only to Sir Alf Ramsey among England managers.
Robert William Robson was born at Sacriston, Co Durham, on February 18 1933 and was raised at nearby Langley Park. His father worked in the pits, missing only one shift in 51 years, and it was he who secured Bobby a job as an apprentice electrician in the mine when he left school at 15.
He also transmitted his passion for Newcastle United to his son, who became both a promising schoolboy footballer and cricketer. The former had first claim on his affections, however, and in 1950 he was noticed and signed by Fulham. Pacy, with a stinging shot in his right foot, Robson at first played for the club at inside-forward, forming a useful understanding with Johnny Haynes. Between making his debut and 1956, when he was sold to West Bromwich Albion, Robson scored 68 goals for the club in 152 matches.
At Fulham, Robson had not been one to pay much attention to the finer points of team talks – indeed, he was partially deaf in one ear, a condition that meant he was never called up for National Service. At West Brom, however, he met Don Howe, later to become an influential coach himself, who persuaded him to take a coaching course with Walter Winterbottom, then the England manager. Robson's own understanding of the game improved, and while at the Hawthorns he was picked for England 20 times, scoring four goals. He played in the 1958 World Cup, and would have played in the tournament four years later but for injury.
In 1962, after 239 appearances and 56 goals for West Brom, he returned to Fulham, by now established as a wing-half. He scored a further nine goals in 193 games for the Cottagers before, in 1967, taking his first managerial job, with Vancouver Whitecaps in Canada. A year later he was offered the post at Fulham itself, but after only nine months in the job he was sacked.
The club that was to prove the making of him was Ipswich Town, which appointed him manager in 1969. A few years earlier, it had unexpectedly risen to prominence with Ramsey at the helm, but since he had become the England coach it had reverted to being a small-town side presided over benignly by the Cobbold family. It was a set-up that allowed Robson to find his feet and then, working mostly with young players and almost no funds, to turn Ipswich into one of the best sides in Europe.
Between 1973 and 1982 the club qualified for European competition every year, and in 1981 and 1982 narrowly finished second in the championship to a Liverpool side in their pomp. In 1978 Ipswich beat Arsenal to lift the FA Cup, and three years later, even more impressively, won the Uefa Cup by defeating the Dutch champions AZ 67 Alkmaar 5-4 in a two-legged final.
Robson's chief merit as a manager was always his ability to make players regard him as a respected father-figure for whom they wanted to play their best. He also, however, had a somewhat underrated talent for identifying and bringing through potential stars – notably Terry Butcher, John Wark, Paul Mariner and Alan Brazil at Ipswich, and later the Brazilian striker Ronaldo and Ruud van Nistelrooy at PSV Eindhoven.
Moreover, though criticised by the press when national manager for his adherence to an English style of play, it was Robson at Ipswich who in fact began the revolution in domestic soccer by signing two Dutch players, Arnold Muhren and Frans Thijssen. The transfers were greeted initially with some scepticism, but both proved outstanding buys. Though Robson could present a forgetful, indecisive, even mildly eccentric air at times, he also had visionary qualities.
He knew, too, how to draw on experience, and it was no coincidence that in his sixties he enjoyed his palmiest days as a club manager. Widely admired on the Continent since his time with Ipswich a decade before, Robson took a series of ever more prestigious jobs with European sides after leaving England – and the English press – behind in 1990.
In 1991 and 1992 he guided PSV Eindhoven to the Dutch title. The next year he was appointed coach at Sporting Lisbon (where he worked with the young Luis Figo), but was sacked after a season. He was quickly snapped up by their rivals Porto, who for some years had been in the doldrums. Robson turned the club around, steering them to the championship in 1994 and the Portuguese league and cup double the next season.
The following year, Robson discovered that he had a cancer of the mouth which, if left untreated, would kill him in less than six months. He endured two operations to remove the tumour and successfully overcame his illness. He returned to coaching, and in 1997 reached perhaps the pinnacle of his club career when he was appointed manager of Barcelona.
Having persuaded the Catalan giants to sign the almost unknown Ronaldo from PSV, he won the Spanish cup and the European Cup Winners' Cup that season, and finished second in the league. As so often at Barca, this last achievement was not considered good enough, and he was moved upstairs as chief scout in 1998 to make way for Louis van Gaal. Six months later he returned to PSV for a brief second spell before being offered – at the age of 66 – the coach's job at the club he had supported as a boy, Newcastle United.
The side was then struggling after Ruud Gullit's disastrous spell as manager; in particular, the team's talisman, Alan Shearer, who had fallen out with Gullit, was failing to score goals. Robson quickly won him round, and Shearer responded by scoring five times in his first match at St James's Park under his new coach.
Within two years Robson had the side back in the Champions League and snapping at the heels of the two dominant teams of the time, Arsenal and Manchester United, although he could never quite bring the championship back to Tyneside. In 2002 his services to football were recognised with a knighthood, and that same year a statue of him was erected in Ipswich. He retired, aged 71, at the end of the 2004 season, much admired by players and fans alike and, eventually, much feted by the press.
Robson's long battle with cancer was well-documented, and he established the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation to set up a centre in Newcastle to fight the disease. His popularity with the public ensured that the £500,000 needed was raised in just seven weeks. The sum contributed now stands at more than £1.2 million.
He is survived by his wife, Elsie, whom he married in 1955, and by their three sons."
Rest In Peace
one of the true gents of the game and will be sadly missed
Have a plan and stick to it
Paying homage to this collosal man
Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho led emotional tributes to their great friend Sir Bobby Robson, hailing his courage and passion as an inspiration for their own lives.
As the Football League revealed plans to remember Robson with a minute's applause at all grounds on the opening weekend of the season, Ferguson said: 'In my 23 years working in England there is not a person I would put an inch above him.'
The Manchester United manager readily admitted he drew inspiration from Robson, who carried on working as a Premier League manager into his 70s with Newcastle.
Ferguson said: 'I was never too big or proud to ask him for advice, which he gave freely and unconditionally. And I'm sure I am speaking for a lot of people when I say that. I mourn the passing of a great friend, a wonderful individual, a tremendous football man and somebody with passion and knowledge of the game that was unsurpassed.
His character was hewn out of the coalface; developed by the County Durham mining background that he came from.
'His parents instilled in him the discipline and standards which forged the character of a colossal human being. He added his own qualities to that which he passed on to his sons.
'The strength and courage he showed over the past couple of years when battling against his fifth bout of cancer was indescribable. Always a smile, always a friendly word with never a mention of his own problems.
'The world, not just the football world, will miss him. Let's hope it won't be long before another like him turns up because we could never get enough of them.'
Mourinho was taken under Robson's wing while he was coaching Sporting Lisbon, Porto and Barcelona, where the Portuguese initially acted as an interpreter.
The Inter Milan boss revealed the heartache Robson's illness had caused him.
He said: 'I hadn't spoken to him in the last two months because it was hard for me. It was me who found it hard because I didn't want to think that he was dying, that wasn't the image that I wanted to keep with me forever of Bobby Robson, that wasn't the voice I wanted to hear.
'I wanted to and I will keep with me always the Bobby Robson of every day, a person who had extraordinary passion for life and for football, with an extraordinary enthusiasm.
'Bobby Robson is one of those people who never die, not so much for what he did in his career, for one victory more or less, but for what he knew to give to those who had, like me, the good fortune to know him and walk by his side. My thoughts and embraces go to all his loved ones.'
Paul Gascoigne, who struck up a remarkable bond with Robson during the 1990 World Cup, said:
'He was like my second dad. He gave me my first run-out for the England team. When I saw him recently it was heartbreaking to see him that way.'
The Premier League is expected to follow with its own tribute to Robson and all clubs are expected to wear black armbands on the first day as a mark of respect.
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