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Sir Bobby: Rest in Peace
by Asa Butcher
2009-08-01 10:15:39
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Sir Robert William Robson CBE, simply known as Sir Bobby to millions, was a gentleman of both  English and international football. A player, a manager and an ambassador who you could not fail to love for his grandfatherly appearance, kindly manner and gentle approach to a game he obviously loved for decades. His death yesterday at the age of 76 was no great shock, following a lengthy battle against cancer, but his loss is great and English football has certainly lost one of its finest men.

robson03_400My own memories of Sir Bobby only begin from 1990 when he became the first English manager to take England to a World Cup Semi-Final since Sir Alf Ramsey 24 years earlier. Sadly England lost that Semi-Final to Germany on penalties, but memories of the exciting game and his determinedly craggy face still stay strong in my mind. We all remember Paul Gascoigne breaking down in tears over his yellow card and the image of Sir Bobby comforting the distraught lad after the game cemented his place in the hearts of watching nation.

Sadly the next memories of Sir Bobby are his unfortunate tenure as manager at my favourite club Newcastle United from 1999 to 2004. He didn't win us any trophies or have a great deal of success, but he certainly gave us some games to remember. His first home game in charge resulted in an 8-1 win over fellow bottom-of-the-dwellers Sheffield Wednesday and that went on to be a good season (in Newcastle United standards.

robson01_400One particular game I will always remember was at Highbury, when I went with my pessimistic Dad and wide-eyed fiancée to watch Newcastle play Arsenal in a game nobody expected us to win, especially after going one-nil down in the first half, but a storming Toon came back to score three goals that also took us to the top of the league – I'm sure it was a night that Sir Bobby will also never forget.

He took us back into Europe to play at his former club Barcelona where he “stunned” the English journalists present by answering the Spanish journalists in fluent Spanish, and why not since he managed FC Barcelona from 1996–1997 and also spent time in neighbouring Portugal managing FC Porto from 1994–1996 and Sporting Lisbon from 1992–1994 – during his time at Sporting Lisbon his Portuguese interpreter was a young José Mourinho, the future FC Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan manager, which goes to show the influence Sir Bobby had on even interpreters!

Sir Bobby was one of the few former players that enjoyed success as a manager following a 20-year professional career that included clubs such as Fulham, West Bromwich Albion and Canada's Vancouver Royals, plus 20 caps and four goals for England. After an unfortunate foray into managing in 1968 with a short spell at Fulham, he went on to manage Ipswich for 13 years, during which he guided the team to the 1981 UEFA Cup Final where they eventually won.

Sir Bobby became England manager in 1982, a tenure that lasted eight years, and he managed to take England to two World Cup finals (1986 and 1990). It is one game during the 1986 World Cup in Mexico that causes the blood to start pumping among most England fans and that is of course the Quarter-Final against Argentina in which Maradona infamously scored with his hand. Sir Bobby, in his autobiography Farewell but not Goodbye, summed up my own feelings about that goal: “It wasn't the hand of God. It was the hand of a rascal. God had nothing to do with it... That day, Maradona was diminished in my eyes forever.” However, I know that my autobiography would never have described his as a 'rascal' – stronger words would have come to mind.

During his time managing Newcastle United, I never knew of a time he was fined or banned from the touchline for abusive langauge of violation of the rules; he was a gentleman of the game and so many other managers could take a few pages out of the great man's book and live accordingly. The world of football will miss him, as the tributes are showing. Everybody loved the man, you couldn't help it, even my wife who knows very little about football was saddened by the news of his death... rest in peace, Sir Bobby, we will all miss you.

  
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Thanos2009-08-01 21:47:17
RIP Sir Bob


AP2009-08-02 01:11:56
I'm sorry to hear. I didn't know he had died.


Clint2009-08-02 22:39:47
What a great man taking the Toon to 3rd ,4th and 5th in the Prem only Fat Freddie could think of sacking him after 4 games. His first matter as newly appointed England manager was to drop Kevin Keegan who promply signed for the Toon and the rollercoaster ride took off.


AP2009-08-03 00:53:30
One small note though:
José Mourinho wasn't merely "an interpreter" influenced by Sir Bob: before he had ever met Sir Bob, he had already been a brilliant graduate student from the Faculty of Human Motricity, the best student in his post-graduation course, the most genius student ever in his football manager specialized post-graduation course and a successful assistant manager in several football clubs. Actually it is well known that he had other more influential teachers back home, and he is the son of a football manager himself.
If Sir Bob had an impact on him, I would say that was definitely more because of his captivating character and his whole attitude as a professional than in tactical or technical terms.
Mourinho, as a smart guy he is, didn't want to miss the opportunity to work with Sir Bob, a football gentleman, when he was still young - even if he had to play the interpreter sometimes. It turns out that he became a better manager than Sir Bob though, who was a honourable gentleman nonetheless. RIP.


Asa2009-08-05 14:32:36
Thanks for that info, AP!

You learn something new every day.


AP2009-08-07 02:43:30
lol
you're welcome :) funny to notice how the versions in the news can be totally different from one country to another


AP2009-08-07 02:54:50
Mourinho was actually part of the first group of disciples of a famous football tactics expert academician. So there, one more thing to learn today :) It was so funny to read the newspapers in the UK when he left Chelsea - humiliating and diminishing him just because he decided to leave. Isn't that a curious reaction?


AP2009-08-07 03:00:30
ps - and I can say, because I was there, that they were very far from doing the same thing to Sir Bob in Portugal, when he left FCPorto for Barcelona.


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