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Farewell Sir Bobby Robson 1933-2009

It’s with a heavy heart that I start this posting, as the sad news that Sir Bobby Robson has finally lost his fight with cancer after a 13 year battle with the disease. Sir Bobby’s last public appearance was at the charity match for his foundation on Sunday, and it was heartbreaking yet wonderful to see him receive the adulation of his beloved Geordie fans one last time.

Robson was the most successful English manager of the last 50 years, of that there is no argument, both at home in England and with various stints in Spain, Portugal and Holland. A true gentleman, his warmth, generosity and love of the game touched everyone that he came in contact with throughout his long and distinguished career.  Whilst Clough had success at Forest in his early days, he never built on his early success at Derby County or Nottingham Forest, save for a League Cup win in 1988. Robson won trophies in 4 countries and took his country to a World Cup semi final over a 10 year period.

A successful footballer, Robson was a deep lying centre forward, similar to the role that Teddy Sheringham would later distinguish with such panache. He started his career at Fulham, but as with Sir Tom Finney, his father made him concentrate on a proper trade, becoming an apprentice electrian whilst still training with Fulham. In the two spells he spent at Craven Cottage, Robson made 344 appearances and scored 77 goals. The spells at Fulham bracketed a 6 year spell with West Bromwich Albion, where he appeared 239 times and hit 56 goals.  He also regularly appeared for England, earning 20 caps and getting 4 goals between 1957 – 1962.

Yet, Robson’s playing career would be eclipsed by his success as a manager, though it didn’t get off to the best start. Returning after a spell in Canada, playing for the Vancouver Royals, Robson joined Fulham for a third time as manager in 1968.  Robson took over a struggling side and was unable to keep them in the First Division. The following season, with Fulham in 8th, he discovered he had been sacked on a “Robson Sacked” placard outside Putney tube station.

 It was to be his next place of employment that would set Robson on the path to greatness,;he took over at Ipswich Town in 1969. Staying for a total of 13 years, in his last 9 seasons at Portman Road, Ipswich only finished lower than 6th once. This achievement could not be understated, surrounded by the giants of Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Aston Villa, Ipswich were punching well above their weight. He consistently delivered European Football and under his guidance the club won the F.A. Cup in 1978 and the U.E.F.A. Cup in 1981.

It was clear that he had a job for life at Ipswich Town and his success as bringing players through the youth system was a testament to his skill as a spotter of players. In the 13 years he was the manager, he only signed 14 players, an incredible figure that showed the qualities the scouting network and youth system delivered.

In 1982, Ron Greenwood announced he would leave the England job and the F.A made Robson their preferred choice. The F.A’s dislike of Brian Clough meant the role was Robson’s to lose and even a last minute offer of a ten year contract at Ipswich couldn’t change his mind.

He took over in June 1982 and would spend 8 years in charge of his country. There were low points of course along the way, failure to qualify for Euro 84 and the teams woeful performance in Euro 88 but the success of getting England to Quarter Finals of the World Cup in 1986, and within a post width of a rematch in the final of Italia 90 saw Robson deliver the best showing by an England side in a World Cup since 1966.

Robson’s final two years in the England job saw him recieve unbelievably negative press, consistently being urged to quit. When the F.A. decided to remove him in 1990, I wonder just how long in Graham Taylor’s reign they’d realised what a mistake they’d made? Robson left with the success of Italia 90 still ringing in his ears and embarked on a 9 year managerial campaign in Europe. Taking over at PSV Eindhoven, he won the title in his first two seasons, but the PSV board wanted more success in Europe and Robson was removed in the summer of 1992. He then moved to Portugal and Sporting Lisbon, meeting a young interpreter by the name of Jose Mourinho.The two then moved to Porto and Barcelona. In 1999, Robson eventually got the job he’d always wanted, when he became the manager of Newcastle United.

Robson’s battle with cancer began in 1991 and he has fought 5 separate bouts of the disease in the last 18 years. He was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in 2007, but still struggling to recover from a stroke caused by a brain tumour in 2006, it was one last fight too far.  Setting up his foundation, it has so far raised over £1.5 million in 18 months, I hope that figure will rise in the next few weeks.

So farewell Sir Bobby. I will miss you; you were a lovely man, kind, warm, generous and gave me some wonderful times as an England fan. Football is a lesser sport with your loss.

“My condition is described as static and has not altered since my last bout of chemotherapy; I am going to die sooner rather than later. But then everyone has to go sometime and I have enjoyed every minute.” Sir Bobby Robson

“As a trainer without doubt Robson is one of the greatest in the world” Ronaldo

“He was like a father to me, I’ll never forget the love he showed me” Paul Gascoigne

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  1. jackie

    August 2, 2009 at 9:55 am

    Bobby woz a great gentleman,a great person in football it’s such sad and upsetting he has left us but he will neva be forgotton god bless u bobby

  2. billy

    August 2, 2009 at 6:54 am

    Ipswich fans grieve as Sir Alf and Sir Bobby discuss their greatness as managers at Ipswich and in charge of England inside them pearly gates.

    Portman Road and Wembley should name a stand after each to make sure these two greats are NEVER forgotten.

    God bless.

  3. EJ van Benthem

    August 2, 2009 at 6:26 am

    RIP Sir Bobby Robson.
    I got tears in my eyes when i hear that England has lost a great gentleman manager.
    Sir Bobby i will never forget you.

    FC Twente

  4. Simon Lewis

    August 1, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    RIP Sir Bobby. Sir Alf apart, Bobby was the best manager England has ever had. If only those ‘fine gentlemen’ of the press could have seen that at the time. Bobby Robson, we salute you!

  5. dayle

    August 1, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    its goin to be a great loss for the legend he will be sadly missed. a tru local hero 🙁

  6. Joerg

    August 1, 2009 at 7:40 am

    Another great sportsman has left ….
    Rest in peace, Bobby !!!

  7. Nick Fuller

    August 1, 2009 at 6:11 am

    Earlier this year I wrote a book about Sir Bobby’s time @ Ipswich and the research just underlined what an amazing man he was. There was almost no one who had bad word for him. Players wanted to walk through walls for him. Supporters loved him.

    This man was so much more than a great football manager – he was a fantastic person. The support for his charity showed just how many people knew it and the outpouring on his death underlines it.

    I feel desperately sad but also hugely appreciative for what he did both for ITFC and the game in general. It’s often said but this time it’s true – we won’t see his like again. RIP.

  8. Hoeijmans

    August 1, 2009 at 4:14 am

    Sir Bobby Robson may you rest in peace after such a long fight. Football has lost an icoon, a gentleman and most off all a great person.
    So on behalf off al the fans from PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands:
    Bobby we loved you and we will miss you!

  9. Simon Burke

    July 31, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    Its rare at the age of 33 that anything brings a tear to my eye but I opened the internet before going to work and seeing RIP Bobby Robson on the web I felt dreadful. No-one in football was loved more – Alf Ramsey and Bobby Moore and now Sir Bobby. I often listen to Sportsweek on the BBC Sunday mornings and every so often you’d get Bobby phoning in to chat and it was enjoyable and you knew you had a special episode.

    Gaffer (or anyone) if you come across any TV shows about him which are visible online (Much like the Clough documentary you found) please let me know as living in America I will miss out now on what I am sure the BBC are putting together to honour one of the worlds grandest gentleman.

    • The Gaffer

      August 1, 2009 at 7:14 am

      Simon, I’ll definitely keep an eye out for such a programme. I agree with you. The Beeb and other channels in the UK usually do a fantastic job at documentaries (especially football ones), which is what we desperately miss over here in the States.

      That said, HBO does a fantastic job with sports documentaries. It’s just a shame they’re never about the real football.

      The Gaffer

  10. Robbie

    July 31, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    Bobby Robson you will be missed, shear class and a man we can all learn from in how to conduct ourselves as human beings and enjoy life. You will always be a man of class to me Bobby. You always held your head up high and made want to be a better person for it. I will forever have and pass on your lessons in life no matter where I am. Rest in peace 🙁

  11. linda & maher el-agan

    July 31, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    its so sad to hear he’s gone i knew when i saw him on sunday he will be missed very much in the north east plus every where eles he touched everyones hearts in different ways so long bobby ur in a good place now no more suffering

  12. Steve Brown

    July 31, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    So So Very Sad, A truly great loss to football, A football great in all sense of the word!

  13. Roy Hepburn

    July 31, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Bobby was a true great, legend and most of all a gentleman.
    Bobby enjoyed great success in every job he took and was loved and respected around the globe.
    But no where will he be missed more than his home of Geordie Land.
    RIP Bobby the Grandad of the North East!!!!

  14. Tony Brown

    July 31, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    The north east and the world of football has lost one of the greatest people of all time. Never has any one person showed the world how to be a true gentleman in his professional and public life, I will never forget you, Newcastle will neve forget you and football will never forget you.
    Thanks wor Booby

  15. tony

    July 31, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    A true gent. A true legend. A great loss.

  16. sanjay prabhakaran

    July 31, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    may his soul rest in peace in heaven

  17. Bishopville Red

    July 31, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    Regardless of events on the pitch, the thing that struck me most with Sir Bobby Robson was how he handled the unseemly side of the game. Sacked rashly? held his head up and walked through the exit. Called a puppet who let the press pick his England side? Move on and prove everyone wrong at PSV, Porto and Barça. Even in the end when he was stabbed in the back by Shearer, he just got on with it. No excuses, just went about his business.

    A quality individual. A few more like him in the game and we wouldn’t see as much cynicism around the professional game.


  18. michelle loftus and rainsforth

    July 31, 2009 at 10:00 am

    Michelle Loftusandrainsforth
    rip sir bobby what a real shame , heaven has gained a truly insparational man . our loss heavens gain

  19. Paul Bestall

    July 31, 2009 at 9:48 am

    I have to say, that I have cried today over the news. I so upset to see him in his condition on Sunday’s game that it brought me to tears as well.
    I have been a fan of Robson since I started watching football properly, since 86 and followed his career throughout. I always consider him to be the type of man who would always give you the time of day.
    I am crushed today, I went to the World Cup in 1990, so that tournament is etched in my mind forever. He’s the only footballling hero I have yet to meet apart from Gazza, and now I never will.
    The world is a lesser place for his passing. My condolences to all his family.

  20. LS7

    July 31, 2009 at 9:31 am

    RIP Sir Bobby. He was a person I always had lot of respect for. He conducted himself with class, gave intelligent, thoughtful and honest interviews and was obviously a big influence on some of the games biggest names. A big loss for the football world.

  21. Jason Gatties

    July 31, 2009 at 9:13 am

    As a Fulham supporter, I was crushed today. I started following the club a lot sooner than most Americans, so I understand fully the impact he had as a player and his brief period as our manager in 1968. He was a great manager. He brought pride to the English National Team. Man, lost for words really.

    Normally when I post on my blog, I can throw a post up really quick without putting much thought into it. On my blog today, when I wanted to write something about Sir Bobby’s passing, I kept getting choked up and it took me nearly 90 minutes to write a 3 or 4 paragraph post. I dunno, just crushed.

    Heaven welcomed a great man this morning.

  22. The Gaffer

    July 31, 2009 at 9:00 am

    I definitely had tears in my eyes this morning when I read the news. Bobby Robson was a legend — as a footballer, a manager, and as a man. This is a huge loss to English football.

    I’ll share more of my thoughts about Robson later tonight hopefully in a post. But until then, I’d like to encourage you — the readers — to post your memories of Sir Bobby Robson in the comments below.

    The Gaffer

    • The Gaffer

      August 1, 2009 at 7:12 am

      A few years ago, I listened to a radio documentary on the BBC that completely blew my mind. I had known and followed Bobby Robson’s managerial progress at Ipswich, for England and at Newcastle as well as in Barcelona and PSV.

      But I was completely floored by the story of Bobby Robson, the footballer. I never knew how accomplished he was as a professional football player, and the radio programme completely opened my eyes to that.

      Honestly, I’ve been trying to track down that radio programme that aired on the BBC for years (it was released about 3-4 years ago). BBC’s website is awful in terms of trying to find archived content, and I was unable to locate it.

      To me, Robson accomplished so much no matter where he went and is one of the last of a dying breed of upstanding English gentlemen who graced the game of football management.

      He will never be forgotten.

      The Gaffer

  23. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    July 31, 2009 at 8:52 am

    What a true legend. Robson did more to promote the virtues of English Football than about any other man of our times.

    He has an impact the world over with the likes of Ronaldo who became the best player in the world thanks to working with Robson at PSV and Barca. He had his impact in England obviously as well with Ipswich and the National Team.

    A great man for turbulent times. One of the greatest men we will ever witness in the game and we are sadly highly unlikely to have anyone of his stature in this generation of football.

  24. Ivan

    July 31, 2009 at 8:51 am

    Rest in peace, Sir Bobby!

  25. Tom

    July 31, 2009 at 7:30 am

    One of my earliest memories of football was the 1990 World Cup and that dramatic but heartbreaking penalty shoot-out against Germany. Robson, graceful and sporting as ever, just took the defeat on the chin and accepted it just wasn’t meant to be. He should be an example all managers and coaches should follow.

    I doubt many people will ever be so universally loved across the football world as Sir Bobby was. A fine player, a fine manager but also a true gentleman.

    R.I.P. Bobby football is poorer without you.

  26. Dave

    July 31, 2009 at 7:25 am

    Legend. Another dead hero.

  27. David Miller

    July 31, 2009 at 7:09 am

    Sir Bobby you were a legend and a ambassador for the sport of football, you will be remembered with great fondness by not only myself but my two son’s who idolised you.
    You stood for all that was good in football and never did you complain about your treatment, especially England and Barcelona.
    R.I.P you will be missed by all TRUE football fams Forever in my thoughts.

    God bless Elsie and all your family

  28. Cam

    July 31, 2009 at 6:02 am

    Football has lost one of the most extraordinary and influential men…farewell Bobby, we’ll miss you!

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