Bobby Robson finally yielded to cancer last week and there has been nothing but praise for the grand old man of football. Starting his playing career at Fulham before moving onto West Bromwich Albion, Robson enjoyed a distinguished career and played 20 times for England.
It was management where he really made his mark. He joined Ipswich Town, a small town town club, in 1969 and went onto success there that market town clubs today can only dream of. I wouldn’t even dare to fantasise of my team, Crystal Palace, coming runners up in the Premiership, winning the FA Cup and UEFA Cup. Robson made wishes come true. Unlike the sheik-given mega millions that Manchester City are spending today (let’s see if they come runners-up in the Premiership) Robson never had the financial power to spend in the transfer market. Instead he implemented an unrivalled scouting system and was a trailblazer in signing continental talent for little money. Creating a superb team with little resources was Bobby Robson’s greatest achievement.
He went on to manage England and it was only the outrageous cheek and skill of Diego Maradona that stopped England qualifying for the 1986 World Cup semi finals. His side performed badly in the 1988 European Championships but they came oh so close in the unforgettable 1990 World Cup Finals. I remember Robson’s poise and decency following that desperate loss to Germany in the semi final. Dignified, he went over to the German coach, Franz Beckenbauer, and shook his hand warmly. He then consoled his own players. A hug for a desolate Paul Gascoigne and embraces for Gary Lineker, Stuart Pearce, Peter Shilton, David Platt, Glenn Hoddle, Chris Waddle, Des Walker and the rest of the team. All this coming after the media savaged Robson after his side went through the nail-biting qualifying rounds.
He could have easily retired after the heroics of the 1990 World Cup. Slippers, newspapers and a comfy armchair never suited Bobby Robson. He went on to manage in Holland, Portugal and Spain and won championships and more silverware. No English manager before or since has matched his success on the continent.
He finally returned to his birth place, the north-east of England where he realised his dream and managed his boyhood club, Newcastle United. In his years there, they finished third, fourth and fifth in the Premiership. His reward? The sack. Newcastle have now been relegated and third, fourth, fifth place in the Premiership is fantasy land for their supporters.
His last job in football was an advisor to the Republic of Ireland’s football team.
Everthing he did was touched with decency and dignity. His love for the simple game was unmatched and he loved it more than the money he made. As I read of the latest players to hand in transfer requests to try and get a deal playing for Manchester City (yes, I’m talking about the likes of Joleon Lescott) Bobby Robson’s attributes are now very rare in modern football.