The late Sir Robert “Bobby” Robson.
It would be difficult to actually point your finger at which of Robson’s achievements more entitled Sir Bobby to receive his knighthood as any other. His exemplary career as a professional footballer, successful manager of a number of UK clubs, his successes in Europe as manager of some of its leading clubs, his role as manager of the English national team in one of their finest post Sir Alf Ramsey periods, or probably a combination of them all.
Sir Bobby was a much loved and respected figure on the World soccer scene for many years, and what always stood out in his character was his tremendous inner calmness, humour and humility.
Born in 1933 to a working class family in the North East of England, Sir Bobby was a classical midfield player, with a great understanding of the game and an eye for goal. Most of his playing career, which lasted two decades, was spent with Fulham, split by successful period with West Bromwich Albion.
Even as a young man, Sir Bobby displayed signs of an interest in fresh challenges and sunnier climbs, taking off for the west coast of Canada to become player manager for Vancouver.
Sir Bobby made a total of twenty appearances for the English national team during which he scored four goals from the midfield. In all his career as a footballer, one of Sir Bobby’s greatest regrets is that he never one a single medal although he did win twenty caps for the English national team, scoring four goals.
Whilst his playing career was winding down in Vancouver, and his management skills were just starting to blossom, Sir Bobby received a call from his former club Fulham to come back and mange the club.
It was an offer that the found hard to refuse, and he returned to the UK, and at the of 35 began his career as a soccer manager in the English League.
Signs of his promise were there to be seen and it wasn’t long before offers started to come in. Sir Bobby surprised a few people by taking the manager’s job in 1969 at unfancied Ipswich Town.
Robson obviously felt that the pace of life in this pleasant corner of England would suit him fine.. He took a year or two to learn the tricks of his trade and by the early seventies, Robson had put together a team that began to win games as well as some minor trophies.
Robson led Ipswich to fourth place in the First Division and success in the in the 1972-73 season, and they never fell below sixth place in any of the following nine seasons, which was a remarkable achievement for a provincial club with limited support.
Robson’s Ipswich, in their light blue soccer uniforms were a soccer purist’s dream and Sir Bobby’s skills as a manager were being recognized. Especially outstanding was his ability to nurture home grown talent and even in the early days of “check book management”, during his thirteen year at Ipswich, Sir Bobby only bought 14 players. He also got his first taste of silverware at Ipswich, winning the 1978 FA Cup and the 1981 UEFA Cup.
Bigger clubs were knocking on door all the time, but he seemed content, till one day an offer came in that such a patriot as Sir Bobby could not turn down, and that was to manage the England national team.
Robson took over as England manager after the 1982 World Cup finals and remained in the post for eight years, leaving after the 1990 final. English football has traditionally enjoyed a love-hate relationship with their managers, in that they love them before the take the job and hate them soon as they are in it.
Sadly Sir Bobby was no exception yet he handled the criticism with his typical dignity and humour. During his tenure England won not a single award, yet they got a lot closer than any other manager after Sir Alf Ramsey as well as any since.
After leaving England,became a bit of a soccer wanderer, bringing his experience to clubs like Sporting Lisbon and Porto in Portugal, Barceló in Spain and PSV Eindhoven in Holland He succeeded in winning honours for all of the clubs that he managed, with the most outstanding being the European Cup Winners cup for Barcelona in 1989.
In the mid nineteen nineties, Sir Bobby decided that the time was right to return to the UK. In 1999 he was offered the manager’s job at Newcastle, in his beloved North- East of England.
Many advised Sir Bobby not to take on the job, as once aging the “love them before the take the job and hate them soon as they are in it” syndrome again applied, but not with the club’s supporters but with club’s owner.
Newcastle were perennial under achievers, and despite taking the club to 4th, 3rd and 5th finishes in the Premier League, and into Europe. was sacked in 2004 and for the first time in his career.
Sadly Sir Bobby’s illness was beginning to take its toll, and he never worked again. During his spell at Newcastle, Robson was created a Knight Bachelor in 2002, and was inducted as a member of the English Football Hall of Fame in 2003.