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Bobby Robson shone like a beacon of decency

Last updated on: August 01, 2009 

Bobby Robson shone like a beacon of decency

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Throughout a life spent almost entirely devoted to football, former England manager Bobby Robson shone like a beacon of decency and old-fashioned values, of all that is good in the game.

The 76-year-old son of a Durham miner lost his battle with cancer on Friday after fighting the disease on and off since 1992 in which time he managed some of the world's biggest football clubs and gained the respect of millions.

The depth of feeling at the news of his passing was quite extraordinary with the game's most influential figures joining the queue along with the man in the street to pay tribute to one of the sport's greatest football brains and a true gentleman.


Image: A man is seen wearing a Newcastle United shirt as a tribute to former manager Robson at the club's stadium in Newcastle.
Photographs: Reuters
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As a coach he left a lasting legacy

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Robson spanned the generations and cultures like few others.

Born in 1933 in a small coal-mining village he fell in love with football watching the likes of Jackie Milburn and Len Shackleton play for Newcastle United.

It was an education that was to serve him well throughout a playing career as an inside forward with Fulham and West Bromwich Albion and which earned him 20 England caps.

However, it was his more than three decades as a coach which will leave his lasting legacy.

Wherever he went, be it sleepy Ipswich Town on England's east coast or the cauldron of Barcelona's Nou Camp, Robson's ability to communicate his football principles, his instinctive knack of handling players, stood him in good stead.


Image: At a press conference during his last visit before the World Cup, Bobby Robson, England's manager.
Photographs: Reuters
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That smiling statue outside Portman Road

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When he followed in the footsteps of England's 1966 World Cup winning manager Alf Ramsey by taking over at Ipswich Town in 1969 he transformed them from a homely club to one regularly challenging for the league title.

Twice during his 13 years in charge they finished runners-up, they won the FA Cup in 1978 and the UEFA Cup in 1981. The smiling statue that stands outside Portman Road bears testament to the affection Robson still holds in the town.

"Bobby Robson was an extraordinary man and an incredible football manager," said Scotland manager George Burley, who learnt the game as a teenager under Robson at Ipswich.

"He brought me up as a person and I have always considered him to be a second father."

Burley's description was poignant and his words were echoed by many others on Friday.


Image: England team manager Bobby Robson (left) is seen examining the bandaged left arm of striker Gary Lineker in the 1986 file picture.
Photographs: Reuters
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'Words cannot describe how I feel'

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Few will forget the relationship Robson had with the precociously gifted midfield tearaway Paul Gascoigne during the 1990 World Cup finals -- the culmination of an up-and-down eight-year reign as England manager in which he won over the merciless British tabloid media to come within a whisker of winning the tournament in Italy.

"Words cannot describe how I feel," said Gascoigne, who famously broke down in tears in the semi-final defeat on penalties against West Germany.

"He was my other dad, the tears I shed in 1990 are nothing to the tears I shed when I heard he had died."


Image: Newcastle manager Bobby Robson is seen posing with his award after receiving a Knighthood at Buckingham Palace in this November 11, 2002 file photograph.
Photographs: Reuters
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Bobby won successive league titles with PSV

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While Robson demonstrated all the traditional attributes of English football, it was clear from his Ipswich days when he recruited Dutchmen Arnold Muhren and Frans Thijssen, that he possessed a fascination for different styles of play and could embrace a European-style passing game.

The Netherlands, a country in love with technical, sophisticated football, could have proved a daunting place for an English coach to make his first move into European club football, but Robson won over the doubters when he became PSV Eindhoven coach and won successive league titles.

After PSV, Robson turned his attention to Portugal, first with Sporting Lisbon and then with Porto where he forged a working relationship with a young Jose Mourinho.


Image: PSV Eindhoven's coach Bobby Robson holds up the trophy after winning the Dutch Super Cup [against Ajax] in Amsterdam.
Photographs: Reuters
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European manager of the year with Barca

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With Mourinho as his assistant, Robson transformed Porto, winning successive league titles in 1994-95 and 1995-96 despite his second brush with cancer when he was diagnosed with malignant melanoma.

His success alerted Barcelona and Robson moved, along with Mourinho, to the Nou Camp in 1996 where he won the Spanish Cup, Spanish Super Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup and was voted European manager of the year.

"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," Mourinho, who credits Robson with his later success at Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan said on Friday.


Image: Barcelona's British coach Bobby Robson is seen posing with the Cup Winners' Cup trophy on May 15, 1997.
Photographs: Reuters
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'He had that aura about him'

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Robson's football odyssey turned full circle in 1999 when he returned to his beloved north east and Newcastle where he stayed in charge until 2004, twice leading them into the Champions League.

Wreaths were laid on the St James' Park centre circle on Friday as the ailing club, which was relegated from the Premier League last season, forgot the turmoil surrounding it to celebrate the life of their favourite son.

"When he spoke and asked you to do well you wanted to do well for him because you liked him and you adored him and you felt for him and you felt the pressures and the pain he was going through," former Newcastle striker Alan Shearer said.

"He had that aura about him."


Image: Bobby Robson with Pele.
Photographs: Reuters
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