Friday, July 31, 2009


News is coming out that Sir Bobby Robson has passed away, aged 76.

A man of dignity and honour, Bobby took the reins of Newcastle after the reign of Ruud Gullit had ended in a sodden defeat to the Mackems, and guided us to domestic and European semi finals and a place in the last 16 of the Champions League, before the relative failure of finishing fifth saw Fat Fred hand Bobby his P45.

Had he come to the club when we first approached him (following Keegan's departure), I remain convinced that we would have gone on to win at least one trophy, but sadly Bobby's sense of duty compelled him to stay loyal to Barcelona (who promptly sacked him the following summer).

Bobby will be remembered as a true fan: one of immense dignity and honour, who cared passionately for his home city and club, and whose passing will be felt throughout the game and the region.

Our thoughts and condolences go to his family.

Update (by Ben)

Back at the end of May, reflecting on an annus most horribilis as the dust settled on our relegation, I traced the root of our problems back to the sacking of Sir Bobby Robson in August 2004. I still stand by that.

Our spectacles may be rose-tinted, particularly given the predicament we find ourselves in just five years later, but looking back, the five years he was in charge seem like a halcyon age - an age of challenging for the title; of winning in London for the first time in four years and then beating Leeds to stay top of the league at Christmas; of Champions League football and that staggering night in the Netherlands; of bright, dynamic, energetic football played by young men who could rely on their manager for a wealth of guidance, wisdom, enthusiasm and pastoral support.

And it wasn't just the young players who benefited from his presence. For Gullit's final game in charge, Alan Shearer sat glumly on the bench as the Mackems condemned us to a particularly miserable home defeat. In came Sir Bobby, restored Shearer to the starting XI and in the very next home game he hit five as we thrashed Sheffield Wednesday 8-0. As Shearer himself has said, "for me as an individual, he saved my career at Newcastle". As Newcastle fans, if that isn't a reason to be thankful to him, then I don't know what is.

Shearer has commented pointedly, though, "I will always remember him being a great, great man - not only for football". A great, great man who was - according to all those who had the good fortune to meet him - unfailing patient, generous, considerate, gentlemanly and warm-hearted, with a smile and a kind word for everyone (even Fergie).

And, of course, an endearing knack for getting himself in a verbal twist, whether it was calling Shola Ameobi "Carl Cort" or claiming tickets were selling "like cream cakes". Perhaps the best SBR anecdote is the one about the book signing session. As he penned a message on one fan's book, he was asked: "You must be shattered, Bobby. How many books have you signed?" "Oh, hundreds", he replied cheerily. The fan got home to discover the message inside read: "Best wishes, Bobby Hundreds"...

Of course, it's not just those of us on Tyneside, fans of the other clubs he managed - Ipswich, Barcelona, Porto, PSV Eindhoven - or fans of England who are mourning his passing. It's really saying something when - as happened in the office this afternoon - people who have absolutely no interest in football are expressing genuine sadness about the news. He was, it seems, the sort of person everyone would have liked for a grandad.

Deaths can rarely be described as timely, but in this instance I think that might be appropriate. With his valiant but ultimately ill-fated fifth battle with cancer drawing to its end, Sir Bobby made one last public appearance at St James' on Sunday, at the exhibition fixture between England Legends and German Legends in aid of his charity. England won, with the man who was thankful to him for resurrecting his Newcastle career getting the winner.

If you want to pay tribute to Sir Bobby, by all means leave a comment here or elsewhere - but by far the best way to do so would be to support the work of The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation with a donation.

Obituaries: BBC, Guardian, Independent

Tyneside mourns

Tributes to Sir Bobby (word of warning: contains piffle from Fat Fred, the man who gave him the boot)

SBR in his own words


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