“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” Jose Mourinho
"It was a pleasure to know him, not only as a coach but also as a person. It was a marvellous experience. It was a very difficult season, even though we won three trophies. Despite the problems of that year, he never lost his composure and always behaved like a gentleman." Pep Guardiola
"He was like a father to me. Bobby Robson helped me to be consistent and helped me a lot with my career. Today he can enjoy the fruits of his labour."- Ronaldo
Source: Graeme Bandeira
Not many men can have such footballing icons speak so highly about one’s self. Sir Bobby Robson died three years ago today and this makes it a important time to remember not only one of football’s greatest managers but also one of the game’s finest people. In a stellar management career that took him across Europe managing and influencing many of football’s greatest clubs and players, Bobby Robson’s legacy will be remembered by Ten Yards offside in this special blog.
Beginning his managerial career with Fulham he lasted less than a year and saw his Fulham side relegated but his short managerial career in Fulham saw him convert Malcolm McDonald from a full back to a forward. Initially, Fulham didn’t see the fruits of Robson’s vision but once McDonald moved to Newcastle in 1971 he became a club icon and led the scoring charts at St James’ Park for 5 consecutive seasons. Even though he played 14 times for England, he scored 6 times including 5 in one game against Cyprus; a record that still stands today. Robson’s next managerial feat was at Ipswich Town where after 13 years won both the FA Cup in 1978 and the UEFA Cup in 1981. This was an incredible feat which was enhanced again by the fact that over his whole managerial period, he only signed 14 players; mainly relying on the club’s youth academy. Players such as Alan Brazil, John Wark and Terry Butcher all flourished under Robson and he is honoured by Ipswich with both a life presidency in 2006 and a statue in 2002. Since Robson left, Ipswich have only briefly flirted with top flight football under George Burley (who played for Robson in the period).
1982 saw Ron Greenwood being replaced by Robson as England manager after defeat in the 1982 World Cup. Only second to Sir Alf Ramsey in terms of performance in World Cup (semi-finals in 1990) and the most successful coach on foreign soil, Robson continued his stellar career over his 8 year spell with England. In 1986, Robson steered England to the last 8 where England were defeated by Diego Maradona’s two most memorable goals; the ‘Hand of God’ and the ‘Goal of the Century’. Even though he was unable to get out the group at Euro ’88, he led England to the semi-finals at Italia 90 where England’s penalty heartache began. Robson left the post after the tournament but soon moved to PSV in Holland and success on the continent soon followed him.
Robson’s European trophy hunt began in Holland with PSV who won back to back league titles in 1991 and 1992. Even though he was undoubtedly successful domestically; a combination of frayed relations with players such as Romario and a lack of European success was him leave the Dutch club in 1992. He soon arrived in Portugal with Sporting Lisbon but again Robson was challenged by poor European performances and a President (Sousa Cintra) who regularly undermined him. Leaving in December 1993, Robson’s Portuguese experience saw success with FC Porto. Not only successfully winning the league twice in 1994 and 1995 and beating former club Sporting 5-0 (giving him the nickname Bobby 5-0); Robson took former translator Jose Mourinho to the club and young protégée Andre Villas-Boas to the club. Both would return to the club years later and bring domestic and European success to Porto. None of this would be possible without Robson. The Portuguese success caught the attention of FC Barcelona who hired him in the summer of 1996. Bringing Mourinho with him, Robson signed Ronaldo for a fee of $19.5 million. Even though he only stayed in the managerial seat of the Nou Camp for one season, he flourished in the Catalan city winning three trophies including the Cup Winner’s Cup, and being voted manager of the year. Barcelona’s team included Ronaldo, Portuguese legend Luis Figo and Barcelona icon Pep Guardiola. A reshuffle in 1997 saw Bobby move upstairs to become Director of Football but he soon left the role to return to PSV and guarantee Champions League football for the club.
Robson last managerial role occurred in the North-East of England where he again managed success with Newcastle Utd. Constantly challenging for Champions League places Newcastle saw continued success achieving top 5 finishes before his ill health stalled his progress. Eventually he was sacked by the Newcastle board who blamed a poor start to the 2005 season but Robson also had to deal with more disruptive players including Craig Bellamy. Even though he won no trophies at his time at the club, Newcastle fans awarded him the freedom of the city in March 2005.
A gentleman on the pitch, Robson was a true great off it. As well as a host of media work he was knighted in 2002 and was given the BBC Lifetime Achievement award by fellow manager Sir Alex Ferguson in 2007 for his footballing career which last half a century. Even through ill health had plagued his life since his time in Portugal, Robson battled on until 2009; when aged 79 he died of lung cancer. Robson’s time may have ended but in influence continues. From Guardiola to Jose Mourinho, his influence is at the very heart of football today and on a day like this, it can only be right to remember one of football’s greats.