Manager with old-fashioned values

From sleepy Ipswich Town to Barcelonas Nou Camp, Robson cast his spell


Bobby Robson

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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