Thoughts on Robson

I figure I should recognize Sir Bobby Robson like everyone else even I though I’ve never had hugely strong feelings either way about the guy. I am too young to have seen him manage at his peak such as with Ipswich, England, or Barcelona. I am most familiar with him from his most recent tenure at Newcastle and also from the seminal book All Played Out by Pete Davies. In that book, he comes of as extremely smart and extremely kind. That kindness stands out most.

In a sport, especially in England, that practically encourages its morons and schmucks to rise to the top, Robson reached there through different means. He was one of the few managers of his era to not only go abroad, but who actually succeed there as well. He won league titles with PSV Eindhoven and Porto while winning Copa del Rey and Cup Winners Cup with Barcelona.

From all accounts, Robson was kind almost to a fault with nearly everyone, including even the press. For me, I need little more convincing than the fact that he remained married to his wife Elsie for 54 years. How many people in “big-time” sport can we say that about?

The more I read about him, he strikes me as a very interesting combination of the modern and old. Here was a man who brought very modern ideas and tactics to England at a time when its soccer was in international exile and not very interested in the foreign or different. At the same time, he had this extremely old-fashioned kindness and gentility that seemed to hearken back to an almost pre-professional, Victorian era ethos.

While his temperament and behavior were quintessentially and timelessly English, England wasn’t able to keep up with his tactical and sporting sophistication until he returned to the country with Newcastle in 1999.

It’s a cliche to say that “we’ll never see another one like him,” so instead let me leave it by saying let us all hope we see many others like him both in England and abroad.

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3 thoughts on “Thoughts on Robson

  1. If I made time to do so, I would love to post my memories of the late Sir Bobby Robson to a multitude of message boards.

    However, this is as good as any for today.

    My often critical posts are directed at the poor turn out of quality coaches by the “famed” FA Coaching schools of England.

    If I was to use a benchmark as to what England can produce in terms of international class managers – then Bobby Robson was the top of the tops.

    I first encountered Robson in Mexico in 1986. The England World Cup side had just advanced to the 2nd round and the team had made quick camp in our hotel.

    Being a rather young American journalist, I tried to make my way into the upstairs dining room where the players had gathered for breakfast. (This was before the days of press officers and media relations team that now travel to the World Cup)

    As I neared the table at the back of the room, I saw Robson seated with England Captain – Bryan Robson, Ray Wilkins and Coach Don Howe. At almost the instant I reached the table, Bobby looked up and glaced at me. He then called for “Nigel or Bruce” or some such name – but it was clear this person would be a minder (bodyguard or security).

    I turned without a word and began a retreat from the room. I could hear the words “never mind” as I left.

    Later that evening, I was waiting in the lobby of the hotel. As I made my way to the sofas in the lounge, a man in a dark blue blazer sat with his back to me smoking a cigar.

    As I came to sit at the facing chairs I saw that it was Robson. I looked up at him and began to apologize for the intrusion – he stopped me mid-sentance and said “you couldn’t have known lad”.

    I told him we (journalists) just wanted to watch them train and admired the way they had played thus far.

    There after, I was allowed to approach the team, play tennis with the players and even given some very nice gifts by the FA officials which accompanied the England party.

    I shall never forget the manner in which he handled the situation, especially given the way security and press events are structured today.

    Thanks to this man, the class of a person, who acted like a Knight, not just one bearing the title.

    Sir Bobby Robson – R.I.P.

  2. My favourite Bobby Robson story involved him at a book signing, signing his autobiography for a guy who said to him “I bet you’ve signed loads of these today Bobby”. Robson replied “Hundreds mate, hundreds”

    The guy walked away and looked in his book where it was inscribed, ‘Best Wishes, Bobby Hundreds’!

    Sir Bobby was a true legend and his enthusiasm and love for the game will be greatly missed.

  3. When I read his book “An Englishman Abroad” I was amazed at how he managed to take challenges and jobs that would have given most people fits is beyond me. There really will be never another gentleman like this in the game. I cant see another one to take his place. They’ve all been taken over by self-important DIs with a serious ego problem.

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