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.