It’s another one of those time marches on moments; football matches today started with a minutes applause; this was introduced to prevent fans from spoiling the traditional minutes silence by breaking the silence and behaving badly; today they needn’t have worried; from the UK to Holland; France; Spain; Germany and anywhere else the beautiful game is played and loved any mark of respect would have been scrupulously observed. Bobby Robson a man who represented everything that is good not only in sport but in life was paid tribute to after losing his 5 year battle with cancer.
I am old enough to remember him as a mid fielder with England or right half as it then was; he was the engine of a team which boasted Greaves; Haynes: Charlton etc. he scored against Scotland in the 9-3 disaster and was one of the first truly modern players. A fine talent in his own right his job was to do the donkey work for the sublime skills of those mentioned above and before them players like Tom Finney as well. He typically recalled his first international as a nervous debutant when the Great Finney spoke to him thus before kick off, “try not to be nervous son and if you get tired give the ball to me and I’ll keep it until you get your breath back” Finney by the way was not boasting as many ex international full backs would tell you.
He brought success to unfashionable Ipswich and won them trophies as well as European success; went on to manage in Europe including the mighty Barcelona as well as England. He appears to have done all this without making any lasting enemies which speaks volumes for the kind of man he was particularly in the highly competitive world of football. Behind the slightly unworldly persona and a certain awkwardness with the media lurked a football mind which was equal to any he jousted with and matched the best in the world, a true football man and a great loss.
I never met him but thought somehow I knew him and I would have trusted him implicitly and I don’t think that makes me in any way unique. listening to ex players and managers talk about him gives an indication of the affection in which he was held; one of the things which endeared him to everyone was his sense of humour and his apparent confusion which I’m sure he put on a bit like he was always doing two or three things at once and it would all come back to him eventually.
On exiting a lift at the team hotel and bumping into team Captain Bryan Robson he said “Hi Bobby” to which the team captain replied “I’m Bryan Gaffer your Bobby” while discussing world cup winning full back George Cohen’s erratic distribution he once said “ George has hit more photographers than Frank Sinatra” He used to tell the following story about himself; organising sprint training at Ipswich a lone spectator was watching as he lined up the first players with the stop watch and said “ready steady” and “go” shouted the bloke watching, Robson called them back and said to the guy “OK very funny let’s get on with it; ready steady” “go” he shouted again; some of the Players were having a laugh at this much to his annoyance, he threatened them and called into question their professionalism while trying not to join in what was now unstoppable infectious laughter; the more he threatened the worse they got and some players were now rolling about while the villain looked on unblinking. He abandoned the session and stormed back to the changing rooms where one of the players on entering the showers later than the rest told them to be quite and they all listened to the uncontrollable laughter coming from the manager’s room; the guy was identified by the police as a local worthy known to everyone in Ipswich.
Like most others I will always have fond memories of Bobby Robson, his interviews were hilarious and reminded me of an entertainer of the time whose stage name was Professor Stanley Unwin those who remember him will know what I mean.
On an even more somber note I watched an interview last night which made me want to put my foot through the TV. Some enterprising young female TV journalist had managed to track down Paul Gascoigne and persuaded him to do an interview; he was clearly the worse for drink and he was distraught at Robson’s death calling him his second dad and how he was like Robson’s son. Gascoigne was in a terrible state and sobbing uncontrollably; this was car crash television but like the modern journalist that she obviously is this vicious cow went for him unmercifully with highly charged and highly emotional questions, it was pitiful and cruel; she will go far.