Friday, 31 July 2009

Bobby Robson

Sometime early in 1981 a cub reporter from the Shrewsbury Chronicle, eager to help out, was pointed in the direction of sports editor Stan Hall who was preparing for the local team's big fourth round FA Cup tie with Ipswich.

Then Shrewsbury were a middle-to-decent Second Division side and Ipswich were in their pomp, already FA Cup winners in 1978, firmly established in England's football elite and on their way to a UEFA Cup triumph. So it was a big game.

"Ring Bobby Robson and ask him what he thinks of the Town team," said Stan.

I rang Portman Road and was startled to be put straight through and greeted with a warm, Geordie "Hello Malcolm, how can I help?"

Twenty minutes later I had a notebook stuffed with his views on Shrewsbury ("lovely place, must take the family there"), Town ("well-organised, hard to break down"), football ("I love the game, there's nothing like it"), life, the universe and everything.

I had enough for three good pieces, including one for the front page, and earned a rare "well done" from the Editor. The truth was that I had done very little except regurgitate the views of one of the finest men in football.

Bobby Robson died today. He played for West Brom, but I won't hold that against him. He was a rare man in the game, more interested in the simple joy of playing football than in the accumulation of silverware or money - the last of a simpler, more honest age.

I wish he had managed Wolves, but he did - as England boss - give Molineux folk hero Steve Bull the chance to represent his country as a Third Division footballer. I can't imagine any Sven or Fabio having similar imagination or courage. And I'll fight anyone who reckons Robson was wrong about Bully.

The last time I saw Robson was on Newcastle station a couple of years ago. The train south had been delayed for half-an-hour and only got going again when a big, elderly man was helped on board. I like to think we were all waiting for Bobby.

Anyhow, the world of football is short of one honest man tonight. Rest easy Bobby.


Rog said...

Can't think of anyone offhand who commanded such respect.

In any field.

Jimmy Bastard said...

He never took any prisoners, always spoke his mind, and had more insight than many of today's fly-by-nights.

The world of fitba is indeed minus one of its greats.

zIggI said...

He came across a such a genuine man, how lucky you are Malc to have first hand experience of that.

Geoff said...

The two greatest England managers made their managerial names with Ipswich. Ipswich, I ask you!

In 1990 I thought that Don Howe was the one responsible for England's success because he persuaded Bobby to use the sweeper system. But after watching Sven's England, to get Waddle, Beardsley and Gascoigne played entertaining football in skill-sapping England shirts was nothing short of genius.

KAZ said...

Good to know he was generous enough to spare the time to talk with that young cub.

elizabethm said...

He always seemed genuine, and, if you get the face you deserve by your old age, his was the face of a kind and good humoured man. This applies to most normal people although you have to be aware of those like Ann Robinson with a sour old face who buy themselves the face of someone pleasant.

coupons said...

He was a great gentleman..

Pete said...

you have to wonder what Robson would have made of the fuss? Robson would probably think the coverage as out of all proportion.

But Robson came across as a decent man. And in todays world we are well short of decent men.

RIP Bobby. your Ipswich of the 70's/80's were beautiful to watch