Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Sir Bobby Robson: A man of character and dignity

former England manager Sir Bobby Robson - seen as Ipswich Town manager (left) with coach Cyril Lea and players David Geddis and captain Mick Mills (hat) as they parade the FA Cup in triumph at Wembley Stadium in London
Bobby Robson - seen training with the England football team in London 1962
Sir Bobby Robson

The death of Sir Bobby Robson brings to an end one of the most distinguished and dignified careers in the world of football.

He was a player of international status but also an outstanding national and club manager — and above all a remarkable human being.

Bobby Robson’s career speaks for itself. He was capped 20 times for England and later excelled as a manager. He brought unfancied Ipswich Town out of the shadows to win the FA and Uefa Cups and he went on to steer England to within a whisker of a World Cup final.

Robson then built an outstanding career as manager of a string of major European clubs with which he won the Dutch and Portuguese championships and then, with Barcelona, the Cup Winners’ Cup.

Bobby Robson was also a romantic and he returned in later life to take charge of his beloved Newcastle United. He brought this underperforming club to fifth place in the Premier League before being controversially and unfairly sacked by a regime that had

more ambition than sense. By this stage, however, his reputation had been long-secured and he was deservedly recognised with a knighthood as an elder statesman of British football.

His calibre was measured not only by his success but also by the way he handled adversity. He was deeply wounded by England’s failure to reach the World Cup final and also by his summary dismissal by Newcastle, but he reacted with great character and dignity.

Mr Robson also faced enormous health challenges, but he faced these with great courage and also

used his fame to raise a small fortune for cancer research. From beginning to end, Bobby Robson was a good man who made a difference.

Many thousands of football followers and other fans will mourn his passing and he leaves a lasting legacy to all that was good about football. He was a refreshing example of a “good guy” in a sport that lately has been tarnished by bad behaviour on and off the field, and also by absurd financial rewards that border on the obscene.

The variety and depth of the tributes by a range of figures as diverse as the Prime Minister Gordon

Brown, Sir Alex Ferguson and former England captain Gary Lineker are a witness to his true worth.

His achievement was not only in moulding successive sets of players into winning teams but also in enabling individuals to believe in themselves and to combine their talent for the greater good.

He also demonstrated that a passion for his sport could provide a passport from the hard life of a miner to become an ambassador for all that was best in his native country which had given football to the world.

Bobby Robson also showed that hard work and talent, allied to grace and charm, can travel very far and that, by contrast, the unsavoury characteristics of some modern footballers and professionals in other games are far removed from the true qualities of sport. He was that rare combination of a man who was a legend in his own lifetime, but who also retained the core values that sustained a life of achievement and of service. He will always be remembered as a true sporting hero, and above all, a gentleman.

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