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You are in: Suffolk > People > Profiles > Sir Bobby Robson 1933-2009

Bobby Robson at Portman Road, 1971

Sir Bobby Robson, 1933-2009

Sir Bobby Robson 1933-2009

Sir Bobby Robson has died, aged 76. BBC Suffolk looks back at the life of the footballing legend who, after retiring from playing, made his managerial name at Ipswich Town, England and then at several European clubs.

Robert William Robson was born at Sacriston, County Durham on 18 February 1933. The family soon moved across the county to Langley Park where his father Philip worked as a coal miner.

"Me and my mate used to head a tennis ball against a goal painted on a brick wall," said Bobby. "Some nights it would be 150-147! When the ball came into the area later in life, I knew how to head it because I'd done it in the back yard many, many, many times."

Bobby's main youth team was the Langley Park Juniors. He regularly went to watch  Newcastle United with his father, but when it came to signing up as a professional he opted for Fulham in 1950.

As an inside-right he scored around 1 goal in every 3 games in his first spell at Craven Cottage (1950-56) before transferring to West Bromwich Albion (1956-62). The goal-rate slowed down a bit to around 1 in 5, but he was called up to the England squad.

Bobby Robson at Fulham, 1968

Fulham, 1968

Bobby scored four times and earned 20 caps for his country which included being in the squad for the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.

While at West Brom, his colleague and friend Don Howe suggested he take an interest in coaching and the pair began to work within the set-up created by England manager Walter Winterbottom.

Don Howe said: "He'd got three sons, I'd got four sons. He was steady. He wasn't into drinking, gambling, that stuff. Walter Winterbottom had a big influence on our careers. He got us interested in coaching."

Bobby became a staff coach with England in 1965.

A dispute over wages at WBA led to a second spell playing at Fulham (1962-66) before he took up a player-coach job at Vancouver Royals.

He was back at Fulham in 1968 for his first fully-fledged managerial job, but it didn't go well as his first season ended in relegation from the top flight and his sacking not long into the following season.

The road to glory

The rest, as they say, is history. Ipswich Town brought Robson in as manager and after a well-publicised rocky start, which included showdowns with senior players, the Cobbold family's faith in their appointment bore fruit as Robson used the youth set-up to create a club which consistently punched above its weight.

"I came down here very determined to succeed. They seemed very nice people and I wasn't going to try and let them down.

"We had to develop the youth policy. It was always going to be the backbone of the club. It was necessary to find our own and if you can do that, it's much more rewarding anyway."

The FA Cup (1978) and UEFA Cup (1981) cemented Robson's managerial reputation. In his final nine seasons at Portman Road, Ipswich qualified for Europe in all but one season.

One of Robson's youth policy successes was Lowestoft boy Terry Butcher: "I made my debut in 1978 against Everton at Goodison Park. We lost 1-0.

"Afterwards, he said I was a star of the future and a player he could hang his hat on. I didn't quite understand what he meant, but you felt 10 feet tall when you walked out of the room.

"You felt really, really special. Here was a man you would die for, let alone play for."

Like his predecessor at Portman Road, Sir Alf Ramsey, success with a 'small' club meant he replaced Ron Greenwood as England manager in 1982. Greenwood had already put Robson and Howe in charge of the England B team during his tenure.

Despite much hostility from the national press after the 1988 failure at the European Championships, his reign is now mainly remembered for relative success in the World Cup where England reached the quarter-finals in 1986 and the semi-finals in 1990.

Terry Butcher & Paul Gascoigne, Turin 1990

Butcher & Gascoigne, Turin 1990

The Mexico campaign's main images are Maradona's 'hand of god' and wonder-dribble goals, while Italia '90 will forever be associated with Paul Gascoigne's tears after his booking against Germany and the defeat in the penalty shootout.

Gazza remembers his hug from Bobby: "He was devastated because he knew we were there and we would have won the final [against Argentina]. You could see the reactions on his face as well.

"He was there. He was brilliant and he knows I'll always love him."

Bobby abroad

After England, the managerial career took in PSV Eindhoven (two spells), Sporting Lisbon, Porto and Barcelona. The highlights were league titles with Porto and PSV.

His assistant at Porto was one Jose Mourinho. His name would be on a list of many current managers, such as Scotland and former Ipswich boss George Burley, who would cite Bobby as a great influence.

Back home

Things then went full circle as Bobby became manager of the club he'd supported as a boy - Newcastle United. He stabilised the club and pushed for honours, but a poor start to the 2004 season led to his dismissal.

BBC Sports Personality Of The Year Awards 2007

Sports Personality Of The Year Awards

A brief spell as Steve Staunton's assistant with the Republic of Ireland squad followed, but this was to be Bobby's last job in football management.

In 1990 he became a CBE and he was knighted in 2002. At the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards 2007, he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award.

He was granted the freedom of Ipswich in May 2008 during the Thirty Years of Honour gathering to commemorate the 1978 FA Cup win.

Personal life

Sir Bobby was first diagnosed with cancer in 1991 and underwent several operations. The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation was set-up to fund cancer research.

Robson leaves his wife Elsie (they married in 1955) and three sons - Andrew, Paul and Mark.

Listen to the audio documentary featuring Sir Bobby, Don Howe, Arnold Muhren, Jimmy Hill, Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer, Luis Figo and others, by clicking the 'Bobby Robson - a life' link above.

last updated: 04/08/2009 at 15:36
created: 08/09/2008

You are in: Suffolk > People > Profiles > Sir Bobby Robson 1933-2009

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