Bobby Robson

Sir Bobby Robson

Robson after the Netherlands versus England match on 15 June 1988 in Düsseldorf, West Germany
Personal information
Full name Robert William Robson
Date of birth (1933-02-18)18 February 1933
Place of birth Sacriston, County Durham, England
Date of death 31 July 2009(2009-07-31) (aged 76)
Place of death County Durham, England
Playing position Inside forward
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1950–1956 Fulham 152 (68)
1956–1962 West Bromwich Albion 239 (56)
1962–1967 Fulham 192 (9)
1967–1968 Vancouver Royals 0 (0)
Total 583 (133)
National team
1957–1962 England 20 (4)
Teams managed
1968 Fulham
1969–1982 Ipswich Town
1982–1990 England
1990–1992 PSV Eindhoven
1992–1994 Sporting CP
1994–1996 Porto
1996–1997 Barcelona
1998–1999 PSV Eindhoven
1999–2004 Newcastle United

* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

Sir Robert William "Bobby" Robson CBE (18 February 1933 – 31 July 2009)[1] was an English footballer and football manager. His career included periods playing for and later managing the England national team.

Robson's professional playing career as an inside-forward spanned nearly 20 years, during which he played for three clubs: Fulham, West Bromwich Albion, and, briefly, Vancouver Royals. He also made 20 appearances for England, scoring four goals. After his playing career he found success as both a club and international manager, winning league championships in both the Netherlands and Portugal, earning trophies in England and Spain, and taking England to the semi-final of the 1990 World Cup, which remains the national team's best run in a World Cup since 1966. His last management role was as a mentor to the manager of the Irish national football team.

Robson was created a Knight Bachelor in 2002, was inducted as a member of the English Football Hall of Fame in 2003, and was the honorary president of Ipswich Town. From 1991 onwards he suffered recurrent medical problems with cancer, and in March 2008, put his name and efforts into the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, a cancer research charity which has so far collected over £7m (March 2014).[2] In August 2008, his lung cancer was confirmed to be terminal; he said: "My condition is described as static and has not altered since my last bout of chemotherapy...I am going to die sooner rather than later. But then everyone has to go sometime and I have enjoyed every minute".[3] He died just under a year later.

Early life

Robson was born in Sacriston, County Durham, the fourth of five sons of Philip and Lilian Robson (née Watt).[4] When he was a few months old, Robson's family moved to the nearby village of Langley Park where his father was a coal miner. Their two-bedroom house had no bath and an outside toilet.[5] As a boy, he was often taken by his father to watch Newcastle United play at St James' Park on Saturday afternoons, requiring a 34-mile round trip.[5][6][7][8] Robson describes Jackie Milburn and Len Shackleton as his childhood heroes.[7] Both played for Newcastle in the inside-forward position, the position Robson would later assume during his playing career.

Robson attended Langley Park primary school and then Waterhouses Secondary Modern School but the headmaster did not allow the school football team to join a league.[9] Instead, he began to play for Langley Park Juniors on Saturday mornings at the age of eleven, and by the time he was 15, he was representing the club at Under-18 level.[10] Robson played football whenever he possibly could but left school aged 15 to start work as an electrician's apprentice for the National Coal Board in the Langley Park colliery.[5][11] In May 1950, Bill Dodgin, the Fulham manager made a personal visit to the Robson household to offer Bobby a professional contract. Despite being offered a contract by nearby Middlesbrough, the offer made by Dodgin was too attractive to turn down, so he signed for Fulham and moved to London,[12][13][14] playing as a wing-half and inside-forward.[15] Robson had also interested his beloved Newcastle, but he opted to join Fulham as, in his opinion, "Newcastle made no appreciable effort to secure [my] signature". He also thought he stood a better chance of breaking into the first team at Fulham.[5]

Playing career

Club playing career

Although Robson had signed professionally, his father insisted he continue to work as an electrician. He spent the day working at the Festival of Britain site and trained three nights a week at Fulham.[16] Eventually this took its toll on Robson and he gave up his trade for full-time professional football.[17]

In 1950 Robson made his first-team debut for Fulham, recently promoted to the First Division, in a match against Sheffield Wednesday.[18] He came to regard Fulham as "a nice club, a social club..." but "never...a serious, championship-challenging club".[19] Indeed, he and Fulham were relegated from the top-flight in the 1951–52 season,[20] but he made his return to the First Division, four years later, when he signed for Vic Buckingham's West Bromwich Albion in March 1956.[12][21] The transfer fee of £25,000 was a club record for Albion at the time.[22][23]

He made his Albion debut in a 4–0 home defeat by Manchester City on 10 March 1956.[24] In 1957–58 he was the club's top league goalscorer; his tally of 24 goals included four in a 5–1 win against Burnley.[25][26] Often playing as a midfielder, he went on to play 257 games and score 61 goals for West Bromwich Albion,[5] and he captained the team for the 1960–61 and 1961–62 seasons.[27] In August 1962, however, he returned to Fulham after a disagreement with Albion vice-chairman Jim Gaunt over his salary.[28][29] The ongoing dispute over both minimum and maximum wages in the game, instigated by Robson's team-mate Jimmy Hill and the Professional Footballers' Association, combined with the birth of Robson's second son, prompted Robson to demand a higher salary.[30] Gaunt refused to negotiate Robson's contract, so Robson placed a transfer request and was sold to Fulham for £20,000 in a deal which doubled his salary.[31] Soon after Robson joined Fulham, the club sold Alan Mullery and Rodney Marsh, meaning Robson's chances of securing any significant honour there were substantially reduced.[32] Robson himself stated "In all my time as a footballer, I didn't win a thing."[32]

Despite press reports of interest from Arsenal,[33] and the offer of a player-manager role by Southend United,[34] Robson left Fulham in 1967 and accepted a three-year deal with Canada's Vancouver Royals. He was to be player-manager in their inaugural 1968 season in the North American Soccer League and believed it "...was a chance too good to miss".[12][35] The position proved difficult; a long-distance joint-ownership agreement gave the Hungarian footballer Ferenc Puskás control over the San Francisco section of the squad,[36] while Robson took care of the Vancouver squad. Robson was dissatisfied by this situation and when, in January 1968, Fulham offered him a contract as their manager, he accepted the position at Craven Cottage.[37]

International playing career

During his first spell at Fulham, Robson participated in two ambassadorial Football Association tours in the West Indies in 1955 and South Africa in 1956.[18] However, it was during his time at West Bromwich Albion that he graduated to the full England squad, with his first call-up in 1956. His manager, Vic Buckingham, advocated the "push and run" approach to the game, a precursor to "total football",[38] and playing this, Robson graduated to the full England squad in 1956,[39] It was also at West Bromwich Albion that Robson met future England international and assistant coach Don Howe.[40]

He went on to make 20 appearances for the England national team, making his debut in a November 1957 victory against France, scoring twice in a 4–0 victory.[41] Although he made a successful debut, he was dropped for England's next game against Scotland, in favour of Bobby Charlton.[42] He was, however, selected for the 1958 World Cup squad, ahead of Nat Lofthouse and Stanley Matthews but returned from Sweden disappointed, as England were defeated by the Soviet Union in a group play-off match.[43]

Following the 1958 World Cup, Robson became an established member of the England squad, enjoying considerable success in a period between October 1960 and March 1961 when he played in six England victories, including scoring a goal in the record 9–3 defeat of Scotland at Wembley Stadium.[44] He was selected for the 1962 World Cup finals in Chile but an injury to his ankle sustained in a pre-tournament friendly against a Chilean club side ruled him out of most of the tournament. As Robson recalled, "I never played for England international career was unfulfilled".[45] His place in the England team was taken by Bobby Moore.[5]

Managerial career

Early club management

In 1959, the then England manager and the Football Association director of coaching Walter Winterbottom suggested to Robson that he take a coaching course at Lilleshall.[40] He obtained coaching qualifications during his second spell at Fulham, and coached Oxford University A.F.C..[5] Robson made his debut as a manager in January 1968 at his former club Fulham, against Macclesfield Town, then in the Cheshire County League, in the third round of the FA Cup. Fulham were struggling with 16 points from 24 games.[46][47] Despite the acquisition of the young Malcolm Macdonald, Robson could not save the club from relegation to the Second Division,[48][49] and he left them in November,[50] with the club sitting eighth in the Second Division. He discovered that he had been sacked, not from the club itself, but from the headline "Robson sacked" on an Evening Standard placard outside Putney station.[51]

He moved on to Ipswich Town in 1969 and it was there that he established his reputation as a successful manager, supported by the club chairman John Cobbold and then later by his brother Patrick Cobbold. He won the vacant job at the Suffolk club after a chance encounter with Town director Murray Sangster while scouting at Portman Road for Chelsea manager Dave Sexton.[52] After four mediocre seasons, Robson led Ipswich to fourth place in the First Division and success in the Texaco Cup in the 1972–73 season.[53] In the following nine seasons, Ipswich finished lower than sixth place in the First Division only once, in the 1977–78 season. However, that season was a success with a 1–0 victory over Arsenal in the FA Cup Final.[54] His reign at Ipswich lasted 13 years, during which time the club twice finished as League runners-up, and made regular appearances in European competitions, capturing the UEFA Cup in 1981 with a 5–4 aggregate victory over Dutch side AZ 67 Alkmaar.[55] During his thirteen-year tenure, he brought in only 14 players from other clubs most notably Allan Hunter, Bryan Hamilton and Paul Mariner, relying instead on players developed through Ipswich's youth programmes,[15] including Terry Butcher, George Burley, John Wark, Mick Mills, Colin Viljoen, Alan Brazil, Trevor Whymark, Brian Talbot, Kevin Beattie, and Eric Gates who all went on to play international football. His imports included Dutch players Frans Thijssen and Arnold Mühren.[5] Robson was not a tactical genius but he showed a talent for developing new players, with his good interpersonal skills, caring attitude, hard work and enthusiasm helping them to achieve their best.[5]

In 2002, in recognition of his achievements with the club, a life-size statue of Robson was unveiled opposite the Cobbold Stand of Ipswich Town's ground Portman Road.[56] On 7 July 2006, Robson was named as honorary president of Ipswich Town Football Club, the first since Lady Blanche Cobbold who had died in 1987.[57]

England manager

Statue of Robson at Portman Road

Robson's achievements with Ipswich earned him a job offer from the Football Association for the position of national coach, and he declined an offer of a ten-year contract extension and increased salary from Ipswich director Patrick Cobbold.[58] On 7 July 1982, two days after England were knocked out of the 1982 World Cup, he succeeded Ron Greenwood as coach of the English national football team,[12][59] selecting former West Bromwich Albion team-mate Don Howe as his chief coach.[60]

Robson's first game in charge saw immediate controversy, as he dropped Kevin Keegan for the match against Denmark.[61] On 21 September 1983, Robson suffered his only loss in the 28 qualifying matches he was to undertake as England manager.[62] The defeat, again to Denmark, ultimately led to England's failure to qualify for the 1984 European Championships,[63] and resulted in Robson offering to resign in favour of Brian Clough.[64] The resignation was rejected by the FA chairman, Bert Millichip (primarily down to his and the FA's disdain for Clough), and Robson went on to lead the England team to qualify for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.[65]

England began the competition poorly and captain Bryan Robson was injured with a recurrence of a dislocated shoulder.[66] Bobby Robson changed the team's tactics for the final match of the first round, selecting Peter Beardsley ahead of Mark Hateley as a striking partner for Gary Lineker.[67] The team won its next two matches, against Poland and Paraguay, 3–0 and qualified for the quarter-finals.[68] England were defeated in the last eight by Argentina with a brace of goals from Diego Maradona; the infamous "Hand of God" goal, and the "Goal of the Century" he scored five minutes later.[68] Robson was unimpressed by Maradona's claim of divine intervention:[69]

It wasn't the hand of God. It was the hand of a rascal. God had nothing to do with it... That day, Maradona was diminished in my eyes forever.

Robson's England dropped only one point in qualifying for Euro 1988 which included an 8–0 defeat of Turkey.[63] However, this was followed by failure at the tournament itself, held in West Germany, where England were knocked out in the group stage. They finished bottom of their group, succumbing to defeats against Ireland, eventual winner the Netherlands and eventual runner-up the USSR.[70] Robson was vilified by the British press, and after a draw in a friendly with Saudi Arabia, one newspaper demanded: "In the name of Allah, go".[71] Again Robson submitted his resignation, and again it was rejected by Millichip (again Brian Clough is often cited as a reason).[72]

Robson led England without conceding a goal through the six-match qualification for the 1990 World Cup where they were one of six seeded teams.[73] Again they were placed in a group with the Netherlands and Ireland, with Egypt the fourth side.[74] As in the 1986 World Cup, Robson was denied the service of his captain, Bryan Robson, who suffered an achilles tendon injury which prevented him playing in the latter stages of the tournament.[75] England topped their qualifying group, accumulating four points from their three games.[76] However their progress was not without controversy. England changed formation from their traditional 4–4–2 to incorporate a sweeper, with some sources suggesting this was due to player revolt after the 1–1 draw in the first match with the Republic of Ireland.[77] Robson denies this claim:[78]

...I made the switch, not them. I had no intention of allowing van Basten and Gullit to rip holes in us...

This was followed by victories over Belgium and Cameroon in the knock-out stages, to set up a semi-final with West Germany.[76] England lost the match on a penalty shoot-out, after the score had been tied at 1–1 following extra time.[79] Robson said afterwards that "not a day goes by when [he] does not think about the semi-final and other choices [he] might have made".[12][80] Robson remains only the second coach after Alf Ramsey to take England to a World Cup semi-final, and the only coach to do so on foreign soil.

Continental management

Before the 1990 World Cup, the FA told Robson that they would not renew his contract as England manager, so he moved on to the Netherlands to coach PSV Eindhoven,[12][59] succeeding manager Guus Hiddink who had left the team after leading them to the 1987–88 European Cup victory and four consecutive Eredivisie titles. PSV sought a manager capable of instilling discipline into a fractious squad, much as Hiddink had done previously.[81] Robson described the move as "a culture shock" but felt "...a sense of adventure."[82] News of Robson's new position in the Netherlands became public before the start of the 1990 World Cup, leading to tabloid stories impugning Robson's patrotism; he sued Today for calling him a traitor.[5]

The Dutch penchant for tactical debate surprised Robson. In an interview with Voetbal International he lamented: "An English pro accepts the manager's decision. After every match here, the substitutes come and visit me."[83] Another of his challenges at PSV was handling the Brazilian international Romário. Robson became frustrated with the Brazilian's work ethic, although admitted " some matches he would be scintillating."[84] Robson arranged showdown talks with Romário, with Frank Arnesen, Robson's assistant, acting as a translator. The talks proved unsuccessful, with Romário unwilling to change his lifestyle.[85] Despite this, PSV won the Dutch league in both the 1990–91 and 1991–92 seasons. However, the team did not make the progress expected by the board in European competitions and Robson was informed that he would be leaving the club at the end of the 1991–92 season.[86]

Robson moved to Sporting Clube de Portugal in July 1992, where his Portuguese interpreter was a young José Mourinho, future Porto, Chelsea, Internazionale, Real Madrid and Manchester United manager. Robson guided the club to a third-place finish in his first season in charge while admitting the club was in "...a terrible state". He described the club's president as a "loose cannon", who frequently signed players without Robson's consent.[87] Robson was sacked in December 1993 with the club sitting at the top of the league table. The club President, Sousa Cintra, cited the club's early exit from the UEFA Cup at the hands of Casino Salzburg as the reason for his dismissal.[88]

League finishes for clubs managed by Robson (* indicates Robson left the club before the end of the season)

Sporting's rivals, F.C. Porto, quickly hired Robson, with Mourinho appointed as his assistant manager. Living in the same apartment block at the time was another future Porto, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur manager, the young André Villas-Boas, who, aged 16, introduced himself to Robson. Robson subsequently appointed Villas-Boas to work in the Porto observation department and helped him gain his UEFA 'C' coaching badge in Scotland, despite him technically being ineligible as he was aged 17.[89][90] Porto were in a poor state when Robson arrived and the average attendance had dwindled to 10,000.[91] The club promptly went on to beat Robson's former club, Sporting, in the Portuguese Cup final,[12][92] following that achievement with successive League titles in the 1994–95 and 1995–96 seasons.[93]

Sir Bobby Robson at the Republic of Ireland versus Slovakia match in Croke Park, Dublin on 29 March 2007

Such was the impact of Robson at Porto, he became known to the locals as "Bobby Five-O" in honour of the number of matches Porto won 5–0,[94] and he signed a new contract with the club in 1995.[94] Suffering from malignant melanoma and missing the first few months of the 1995–96 season, Robson still successfully led Porto in defence of their league title.[95] Such was the success of the team Robson had created, that they managed to claim three more consecutive championships after he had left.

A phone call during the summer of 1996 from Barcelona's vice-president Joan Gaspart to discuss Luís Figo resulted in an offer of employment with the Spanish club.[96] Robson took over in July 1996, where again his assistant was Mourinho; Robson had made Mourinho's move with him to the Camp Nou a condition of his employment.[95] One of the key decisions Robson made during his brief tenure at Barcelona was the US$19.5 million signing of Ronaldo,[97] who was influential in a season when Barcelona won the Spanish Cup, Spanish Super Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup.[98] Robson himself was voted European Manager of the Year for 1996–97, while Ronaldo stated, "as a trainer without doubt [Robson] is one of the greatest in the world".[99]

The 1997–98 season saw Robson moved "upstairs" to the position of General Manager by Barcelona, with Louis van Gaal taking over the managerial reins,[12][100] but he stayed in this position for only one season before returning to manage PSV on a short-term deal for the 1998–99 season.[101] PSV missed out on the league title, finishing third behind Feyenoord and Willem II,[102] but Robson still led the club to victory in the Dutch supercup and also qualification for the Champions League on the last day of the season.[103]

Return to England

After Robson's contract expired, he returned to England to take up a position in the Football Association's technical department,[104] but following the resignation of Ruud Gullit at Newcastle United, Robson moved to St James' Park in September 1999.[105] Robson was disappointed with the club's opening salary offer, stating " was miles below the going rate", but negotiated a one-year, £1 million deal.[106]

In Robson's first home match in charge, bottom-placed Newcastle faced second bottom Sheffield Wednesday, thrashing them 8–0. In his first season in charge, 1999–2000, Robson led the club to an 11th-place finish, with 14 wins from his 32 games in charge.[106][107] In late 2000, following the resignation of ex Magpies boss Kevin Keegan as England manager, the Football Association asked Newcastle Chairman Freddy Shepherd to permit Robson to take over in a part-time caretaker capacity but the request was refused.[108] Robson guided Newcastle from bottom of the Premier League to a fourth-place finish in the 2001–02 season.[109] The following season, Newcastle finished third, ensuring qualification for the Champions League for the second consecutive year.[110] Robson was unable to guide Newcastle through the Champions League qualifying rounds and the club was pushed back into the UEFA Cup for the 2003–04 season.[111] At the end of the 2003–04 season, Newcastle United finished fifth in the table, five points short of the Champions League qualifying fourth place but reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup before losing to Marseille.[112]

Robson held the Newcastle post until 30 August 2004, when he was dismissed by Freddy Shepherd, after a poor start to the Premier League season and alleged discontent in the dressing room.[113] Robson's dismissal followed publication of his off the record observation of his disappointment that only 5,000 fans stayed to see the traditional lap of honour made by the players at St James' Park at the end of the previous season.[114] However, he remains held in the highest esteem by the fans;[115] he was granted the Freedom of the City of Newcastle upon Tyne on 2 March 2005.[116]

What is a club in any case? Not the buildings or the directors or the people who are paid to represent it. It’s not the television contracts, get-out clauses, marketing departments or executive boxes. It’s the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, the pride in your city. It’s a small boy clambering up stadium steps for the very first time, gripping his father’s hand, gawping at that hallowed stretch of turf beneath him and, without being able to do a thing about it, falling in love.
– Robson[117]

Robson's autobiography, entitled Bobby Robson: Farewell but not Goodbye was released in 2005.[118] The title is based on one of his quotes upon leaving the England job in 1990: "I'm here to say goodbye—maybe not goodbye but farewell".[119] In the book, Robson was critical of Shepherd, claiming that while manager he was denied information regarding the players' contracts and transfer negotiations. He also criticised Shepherd and the club's deputy chairman Douglas Hall, for their focus on the first team and St James' Park, causing them to neglect less glamorous issues, such as the training ground, youth development and talent scouts.[120] The club's training ground was later blamed by Graeme Souness, Robson's successor, for a series of injuries to first team players.[121]

Football consultant

On 7 June 2005 Robson declined the invitation to become Director of Football of Heart of Midlothian because he wanted to stay in the Newcastle area.[122] On 13 January 2006, Steve Staunton was appointed manager of the Republic of Ireland national team, with Robson named in a support role as International Football Consultant.[123] Robson stepped down from his role of consultant on 17 November 2007, after the Republic's final match in their unsuccessful qualifying campaign for Euro 2008.[124] Robson was a former Vice President of the League Managers Association, a non-executive role.[125]

Life outside football

Personal life

Robson met Elsie Gray on a trip back to his parents' home in Langley Park.[5] She was a student nurse, and later a teacher.[5] They were married in June 1955 and Fulham teammate Tom Wilson was Robson's best man.[126][127] Since 1991, Robson was repeatedly diagnosed as suffering from cancer. He had several operations and, in 2006, was operated on for a brain tumour.[128] This, on occasion, affected his work; while at Porto for example, Robson suffered from malignant melanoma, which resulted in his missing the first few months of the 1995–96 season.[129][130]

On 17 October 2006, it was revealed that Robson had been given the all-clear and was set to see out his contract as consultant to the Irish team.[131] Robson revealed on 7 May 2007 that he had been diagnosed with cancer for the fifth time.[132] On Saturday 17 May 2008, Sir Bobby was the guest of honour at the FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium when Portsmouth beat Cardiff City 1–0. He presented the trophy to the victorious captain, Sol Campbell.

Other activities

Robson made a number of product endorsements, including an appearance in Carlsberg's "Best Pub Side" television commercial.[133] He also acted as a pundit for ITV during the 2002 World Cup and the 2004 European Championship.[134] In 2004, following the death of Brian Clough, Robson briefly stood in for Clough as a columnist at FourFourTwo magazine, and from 2004 onwards wrote a weekly column for The Mail on Sunday.[135]

Bobby Robson Foundation

Robson defeated bowel cancer in 1992, a malignant melanoma in 1995, and a tumour in his right lung and a brain tumour, both in 2006. Treatment of these conditions had left him partially paralysed due to a stroke caused by the brain tumour, and also with a partially prosthetic upper jaw after the melanoma was surgically removed. His fifth diagnosis of cancer in 2007, consisting of cancerous nodules in both lungs, was diagnosed as terminal in February 2007, and as of December 2008 was being controlled through bouts of chemotherapy.[136] After these experiences, and following his fifth diagnosis with cancer, Robson devoted the remaining years of his life to helping fight the disease. On 25 March 2008, he launched the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation. By November 2008, the Foundation had raised £1 million.[137] The money raised by the Foundation funded equipment for the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre, in the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne, and would go on to fund other cancer projects in the North East of England.[138]

In aid of the Foundation, Robson's 1990 World Cup semi-final 4–3 loss after penalties against West Germany, was replayed on 26 July 2009 as the Sir Bobby Robson Trophy match at St James' Park, featuring players from the original 1990 World Cup squads and other special guests.[139][140] Robson was given a guard of honour before the game, which finished 3–2 to the England side.[141]

At the time of Robson's death, the Foundation had raised £1.6 million.[142] Donations totalling £156,000 were received by the Foundation in the 18 days following his death,[143] and on 15 October 2009, it was announced that the Foundation had raised over £2 million, and that at the request of Robson's family, Alan Shearer would take over Robson's role as the Foundation's patron.[144] It passed the £2.5 million mark in September 2010.[145] Three other patrons were added in 2010, Steve Gibson, Mick Mills and Niall Quinn.[146][147][148]


On 31 July 2009, Robson died of lung cancer at his home in County Durham,[149] aged 76, after a long battle with the disease.[1] After the news of his death, leading figures from the world of football and politics paid tribute to him. Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson called him a "great friend, a wonderful individual and tremendous football man." UEFA president Michel Platini said: "He will be remembered not only for his playing career and his outstanding managerial career at both club and international level, but also because he was a truly warm and passionate human being." Gary Lineker said: "It is a sad day and a great loss. He was a wonderful man and will be deeply missed by everybody in the country. I never played for a more enthusiastic man. He gave so much to the game."[150] Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, described Sir Bobby as a "real Geordie gentleman."[151] According to the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Robson "epitomised everything that is great about football in this country."[151] His friend, the broadcaster Michael Parkinson, said: "Robson will be remembered long after the present lot are old bones. By his decency, his humour, his love of the game's traditions and origins and confusion at what it had become, he made present day football look what it is – shabby by comparison. I can think of no more fitting epitaph."

Robson's funeral, a private family ceremony, took place on 5 August 2009. The location remained undisclosed at the request of his family until the funeral had taken place. It was later revealed to be Esh, County Durham.[152] A thanksgiving service for Robson was held on 21 September 2009 at Durham Cathedral. One thousand invited guests attended the service, which was also broadcast live on national television, and to Newcastle United's St James' Park, Ipswich Town's Portman Road ground, and Fulham's Craven Cottage.[153] Robson was survived by his wife and their three sons: Andrew, Paul and Mark.[6][154]


Robson was awarded a number of honours for his contributions to football. In 1990, at the end of his eight-year reign as England manager, he was awarded a CBE in 1991[155] and in 2002, he was knighted;[156] both awards were for services to football.[157][158]

In 2002 (during his time as Newcastle manager), the 69-year-old Robson was awarded the freedom of Newcastle upon Tyne and the UEFA President's Award for 'services to football'.[14][24] He was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2003 in recognition of his impact as a manager.[159] Following his time as Newcastle United manager in 2005, Robson was made an Honorary Freeman of Newcastle,[116] which, in his autobiography, he described as being "the proudest moment of my life".[160] Robson also won the 1992 Football Writers' Association Tribute Award for an outstanding contribution to the national game,[161] and the 2001 British Sports Writers' Association Pat Besford Trophy for Outstanding Achievement.[158] In 2005 he received a lifetime achievement award from the Sports Coach UK Awards,[162] and was also awarded the Eircom International Personality of the Year in 2006.[157] On 9 December 2007, Robson was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year show in recognition of "his contribution as both player and manager in a career spanning more than half a century".[163]

On 5 May 2008, during the 30th anniversary celebrations of Ipswich Town's 1978 FA Cup win, Robson was granted the Freedom of Ipswich by the Lady Mayor.[164] On 8 December 2008, he earned another such accolade when he was given the Freedom of the City of Durham.[165] In March 2009, UEFA awarded Robson the Emerald UEFA Order of Merit award, awarded to "individuals who have dedicated their talents to the good of the game".[166] The award was presented to Sir Bobby at St James' Park on 26 July 2009, prior to the Sir Bobby Robson Trophy match, and just five days before his death.[141]

Posthumous honours

Statue outside St James Park, Newcastle

In December 2009, Robson was posthumously awarded the FIFA Fair Play Award, for the "gentlemanly qualities he showed throughout his career as a player and coach".[167] All English football league matches held a one minute's applause in his memory at the beginning of the 2009–10 season.[5]

The Football League gave Newcastle United and Ipswich Town special dispensation to wear special commemorative kits for their Championship match on 26 September 2009 at Portman Road, in aid of Sir Bobby's Foundation. At half-time during this match, the North Stand of Portman Road was renamed the Sir Bobby Robson Stand.[168][169][170][171]

The first anniversary of Robson's death on 31 July 2010 was marked with a ceremony and pre-season friendly match at Newcastle's St James' Park, between two of his former clubs Newcastle United and PSV Eindhoven, involving Robson's PSV captain Stan Valckx presenting a PSV shirt to the club.[172]

In July 2010, plans were unveiled for a memorial garden to Robson to be built in Newcastle. It was to be created by the city council in partnership with the regeneration company NE1Ltd, and located on Gallowgate street close to the Newcastle United stadium St James' Park. Work began on the site in November 2010, which was completed by Spring 2011. The garden covers 400 square meters, and features a tiered seating area and sculpted stone plinths reflecting aspects of his life and work. The area also hosts 400 square metre memorial garden to Sir Bobby Robson.[173][174]

With a keen interest in cricket as well as football, Robson was to have replaced Mike Gatting as President of the Lord's Taverners charity and cricket club in 2007, but this was prevented by his ill-health. After his death, the club held a dinner in his honour, as "The best President we never had".[175]

In March 2011, the East Coast train operating company named one of its Class 91 electric locomotives Sir Bobby Robson, unveiled at Newcastle Central Station by his widow Elsie and Alan Shearer.[176][177] Similarly, in December 2011, the Port of Tyne Authority named its new work boat the Sir Bobby Robson.[178] On 6 May 2012, a statue of Robson created by sculptor Tom Maley was unveiled at St James' Park before a 2–0 defeat to eventual champions Manchester City.[179] On 16 July 2013, marking the 150th anniversary celebrations of the FA, the FA designated 10 August as the Sir Bobby Robson National Football Day, celebrated as a day to celebrate the national game.[180]

Playing career statistics

Club performance League Cup League Cup Total
Season Club League Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
England League FA Cup League Cup Total
1950–51 Fulham First Division 1010
1951–52 163163
1952–53 Second Division 3519103619
1953–54 3313113414
1954–55 4223104323
1955–56 2510202710
1955–56 West Bromwich Albion First Division 101101
1956–57 3912214113
1957–58 4124734827
1958–59 29411305
1959–60 41630446
1960–61 40510415
1961–62 39440434
1962–63 Fulham 3412120382
1963–64 3912010421
1964–65 4212031472
1965–66 36630396
1966–67 4103030470
North America League Open Cup League Cup Total
1967 Vancouver Royals North American Soccer League
Total England 583133327121627141
Career total 583133327121627141
England national team

International goals

Scores and results list England's goal tally first.[181][182]
# Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1. 27 November 1957 Wembley Stadium, London  France 2–0 4–0 Friendly
2. 27 November 1957 Wembley Stadium, London  France 4–0 4–0 Friendly
3. 15 April 1961 Wembley Stadium, London  Scotland 1–0 9–3 1961 British Home Championship
4. 10 May 1961 Wembley Stadium, London  Mexico 3–0 8–0 Friendly

Managerial career statistics

Performance by club

Team Nat From To Record
G W D L Win %
Fulham England January 1968 November 1968 36 6 9 21 16.67
Ipswich Town[53] England January 1969 August 1982 709 316 173 220 44.57
England[183] England July 1982 July 1990 95 47 30 18 49.47
PSV Eindhoven Netherlands July 1990 June 1992 76 52 17 7 68.42
Sporting CP Portugal July 1992 December 1993 59 34 13 12 57.63
Porto Portugal January 1994 July 1996 120 86 23 11 71.67
Barcelona Spain May 1996 June 1997 58 38 12 8 65.52
PSV Eindhoven Netherlands July 1998 June 1999 38 20 10 8 52.63
Newcastle United England September 1999 August 2004 255 119 64 72 46.67
Total 1,446 718 351 377 49.65


Ipswich Town
PSV Eindhoven



Further reading

Bobby Robson
  • Robson, Bobby (1982). Time On The Grass. Arthur Barker. ISBN 0-213-16845-6. 
  • Robson, Bobby (1990). Bobby Robson: An Autobiography. Hutchinson. ISBN 0-09-174499-7. 
  • Robson, Bobby; Harris, Bob (1998). Bobby Robson: An Englishman Abroad. Macmillan. ISBN 0-330-36985-7. 
  • Robson, Bobby; Paul Hayward (2005). Farewell but not Goodbye. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-82346-1. 
  • Robson, Bobby (2008). Newcastle – My Kind of Toon. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 978-0-340-97783-5. 


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