Passionate, caring, enthusiastic, ambitious and committed there are a lot of words that describe the late, great Sir Bobby Robson which all add up to being as close to the perfect manager as you could possibly get.
Sir Bobby Robson had a unique quality you don’t see much of in today’s game. It didn’t matter if he was dealing with a younger player or one of the world’s best, his man management was second to none, he would make any player run through a brick wall for him. The ability to make a joke but for the player to understand the meaning behind it, he had a way with words and when he spoke, everybody listened.
In 1999, Sir Bobby Robson came home. He returned to the North East and saved Newcastle United, who at the time were in a complete mess. In fact, the club were rock bottom of the table following the departure of Ruud Gullit, four games into the new season. Without the appointment of Sir Bobby Robson, Newcastle would not have been rescued that season - God knows where the Magpies would’ve ended up. Not only did he save Newcastle, he saved Alan Shearer. Gullit’s relationship with Newcastle’s number nine was a sour one, as a result Shearer suffered on and off the field. Sir Bobby Robson came in and restored Shearer’s confidence, talked with him on how to improve his game. In his first home game in charge of Newcastle, they ran out 8-0 winners - Shearer bagged himself five of those. That says it all, a team that were rock bottom of the league with their confidence shattered - In walks Sir Bobby Robson and there’s an instant change, an instant lift.
There was a great energy about Sir Bobby Robson, he was obsessed with football and had such a drive to win. He was unique, there won’t be another quite like Sir Bobby Robson - He had a massive impact on some of the biggest names in football, from Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho to Ruud van Nistelrooy, Luis Figo and Ronaldo. They all say similar things when it comes to Sir Bobby Robson, a father figure who helped their careers blossom.
It says a lot about the man and the club that Newcastle have never really recovered from sacking Sir Bobby Robson in 2004. He completely transformed the Tyneside club, saved them from what looked to be a disastrous campaign when he first arrived and got the Magpies into the Champions League. There was a buzz and a bounce about the Newcastle side under Sir Bobby Robson, a determination and a real desire and fight to win.
Under Sir Bobby Robson’s management Newcastle finished 11th in his first two seasons, then placed in the top 5 in his final three seasons in charge. A real transformation from a club that was on a downward trajectory, following spells under Kenny Dalglish and Ruud Gullit. Sir Bobby Robson lifted the whole city, like Kevin Keegan once did before him. Having grown up in the North East, Sir Bobby Robson understood the club, fans and how special Newcastle is. It was a match made in heaven, a relationship that just clicked.
Newcastle have made some big mistakes over the years, perhaps the sacking of Sir Bobby Robson was one of, if not the biggest mistake of them all. He had earned the right to decide for himself when he was ready to end his managerial career. Sir Bobby Robson should have been given as long as he wanted in the Newcastle job, before being given an ambassador role at the club. That would have been the right and sensible option - Which is exactly the reason Newcastle did not do it.
To be successful not only in England but abroad too, winning trophies at PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona and Porto shows just how remarkable he was. It is difficult to put in words just how special Sir Bobby Robson was, a gentleman in a sometimes toxic industry.
The former Newcastle manager faced and overcame many battles, though none were harder than his battle with cancer. While manager of Porto, Sir Bobby Robson suffered from malignant melanoma - This caused him to miss the first few months of the 1995/96 season. In all, Sir Bobby Robson was diagnosed with cancer five times. As a result of his battles, he launched the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation. The money raised from the foundation helped fund equipment for the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre in Newcastle, he would go on to fund other cancer projects in the North East.
“In life, you know, you can’t succeed and be clever and be bright, be correct and spot on all the time. Life is more complicated than that, life is more difficult than that, it’s a tough world out there and if you’re not a tough guy, you won’t survive - Not to get to where you want to be in your sphere.”
Even writing this piece, looking back at memories of Sir Bobby Robson makes me tear up. That is the impact he had on people, not just those that worked with him but the many, many fans that adored him.
There will be nobody else quite like him, after all, “there’s only one Bobby Robson”