In memory of the man who brought joy to so many through his desire to succeed as a manager and to help others in need; Daily Dust writer and Newcastle United fan Jack Ling picks out Sir Bobby’s 10 greatest matches in time order.
Fulham vs Sheffield Wednesday, 1950
Bobby Robson’s first competitive match as a player
Sir Bobby Robson was born the son of a miner in County Durham in 1933. By the time he was 17, his Dad wanted him to pursue a career as an electrician, but Robson’s talent as a player made it impossible for him to cold shoulder the allure of Craven Cottage. Bobby signed for Fulham as a deep-lying forward in 1950 and went on to make 152 appearences and score 68 goals for the Cottagers.
West Bromwich Albion vs Manchester City, 1956
Bobby Robson’s debut appearance for West Brom
In 1956, one year after his childhood hero Jackie Milburn scored for Newcastle United in the FA Cup final against Manchester City, Bobby Robson made his debut appearance for The Baggies against the same side after signing for a club record £25,000. Robson won his debut match for Albion, and fans caught their first glimpse of the Geordie who would go on to make 239 appearences for West Brom, scoring 56 goals in the process.
England vs France, 1957
Bobby Robson’s debut appearance for England
His successful tenure as a West Bromwich Albion forward resulted in 20 England call-ups under Walter Winterbottom.
Arguably, none of his appearences in the famous white jersey were more captivating than the one on his debut, when he helped the Three Lions to a 4-0 victory over the French at Wembley in 1957. Robson scored twice to round off an impressive all-round England display. He further showcased his goalscoring prowess in the 9-3 drubbing of Scotland in 1961. England marched to a record victory over the Scots, and Bobby Robson smashed in the opener to get his 3rd goal for England-the screamer was a precursor to a fine England display and some good performances by Johnny Haynes and Jimmy Greaves. The scoreline that day was very much influenced by Bobby’s creativity and work ethic.
Despite a good playing career with Fulham, West Brom and Vancouver, Sir Bobby Robson would prove an even greater talent as a manager- and as with his fledgeling career as a player, Fulham were once again ready to give him an opportunity to utilize his man-management capabilities on a grand stage…
Fulham vs Macclesfield Town, 1968
Bobby Robson’s debut match as a football manager for Fulham
On the 27th January 1968, Robson embarked on a journey into the choppy seas of football management, unaware that his failure at Fulham would propel him to heights he had never dreamed of elsewhere.
However, this was a day of celebration; his first match as the manager of Fulham in the FA Cup 3rd round against Macclesfield Town on a cold January afternoon at Craven Cottage. Despite signing ‘Supermac’, then simply Malcolm Macdonald- a spindly-legged, brash cockney youngster with bags of potential, Robson couldn’t steer the club away from the gloomy abyss of the 2nd division. Robson was sacked as manager of Fulham in November 1968, and discovered of his sacking not by the Fulham board, but by the Evening Standard board in Putney Station which read “Robson Sacked”.
From that day on, Robson vowed never again to fail as a football manager and set about inadvertently discrediting Fulham’s chairman by securing some of Europe’s most prestigous club honours elswhere.
Ipswich vs AZ 67 Alkmaar, 1981
Ipswich beat Dutch side AZ 5-4 on aggregate to lift the UEFA Cup in 1981
Robson’s transition from a sacked manager pondering his future to one of the world’s most revered was electrifying; testament to his strong will to succeed and ability to get the best out of his team despite the little funds avaliable.
The finest example of this enviable managerial attribute was when he guided Ipswich to UEFA Cup success in 1981 with home-grown players. Ipswich, once a mediocre, mid-table side, were now the greatest club in England under Robson- adding the UEFA Cup to their 1978 FA Cup triumph against Arsenal which was Bobby’s first taste of cup success.
The victory over AZ Alkmaar in Amsterdam was no one-hit wonder, for Robson went onto even greater heights with his next challenge…
Robson had earnt the attention of the FA and was offered a job as the England manager in 1982.
England vs Turkey, 1988
Qualifying match for Euro ’88. Only one point was dropped by England in the whole qualifying campaign.
Six years on from acquiring the managerial hotseat at Wembley, Robson had transformed Ron Greenwood’s mediocre side into something of a masterclass. England defeated Turkey 8-0 in this match at Euro ’88, and Robson’s evident flair for weaving his attack-minded ethos into his team’s playing style continually, throughout his managerial career, meant that fans could regularly enjoy a goal-scoring masterclass with him at the helm (Porto fans called Robson ‘Bobby-Five-0′ during his spell at the Portugese club because of the amount of times his side won 5-0).
Euro ’88 proved the platform on which Robson could excercise the management skills expected of him, and he duly delivered. Through the whole qualifying campaign, Robson’s Lions only dropped one point on the road to the Euros, but more was to come later.
England vs West Germany, 1990
Defeat in the semi-finals of Italia ’90. The team becomes the greatest ever England side on foreign soil.
It was the side everyone thought would lift the world cup trophy in Turin in 1990.
The England Vs. West Germany clash in the 1990 world cup at the Stadio Delle Alpi in Turin, despite England’s eventual loss on penalties, marked Robson as the manager who took the Three Lions furthest on foreign soil. It took a Chris Waddle penalty miss to seal England’s fate, and Paul Gascoigne’s famous tears symbolized the bitter disappointment that was felt that day.
Prior to the tournament, Robson had resigned, having had his dreams of being the first manager to lead the Lions to glory on foreign soil scuppered first by Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ in ’86 and then by a series of stubborn German spot-kicks.
Prior to the tournament, Robson had informed the FA that he wouldn’t be renewing his contract. He went on to join PSV Eindhoven in 1990, achieving a 68% win ratio for the Dutch side as well as winning 2 league titles before being sacked due to lack of European competition success.
Robson moved onto Portugal where he joined Sporting Lisbon, a club at the time in a state of disarray. Robson, with unheard-of assistant manager Jose Mourinho, guided Sporting to the top of the table for the first time in 15 years but, despite this, he was sacked by the chairman he had described as a “loose cannon”- unable to adhere to Robson’s conventional managerial standards. Sporting’s rivals FC Porto pounced and brought the Geordie to the Estadio Do Dragao in 1994, where he won two league titles and one Portugese cup during his stay.
Now, Robson had come to the attention of Spanish giants FC Barcelona and promptly signed for the Blaugranas in 1996 on the terms that Jose Mourinho would be appointed as his assistant manager.
Real Betis vs Barcelona, 1997
Barca win the Copa Del Rey under Robson, one of three cups won that season
In one eventful season, Robson won the Catalans 3 trophies as well as his own accolade, the European Manager of the Year for 1996-97. He also signed Brazilian striker Ronaldo for $19.5m- the striker went on to praise Robson for his man-management skills during the time he spent at the Nou Camp.
“as a trainer without doubt (Robson) is one of the greatest in the world”.
Newcastle vs Sheffield Wednesday, 1999
First home game managing Newcastle United
After a short stint with PSV, in which he won 20 games out of 38, Bobby Robson returned to his beloved hometown club Newcastle United in 1999- a club languishing at the bottom of the table and struggling to pay the player’s wages. Robson himself recieved £1m a year, a slight dampener to his fairytale start as manager in which his frail side beat Sheffield Wednesday 8-0 at St.James’ Park. Bobby had returned to Geordieland and immidiately set about enhancing the meagre reputation of the Toon by leading them to 11th place in his 1st season in charge. In the 2001-2002 season, Robson had just about booked himself a place in Geordie folklore by defying the mythical ‘Gallowgate curse’ to hoist the club off the bottom of the Premiership and into 4th place- much to the amazement of the 53,000 fans who witnessed it. The following season, the elderly but spritely manager secured the Toon a 3rd place finish and enjoyed a fantastic Champions League campaign, when he (with a little help from Craig Bellamy) became the 1st manager to take his side through to the 2nd round of the tournament after losing the opening 3 games.
Robson’s tenure, in which he earnt deep respect from Geordies and recieved a knighthood for his services to football, made him one of the most successful Newcastle managers ever. Despite converting Newcastle from a relegation-threatened club to Champions League material, he was sacked at the start of the 2004-2005 season. Without Robson, Newcastle began to slip.
Sir Bobby Robson Trophy Match, 2009
Charity match for his Cancer Charity, held last Sunday (26th July)
Bobby Robson had a dream. His England side, who had been narrowly deprived of a place in the World Cup final in 1990, was held in high esteem by Sir Bobby and he wanted to recreate that fateful match against West Germany for his own cancer charity, the Sir Bobby Robson fund, on Sunday 26th July. His wish was granted, and the now middle-aged England side were roared on once again by nearly 30,000 fans at St.James’ Park in pursuit of that long awaited victory. Sir Bobby Robson watched from the Milburn stand, a stand named after his childhood hero, as fellow Geordie legends Paul Gascoigne and Alan Shearer, basking in the adoration beating down on them, lifted the trophy. Thousands of pounds were raised for charity. It was Sir Bobby Robson’s final public appearance before his death on the 29th July, but it was the perfect chapter in which his life was ended.
Sir Bobby Robson left behind a sparkling legacy. He was a kindly man who fought cancer five times, but despite the implications of this re-occuring disease he won accolades most managers can only dream of. Only Alf Ramsey could boast of doing better in an England tracksuit, yet no one could boast of having met a football personality more humorous, or humble, as Robson. He will be sorely missed, but his name will live on through his records and honours of which there are too many to include in this article. He was a true hero of mine. Football will never forget him.