sir bobby robson
When Sir Bobby Robson died aged 76 in July 2009, none other than Sir Alex Ferguson said: "In my years working in England there is not a person I would put an inch above Bobby Robson." In the years since, the high regard in which Robson is held by everyone in football has proved even more striking. There has been no English football manager to have succeeded abroad as Robson did, and no manager at all to have worked at the highest level of the most ruthless and competitive of professions without seemingly picking up any enemies.
It is Robson's passion and enthusiasm for football that many remember most fondly. Inevitably, given his longevity and where his career took him – most memorably of all, to within a penalty shootout of a World Cup final with England in 1990 – Robson left a big mark on several generations of footballers and coaches. Many of those have spoken to The Coaches' Voice about his influence, and we have collated the best quotes about Robson from our exclusive interviews here. Fittingly, the first of those was one of his first signings from his successful time at his boyhood club Newcastle United, who has since followed him into coaching.
"I was very nervous, but he put me at ease straight away – the way he spoke to you was so relaxing. You felt like you already knew him, which is a crazy thing to say when you don’t and it’s your first conversation.
"It was a skill that he could make people feel like that – even over a phone call, which is a lot harder than face-to-face. “I’m excited to get you in for next season” – he built me up in that conversation, not that I needed it when he was the one calling.
"When he’s in the room, there’s an aura about him. Not the kind you saw with David Ginola, who everyone turned to look at when he walked in; there was just something about Sir Bobby’s personality that put everyone at ease.
"That dressing room had in it people as young as Jermaine Jenas, senior players like Alan Shearer, and different nationalities. I’ve been in a lot of them, and there’s not many where the players all respect and like the manager – particularly those who aren’t playing – but everyone liked him.
"I went through a season not playing at Newcastle, but I still totally respected him because he treated me like a human. He’d speak to me, give me an answer if I asked a question, and be honest.
"Other managers can’t get enough of you when you’re in the team, but if you’re not playing or you’re injured, it feels like you don’t exist. But that was never the case with Sir Bobby.
"‘Enthusiasm’ is the word that really strikes home. He was always in his tracksuit on the training field, joining in, and very hands-on.
"He always brought energy, and always wanted energy and the highest standards in everything, but he could also be funny. It didn’t involve him telling jokes; it was a subtle humour. You just found him funny."
"Bobby Robson had this amazing ability to make you feel 10 feet tall. Whatever the situation.
"I remember this one time when I was at Newcastle, we were playing Manchester United at home. This was April 2003. United were going toe-to-toe with Arsenal for the title, and we weren’t too far behind.
"Before the game, Bobby told me he wanted me to man-mark Ruud van Nistelrooy.
"I used to get really, really, really nervous before games. I tried not to show it in the dressing room – I’d talk a lot and try to give off an air of confidence – but deep down I was absolutely sh*tting myself.
"The night before, the morning of the game, eating the pre-match meal. All of it – it was terrible.
"But then Bobby gave you this confidence. When you stepped over that line, you were ready.
"Bobby’s enthusiasm was infectious. He spoke to you in a way that made you feel good. He was so honest with you."
"If you look back at British football, we’ve seen some real dynasties. Think about Nottingham Forest – Brian Clough was there for 18 years.
"Sir Bobby Robson was at Ipswich for 13. And, of course, Sir Alex at Manchester United. What stands out is that those clubs, in the main, all had a high level of success during those periods."
"I felt that English players and coaches weren’t respected around Europe. Bobby Robson and Terry Venables were huge role models for me, because they had gone overseas and won that respect.
"That’s what I wanted."
"I played under Javier Clemente, Andoni Goikoetxea, Louis van Gaal, Bobby Robson, Héctor Cúper and Paco Flores.
"I tried to take the best aspects from each one, then implement them as a coach. The good – and there was a lot – but also the bad, too. It might be a cliché, but everything you go through as a player, under a coach, will be useful in the future."
"A month or so into the 1988/89 season, I got a call from a reporter, saying he’d been asked to sound me out. Was I interested in going to Leeds United, who were at that time in the Second Division?
"I blame Bobby Robson. When Leeds chairman Leslie Silver asked him who he should bring in, Bobby told him: “You’ve got to try very hard to get Howard Wilkinson.”
"There have been so many people who have influenced me. I could be here giving you names all day, and I’d probably still miss some out.
"I worked with Óscar Tabárez, a man who had enormous vision. With Bobby Robson, a true gentleman with leadership qualities like few others."
"When the subject is a passion for football, Bobby Robson comes to mind. He was the personification of love for the game. In my college days, I would often skip lessons to follow Porto’s training sessions.
"There would be no class that could teach what I learned just from seeing Bobby Robson’s way of working. He was demanding, yet a man of affection. You could tell the players liked him.
"He was in his 60s then, but he would still engage in training in a delightful way. Those training sessions left their mark on me for the rest of my life."
"I remember a good number of coaches, but a really special one – always in my mind, and my spirit – was Bobby Robson. What he delivered, in enthusiasm; conviction; confidence. Get the job done; win; score goals.
"He was one of my first foreign coaches, after Sven-Göran Eriksson at Benfica. At Sporting Lisbon I had the chance to be coached by him, and it's something that remains in my head, and my spirit, all the time."
Author: Ali Tweedale