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Sir Robert William "Bobby" Robson CBE (18 February 1933 – 31 July 2009) was an Englishmarker footballer and, after retirement, manager of seven European clubs and the England national team.

His 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. 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 Netherlandsmarker and Portugalmarker, earning trophies in England and Spainmarker, and taking England to the semi-final of the 1990 World Cup. 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. 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". He died just under a year later.

Early life

Born in Sacristonmarker, County Durham, Robson was the fourth of five sons of Philip and Lilian Robson (née Watt). When he was a few months old, Robson's family moved to the nearby village of Langley Parkmarker where his father was a coal miner. As a boy, he was often taken by his father to watch Newcastle United at St James' Parkmarker, requiring a bus ride or a walk of several miles. Robson describes Jackie Milburn and Len Shackleton as his childhood heroes. Both played for Newcastle in the inside-forward position, the position Robson would later assume during his playing career.

Robson attended Waterhouses Secondary Modern School but the headmaster did not allow the school football team to join a league. 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. Robson played football whenever he possibly could but also worked as an electrician's apprentice for the National Coal Board in the Langley Park colliery. 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, playing as a wing-half and inside-forward. 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".

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. Eventually this took its toll on Robson and he gave up his trade for full-time football.

Robson made his debut in 1950 for Fulham, recently promoted to the First Division, in a match against Sheffield Wednesday. He came to regard Fulham as "a nice club, a social club..." but "never...a serious, championship-challenging club". Indeed, he and Fulham were relegated from the top-flight in the 1951–52 season, 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. The transfer fee of £25,000 was a club record for Albion at the time.

He made his Albion debut in a 4–0 home defeat by Manchester City on 10 March 1956. 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. He went on to play 257 games and score 61 goals for West Bromwich Albion and captained the team for the 1960–61 and 1961–62 seasons. In August 1962, however, he returned to Fulham after a disagreement with Albion vice-chairman Jim Gaunt over his salary. The on-going 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. 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. 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. Robson himself stated "In all my time as a footballer, I didn't win a thing."

Despite press reports of interest from Arsenal, and the offer of a player-manager role by Southend United, Robson left Fulham in 1967 and accepted a three-year deal with Canadamarker'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". The position proved difficult; a long-distance joint-ownership agreement gave the Hungarian footballer Ferenc Puskás control over the San Franciscomarker section of the squad, 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 Cottagemarker.

Career statistics

International playing career

During his first spell at Fulham, Robson participated in two ambassadorial Football Association tours in the West Indiesmarker in 1955 and South Africa in 1956.However, it was during his time at West Bromwich Albionthat 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", and playing this, Robson graduated to the full Englandsquad in 1956, It was also at West Bromwich Albion that Robson met future England international and assistant coach Don Howe.

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. Although he made a successful debut, he was dropped for England's next game against Scotland, in favour of Bobby Charlton. He was, however, selected for the 1958 World Cupsquad, ahead of Nat Lofthouseand Stanley Matthewsbut returned from Sweden disappointed, as England were defeated by the Soviet Unionin a group play-off match.

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 Stadiummarker.He was selected for the 1962 World Cup finals in Chilemarker 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".

Managerial career

Early club management

In 1959, the then England manager and FA Director of Coaching Walter Winterbottom suggested to Robson that he take a coaching course at Lilleshallmarker.Robson made his debut as a manager in January 1968 at his former club Fulham, against Macclesfield Town, then in the Cheshire League, in the third round of the FA cup. Fulham were struggling with 16 points from 24 games. Despite the acquisition of the young Malcolm Macdonald, Robson could not save the club from relegation to the Second Division, and he left them in November, 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 Standardplacard outside Putney station.

He moved on to Ipswich Townin 1969 and it was there that he established his reputation as a successful manager. He won the vacant job at the Suffolk club after a chance encounter with Town director Murray Sangster while scouting at Portman Roadmarker for Chelsea manager Dave Sexton.After four mediocre seasons, Robson led Ipswich to fourth place in the First Divisionand success in the Texaco Cupin the 1972–73season. In the following nine seasons, Ipswich finished lower than sixth place in the First Division only once, in the 1977–78season. However, that season was a success with a 1–0 victory over Arsenalin the FA Cup Final. 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 Cupin 1981with a 5–4 aggregatevictory over Dutch side AZ 67 Alkmaar. During his thirteen year tenure, he brought in only 14 players from other clubs, relying instead on players developed through Ipswich's youth programmes.

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. 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.

England manager

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 from Ipswich director Patrick Cobbold. On 7 July 1982, two days after England were knocked out of the 1982 World Cup, he succeeded Ron Greenwoodas coach of the English national football team, selecting former West Bromwich Albion team-mate Don Howeas his chief coach.

Robson's first game in charge saw immediate controversy, as he dropped Kevin Keeganfor the match against Denmark; this led to Robson being spat on by Newcastle United supporters. On 21 September 1983, Robson suffered his only loss in the 28 qualifying matches he was to undertake as England manager. The defeat, once again to Denmark, ultimately led to England's failure to qualify for the 1984 European Championships, and resulted in Robson offering to resign in favour of Brian Clough. 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 Mexicomarker.

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

Robson's England dropped only one point in qualifying for Euro 1988which included an 8–0 defeat of Turkey. However this was followed by failure at the tournament itself, held in West Germanymarker, where England were knocked out in the group stage.They finished bottom of their qualifying group, succumbing to defeats against Ireland, Hollandand the USSR. 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". Once again Robson submitted his resignation, and once again it was rejected by Millichip (again Brian Cloughis often cited as a reason).

Robson led England without conceding a goal through the six-match qualificationfor the 1990 World Cupwhere they were one of six seeded teams. Once again they were placed in a group with Holland and Ireland, with Egyptthe fourth side. As in the 1986 World Cup, Robson was denied the service of his captain, Bryan Robson, who suffered an achilles tendoninjury which prevented him playing in the latter stages of the tournament. England topped their qualifying group, accumulating four points from their three games. 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. Robson denies this claim: This was followed by victories over Belgiumand Cameroonin the knock-out stages, to set up a semi-final with West Germany. England lost the match on a penalty shoot-out, after the score had been tied at 1–1 following extra time. 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".

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 Netherlandsmarker to coach PSV of Eindhovenmarker, who sought a manager capable of instilling discipline into a fractious squad.Robson described the move as "a culture shock" but felt "...a sense of adventure." The Dutch penchant for tactical debate surprised Robson. In an interview with Voetbal Internationalhe lamented: "An English pro accepts the manager's decision. After every match here, the substitutes come and visit me." Another of his challenges at PSV was handling the Brazilian internationalRomário. Robson became frustrated with the Brazilian's work ethic, although admitted " some matches he would be scintillating." 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. 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.

Robson moved to Sporting Clube de Portugalin July 1992, where his Portuguese interpreterwas a young José Mourinho, future Porto, Chelseaand Internazionalemanager. 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. Robson was sacked in December 1993 with the club sitting at the top of the league table. The club President, Jose Sousa Cintra, cited the club's early exit from the UEFA Cupat the hands of Casino Salzburgas the reason for his dismissal.

Sporting's rivals, F.C.Porto, quickly hired Robson, with Mourinho appointed as his assistant manager. Porto were in a poor state when Robson arrived and the average attendance had dwindled to 10,000. The club promptly went on to beat Robson's former club, Sporting, in the Portuguese Cupfinal, following that achievement with successive Leaguetitles in the 1994–95 and 1995–96 seasons.

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, and he signed a new contract with the club in 1995. Suffering from malignant melanomaand missing the first few months of the 1995–96 season, Robson still successfully led Porto in defence of their league title.

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 Spanishmarker club.Robson took over in July 1996, where once again his assistant was Mourinho; Robson had made Mourinho's move with him to the Camp Noumarker a condition of his employment.One of the key decisions Robson made during his brief tenure at Barcelona was the $19.5 million signing of Ronaldo, who was influential in a season when Barcelona won the Spanish Cup, Spanish Super Cupand European Cup Winners' Cup. 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".

The 1997–98 season saw Robson moved "upstairs" to the position of General Manager by Barcelona, with Louis van Gaaltaking over the managerial reins, but he stayed in this position for only one season before returning to manage PSV on a short-term deal for the 1998–99season. PSV missed out on the league title, finishing third behind Feyenoordand Willem II, but Robson still led the club to qualification for the Champions Leagueon the last day of the season.

Return to England

After Robson's contract expired, he returned to England to take up a position in the Football Association's technical department, but following the resignation of Ruud Gullit at Newcastle United, Robson moved to St James' Parkmarker in September 1999.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.

In his first home match in charge, Newcastle (at the bottom of the league) 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. In late 2000, following the resignation of Kevin Keeganas England manager, the Football Associationasked Newcastle Chairman Freddy Shepherdto permit Robson to take over in a part-time caretakercapacity but the request was refused. Robson guided Newcastle from bottom of the Premier Leagueto a fourth-place finish in the 2001–02season. The following season, Newcastle finished third, ensuring qualification for the Champions Leaguefor the second consecutive year.Despite the qualification of third place however, 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. 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 after losing to Marseillemarker.

He 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. Robson's dismissal followed publication of his off the recordobservation 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. However, he is still held in the highest esteem by the fans; he was granted the Freedom of the Cityof Newcastle-upon-Tyne on 2 March 2005.

His autobiography, entitled Bobby Robson: Farewell but not Goodbyewas released in 2005.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". 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. The club's training ground was later blamed by Graeme Souness, Robson's successor, for a series of injuries to first team players.

Football consultant

On 7 June 2005 he declined the invitation to become manager of Heart of Midlothianbecause he wanted to stay in the Newcastle area. On 13 January 2006, Steve Stauntonwas appointed manager of the Republic of Ireland national team, with Robson named in a support role as International Football Consultant. 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. Robson was a former Vice President of the League Managers Association, a non-executive role.

Life outside football

Personal life

Robson was married to Elsie from June 1955 until his death; they have three sons: George, Paul and Mark, all of whom survived him.

Since 1991, Robson was repeatedly diagnosed as suffering from cancer. He had several operations and, in 2006, was operated on for on a brain tumour. This, on occasion, impacted on his work; while at Portofor example, Robson suffered from malignant melanoma, which resulted in him missing the first few months of the 1995–96 season. Following the brain surgery, Sky Sports Newsreported that Robson had had an adverse reaction that had caused slight swelling of the brain, which had in turn caused the loss of feeling in his left side.

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. Robson revealed on 6 May 2007 that he had been diagnosed with cancer for the fifth time. On Saturday 17 May 2008, Sir Bobby was the guest of honour at the FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadiummarker 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. He also acted as a punditfor ITVduring the 2002 World Cupand the 2004 European Championship. In 2004, following the death of Brian Clough, Robson briefly stood in for Clough as a columnist at FourFourTwomagazine, and from 2004 onwards wrote a weekly column for The Mail on Sunday.

Bobby Robson Foundation

Robson defeated bowel cancerin 1992, a malignant melanomain 1995, and a tumourin his right lung and a brain tumour, both in 2006. Treatment of these conditions had left him partially paralyseddue to a stroke caused by the brain tumour, and also with a partially prostheticupper jaw after the melanoma was surgically removed. His fifth diagnosis of cancer in 2007, consisting of cancerous nodules in both lungs, was diagnosed as terminalin February 2007, and as of December 2008 was being controlled through bouts of chemotherapy. 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. The money raised by the Foundation funded equipment for the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre, in the Freeman Hospitalmarker in Newcastle upon Tyne, and would go on to fund other cancer projects in the North East of England.

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' Parkmarker, featuring players from the original 1990 World Cup squads and other special guests.Robson was given a guard of honour before the game, which finished 3–2 to the England side.

At the time of his death, the Foundation had raised £1.6m. Donations totalling £156,000 were received by the Foundation in the 18 days following his death, and on15 October 2009, it was announced that the Foundation had raised over £2m, and that at the request of Robson's family, Alan Shearerwould take over Robson's role as the Foundation's patron.


On 31 July 2009, Robson died of lung cancer at his home in County Durham, aged 76, after a long battle with the disease. 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 "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." Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, described Sir Bobby as a "real Geordie gentleman." According to current Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Robson "epitomised everything that is great about football in this country."

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 Durhammarker.A thanksgiving service for Robson was held on 21 September 2009 at Durham Cathedralmarker.One thousand invited guests attended the service, which was also broadcast live on national television, and to Newcastle United's St James' Parkmarker, Ipswich Town's Portman Roadmarker ground, and Fulham's Craven Cottagemarker.


Bobby 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 CBEand in 2002, he was knighted; both awards were for services to football.

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

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

The Football League gave Newcastle United and Ipswich Town special dispensation to wear special commemorative kits for their Championshipmatch on 26 September 2009 at Portman Road, in aid of Sir Bobby's Foundation. This match resulted in a 4-0 victory for Newcastle United.

Managerial statistics

Performance by club

Managerial honours

Further reading

Bobby Robson


  1. " Three Tuns reunite with tons of happy memories". The Northern Echo 2008-09-23. Retrieved on 2009-04-02.
  2. Ronnie Allen was the club's top scorer overall, with 28 goals.
  3. Robson states Gaunt was chairman at the time, however he was vice-chairman until 1963.
  4. Kuper, p96

External links

First Division
1 0 - - 1 0
16 3 - - 16 3
Second Division
35 19 1 0 - 36 19
33 13 1 1 - 34 14
42 23 1 0 - 43 23
25 10 2 0 - 27 10
West Bromwich Albion
First Division
10 1 - - 10 1
39 12 2 1 - 41 13
41 24 7 3 - 48 27
29 4 1 1 - 30 5
41 6 3 0 - 44 6
40 5 1 0 - 41 5
39 4 4 0 - 43 4
34 1 2 1 2 0 38 2
39 1 2 0 1 0 42 1
42 1 2 0 3 1 47 2
36 6 - 3 0 39 6
41 0 3 0 3 0 47 0
P W L D Win %
January 1968
November 1968

Ipswich Town
January 1969
August 1982


PSV Eindhoven

Sporting Lisbon



PSV Eindhoven

Newcastle United
September 1999
August 2004


Honour Team Year(s)
Texaco Cup Ipswich Town 1973
FA Cup 1978
UEFA Cup 1981
Rous Cup England 1986, 1988, 1989
Dutch Championship PSV Eindhoven 1991, 1992
Cup of Portugal Porto 1994
Portuguese Championship 1995, 1996
Spanish Super Cup Barcelona 1996
Copa del Rey 1997
European Cup Winners' Cup 1997

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