Farewell Sir Bobby
Farewell Sir Bobby!
In a weird way, it was not that unexpected. The papers had a picture of Sir Bobby at a charity match last weekend, and the great man looked very frail. Despite being confined to a wheelchair, his eyes still had the determination and the resolve that characterised so much of his football career.
It was an emotional sight but there was a strong sense of respect. Being an Ipswich Town fan, I know all about the legacy that Sir Bobby left to this club. It is just a shame that I was born in 1980 and can not remember those glory days of the seventies and early eighties. It was a startling achievement to take this club to FA Cup and UEFA Cup glory in 1978 and 1981, as well as preside over Ipswich’s domination of the leagues nearly thirty years ago.
There is a large statue on
Before the recent pre--season game against Real Valladolid, I stood at the statue whilst the local TV stations did their broadcasts, young Town fans carefully draping their shirts around the statue base, and older fans quietly remembered those games that defined this proud family club, when Robson strode the touch line and coaxed the best out of legends including John Wark, Kevin Beattie, Paul Mariner and Arnold Muhren.
There was a sense of careful order amongst the grief. The one minute silence was impeccably observed. The only sound was a seagull flying across the pitch and wondering what was going on beside the wide patch of grass. The rigging of the half-mast flags was gently tingling above the Cobbold Stand. There was a sense of emotion but an appreciation and a respect for a football gentleman that defined four decades of the national game.
Sir Bobby seemed to straddle football clubs in the UK and across the world, and I do not believe that it was merely due to his position as England football manager from 1982 to 1990. The semi final against West Germany during the 1990 World Cup was the first national game that deeply entered my consciousness.
It is not hard to watch videotape footage of that dramatic game, and to watch the missed England penalties flying into the sky. It is also not hard to respect the measured attitude of Sir Bobby, who seemed to display an impressively calm demeanour and an offer of a comforting arm around his players, even if he was a raging volcano of emotion. He also seemed to adopt a shockingly measured approach in the 1986 World Cup, despite Maradona having scored a questionable goal in that searing heat of Mexico.
When you caught a sight of Sir Bobby, you knew that you could hear the words of a genuine football man who had a passion about the game. Instead of the rent-a-quote panellists that have grown like algae through the studios and the message boards, Sir Bobby always had something worthwhile to say coupled with a few memorable quotes that would liven up the dullest of matches.
The word ‘legend’ is overused in football. A player can become a ‘legend’ on the execution of one pass or a particular save. A manager can become a ‘legend’ after guiding his team to one fluky victory against the arch rivals. We can have a ‘legendary’ burger outside the ground when we build up to our match day experience.
We struggle to understand who is a legend and who is not, and we only begin to realise our heroes when they have to leave the pitch for the final time. Rest assured, we lost a legend in English and European football as the 2009-2010 season is about to spring into action, but we will never forget him.