The sad news that Sir Bobby Robson lost his battle with cancer on Friday has left a huge hole in the football community.
No sooner had the news broke than tributes started flooding in from all corners of the football world.
Managers and players – colleagues and opponents alike – lined up to recall their personal memories of Sir Bobby from the six decades that he was involved in the game.
What struck me most was that, despite a highly successful career as both player and manager – at home and overseas – the tributes invariably concerned Robson the man rather than Robson the professional.
No real surprise there though. For me, Robson summed up everything that is good about football. He was extremely passionate and enthusiastic about the game. He was honest and hard working and, despite a hugely successful career, remained grounded to the last.
His bubbly nature, sharp wit and the spring in his step endeared him to those of us who love the game, and continued to do so in a day and age where football – and the cast involved – doesn’t always inspire such love.
He conducted himself with decorum, even when faced with defeat at the ‘Hand of God’ or by the harsh cruelty of penalties, both on the biggest stage of all. When he suffered a hard time from the British press he dealt with it in a calm and dignified way.
He remained a man of the people, as testified by the huge shrine assembled over the weekend at St James Park, the ground where Robson went to watch his beloved Newcastle United as a young man and where he returned as a hero some 60 years later.
By the time his reign as Newcastle manager began in 1999, Robson had already fought off cancer twice, but carried on undeterred.
He was diagnosed again in 2006 and spent the last 18 months of his life fighting the disease through his charity, the Bobby Robson Foundation.
In that time, the Foundation has raised over £1.6m to help research into the early detection and treatment of cancer.
As much as the trophies, the medals, the family he leaves behind and the fond memories for all those who knew or watched him, the Foundation is Robson’s legacy.
I’m fortunate to have a job that allows me to meet interesting people from the football world, but I’m sad to say I never got to meet Sir Bobby and, alas, will never get the chance to do so now.
Somehow though, I still feel like I knew him a little. Perhaps that’s what was so endearing about the man. He was the sort of person who could make people stop and listen without even raising his voice.
Particularly in his later years, he gave off a calm, comforting air whenever he spoke, a bit like your granddad or your favourite uncle. I don’t know what entitles someone to official ‘national treasure’ status but whatever it was, in my opinion, Robson had it.
Every one of us involved in the football community – from Sunday leagues to the Champions League – can learn something from Sir Bobby Robson.
He was a passionate football man and a fierce competitor, yet always conducted himself in the right manner, win or lose.
Football may not see his like again. A true gentleman who will be fondly remembered by millions, Sir Bobby Robson’s passing is a sad loss to the game and the country.
Our thoughts and condolences go out to his family and all those nearest and dearest to him at this sad time.
Farewell Sir Bobby. You’ll be sadly missed.
Dan Pope, Club Website editor
With thanks to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation for the images. For more information, visit www.sirbobbyrobsonfoundation.org.uk.