Obituary: Bobby Robson, honorary AEFCA member

11 August 2009 – The AEFCA joins the international football community in mourning the death of Sir Bobby Robson CBE. The former England manager (1982-1990) died on 31 July 2009, aged 76, after a long battle against cancer.

A true gentleman and impeccable sportsman, he was one of the most-revered personalities in English football, who was awarded Honorary Membership of the European coaches’ body UEFT (now known as the AEFCA) in 1998 for his numerous merits in football. In 2002, he received a knighthood for services to football, Great Britain’s highest possible expression of appreciation.

As a player, Bobby Robson made a total of 583 appearances for Fulham F.C. and West Bromwich Albion, scoring 133 goals. A skilled mid-fielder, he was on the England squad at the 1958 FIFA World Cup in Sweden and won 20 full caps for his country.

His managerial career began in 1967, when he joined the NASL’s Vancouver Royals as player-manager, but Fulham F.C.’s offer in 1968 to become their fully-fledged manager brought Robson back to England where, in 1969, he moved on to Ipswich Town. In his thirteen years as the club’s manager, he enjoyed great success (most notably winning the 1978 FA Cup and the 1981 UEFA Cup) and was appointed England manager in 1982, taking the Three Lions team to the 1986 and 1990 FIFA World Cups in Mexico and Italy, respectively.

Success also accompanied Sir Bobby’s continental assignments managing PSV Eindhoven (Dutch champions 1991 and 1992), Sporting Clube de Portugal (Lisbon, 1992-94), FC Porto (Portuguese FA Cup winners 1994, champions 1995 and 1996), and FC Barcelona (European Cup Winners’ Cup, Spanish FA Cup winners and champions 1997). After his contract had expired, he returned to England and, in 1999, accepted an offer from Newcastle United F.C., the club he had loved from early childhood, and where he was to finish his managerial career five years later, in 2004.

On behalf of all AEFCA members, we would like to express our heartfelt condolences to Sir Bobby’s family, especially to his wife, Lady Elsie, and his sons Andrew, Paul and Mark, as we bow our heads to one of the finest personalities the game has produced.

Reflecting on Sir Bobby’s life and achievements, Craig Brown CBE, former Scotland manager and AEFCA Vice-President, was kind enough to submit the following  tribute:

SIR BOBBY ROBSON  CBE  1933 – 2009

It was with the deepest possible regret that all members of AEFCA became aware of the passing of Sir Bobby Robson.  However, it is with the greatest possible pride that AEFCA could count on Sir Bobby as one of its Honorary Members and strongest supporters.

His Honorary Membership was awarded in 1998 not only for outstanding achievement but for his unstinting help to his coaching colleagues. No man was more willing to give of his time and to share his great knowledge.  Of all the many impressive demonstrations witnessed over the years at UEFT, then AEFCA Symposia, arguably the very best was in 1994 when those present were privileged to admire a superb session as Sir Bobby coached his FC Porto squad, with Jose Mourinho at his side, under the gaze of colleagues from dozens of countries.  Thereafter his patience in the lengthy question/answer interlude was incredible. Pervading this session, and all his work, was a demonstration of enthusiasm, total commitment and industry, but his most endearing quality was his modesty.

Having obtained unrivalled success in every Club post, this unassuming coach narrowly failed to win the ultimate prize, the World Cup.  In Italy 1990, his England side were beaten in the semi-final by West Germany on penalties.  Four years earlier in the quarter final in Mexico, the infamous Maradona “Hand of God” was Sir Bobby’s unfortunate undoing in that occasion.

Sadly, years of painful illness, borne bravely, were his personal undoing until his death, but he will always be remembered in football as THE gentleman among gentlemen.

Delivering the eulogy a few years ago at the funeral of Jimmy Steel, masseur of Celtic and Scotland, football’s other Knight of the Realm, Sir Alex Ferguson, brought a smile to those present when he said that Jimmy’s funeral would be all-ticket and that there would be no complimentaries.  

Sir Bobby’s funeral, to which AEFCA have sent a wreath, is a private affair for his wife, Lady Elsie, and family only, but his forthcoming commemorative service at Durham Cathedral will undoubtedly be THE all-ticket event that Sir Bobby Robson CBE thoroughly deserves.

Craig Brown

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