It’s the semi-final of World Cup Italia 90, and England have drawn 1-1 with Germany. Sat on the bench is Bobby Robson - grey suit, grey socks, magnificent full head of grey hair – watching calmly. The camera doesn't move from his face, but we all know what is happening out on the pitch. Lineker scores, then Brehme. Beardsley, then Mattäus. Platt, then Riedle.
im电竞官网-And then Pearce puts it straight down the middle.
And then Waddle.
im电竞官网-Still, the camera lingers on the England manager. You see Robson look down, permit himself the smallest grimace of pain, then stand up and prepare a face for the faces he’s about to meet. He goes straight for Gazza – the tournament’s desolate young star - and puts an arm around him.
“Don’t worry son,” he says. “You’ve been absolutely magnificent haven’t you? Don't worry about it. You’ve got your life ahead of you.”
Bobby Robson: More Than A Manager charts the career of a man whose footballing achievements are often eclipsed in English memories by that fateful night in Turin. It was, after all, the most significant match in the modern history of English football, one that united the country behind a sport it previously sneered at and paved the way for the formation of the Premier League two years later.
But in Robson’s career, getting closer than any England manager to the World Cup since Alf Ramsey was just one remarkable moment of many. At club level, he was as skilled at developing young talent as Wenger (in 13 years at Ipswich, he bought just 14 players, using academy products to win the UEFA Cup and the FA Cup, twice). He was as well travelled as Roy Hodgson, managing in the Netherlands (PSV), Portugal (Porto, Sporting CP) and Spain (Barcelona) as well as England. In terms of major trophies, he was more successful than both unless you count the Charity Shield.
But as the title suggests, this documentary - beautifully shot and brilliantly paced by directors Gabriel Clarke and Torquil Jones - is less about Robson the football manager as it is about Robson the football man. Even before his last managerial hurrah at his boyhood club, Newcastle United, turned him into the Premier League's loveable Granddad, Robson had touched - and changed - the lives of so many of the game’s greats, it reads like Roy of the Rovers: The Management Years.
Woven into a narrative that jumps back and forward in time from his biggest domestic challenge – the single season he spent at Barcelona in 1996/97 – Alex Ferguson, Terry Butcher, Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer and Pep Guardiola reflect on how their careers were shaped in some way by Robson's leadership, passion and generosity. We hear a lot from Jose Mourinho, who got his big break when Robson saw his potential and hired him as his interpreter. One of the joys of the film is watching the youthful Jose scowling at the hostile Spanish media from under his jet-black hair, playing the loyal attack dog to his warm-humoured (and occasionally confused) mentor.
im电竞官网-There’s also the original Ronaldo, Robson’s big star signing from PSV at the start of his Nou Camp tenure. The young Brazilian came to Barcelona unproven at the highest level with the huge expectations of the fans, board and media placed immediately on shoulders. “He made me feel calm,” is his simple but telling tribute to Robson, the man who helped him blossom into the best player in the world.
But the real punch-to-the-throat moments belong – who else? - to Gazza, the lost boy of English football who found his most enduring father figure in Robson, a fellow Geordie. Long after Italia 90, long after Gazza had retired and became the shambling tabloid figure of the 00s, Robson was still there, calling him up, checking in. Even at the very end, during his last public appearance at a charity match days before he died, Robson was looking out for the daft kid who almost won him the World Cup. Gazza’s tribute is even simpler than Ronaldo’s, and more moving: "He made me feel safe."
The villain of the piece, of course, is the media who hounded Robson, first as a ‘traitor’ to England for agreeing to join PSV (before Italia 90 made him a national hero) then as ‘the worst coach in the world’ at Barcelona (before he ended the season with three trophies). And, of course, the suits upstairs at Newcastle who unceremoniously sacked him in 2004, a decision that was perhaps correct in football terms but was handled so attrociously it remains one of the most shameful episodes in the club’s history.
Robson’s shortcomings as a family man are touched upon - the way, like so many successful people, his obsession with his job meant he could sometimes neglect those closest to him. It hints at the distance between Robson and his son, one filled with no end of surrogates out on the pitch. But ultimately, Bobby Robson: More Than A Manager is a story about his professional not private life. His warmth and humour - something that appeared to age in Robson like a fine wine - pour from the screen, even when he's dealing with the paparazzi camped outside his house at his lowest moments. In his dotage, fighting cancer for the fifth time, Robson founded the The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and raised millions for other sufferers – something he considered his greatest achievement - cutting ribbons and cracking jokes until the very end.
As a piece of film-making, Bobby Robson: More Than A Manager doesn't put a foot wrong. It moves quickly but satisfyingly, shows restraint in the right places and lets Robson and the interviewees speak for themselves. And why wouldn't it? When people talk about Robson, it’s not with the media-trained platitudes and forced reverence we're used to hearing in the game but a palpable, almost awe-struck sense of joy and respect. Aside from being the story of a remarkable footballing life, it is this that gives Bobby Robson: More Than A Manager its power: seeing how much the people who knew Robson love to talk about him, how he is still guiding them all in some way, even those who surpassed his achievements, almost ten years after his death.
“A person does not die until the last person who loves him dies,” the older, wiser Mourinho says at one point. It is precisely this legacy, Bobby Robson reminds us, that is bigger and more important than any trophy collection in the world.
"I was so desperate to make him proud. I still am."
, North East football correspondent at The Times and an ambassador of The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, describes the man he knew as a friend - and the work he helps continue in his name.
Bobby’s footballing legacy is cast in metal outside Portman Road and St James’ Park. It is present in the dug-outs at Manchester City and Manchester United. But his legacy as a man, his decency and humanity, stretches beyond that. He wasn’t an angel. He was tough and stubborn, but with a capacity to make people feel better about themselves, even when he was ailing.
im电竞官网-Even now, nine years after his death, he inspires people to raise money in his name - to become part of what he called his “last and greatest team.” Over the last decade, The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation has raised more than £12m for cancer treatment and research within the NHS. It funds world-class medical equipment, clinical trials, nursing positions, support networks, and it does it without paid employees or professional fundraisers.
I’m privileged to be a Patron of Bobby’s Foundation. Those aren’t just words. He was always a hero to me - we went to the same school in Langley Park, a few decades apart - we became colleagues on The Timesim电竞官网-, then he was a mentor and, finally, a friend. I helped him write his final book. I lost all notion of journalistic impartiality, but that was the effect he could have. I was so desperate to make him proud. I still am.
im电竞官网-Towards the end of his life, Bobby would still say to Lady Elsie, his wife, that he was as fit as a fiddle, that he’d never missed work because of illness. She would remind him, in the nicest way possible, that he’d had cancer five times, but Bobby was never defined by that. He was defined by his optimism. To his core, he believed in the goodness of people. His last and greatest team suggest he had a point.