COLUMNIST KEVIN SPARKE
Those of us with memories as long as mine will remember the Ipswich team of the 1970s and the free-flowing attacking football they played. The team was largely built upon their fantastic youth system which Bobby helped to build and they delighted football purists with their flair and never-say-die attitude to the game.
In the in 1970s, I remember reading an interview with Bobby in one or other of the Sunday papers, where he gave some favourable comments to Everton and their supporters, saying he hated to come to Goodison Park as "They give you nothing and give their team everything… but you’ll not meet a more knowledgeable bunch; they love their football at Everton." (Or words to that effect.) That stuck in my mind.
In my opinion, he was the best England manager there has been since ‘Sir Alf’ and those of you who watched the England Germany Semi-Final will know how just how close we came to rocking the World. The gutter press and what passed for sports journalists in the ‘Red Tops’ gave him a torrid time, often unjustly, and his dignity in defeat against Argentina after the ‘hand of God’ and ‘goal of the century’ game was as sharp contrast to the feral behaviour of the press.
I met him just the once at the Newcastle Theatre Royal during the interval, when I half-jokingly asked him if he ever fancied being manager of Everton? “No, I was never that desperate for work” he replied and then spent ten minutes talking to me about the Everton greats of the 1960s and how much he admired the ‘Holy Trinity’ — that was the thing about Sir Bobby, he had the time of day for everyone — even exiled bluenoses.
Sometimes, people breach the partisan walls of insular fandom that we all like erect in football and their love of the game and enthusiasm shines through — Sir Bobby was such a bloke.
You’ll be missed by this bluenose.
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1 Posted 01/08/2009 at 18:06:30
"free-flowing attacking football"
"delighted football purists with their flair and never-say-die attitude to the game".
I’ll not spoil it by saying any more.
2 Posted 31/07/2009 at 12:15:32
3 Posted 01/08/2009 at 18:40:38
God Bless you Sir Bobby. RIP.
4 Posted 01/08/2009 at 18:36:20
He concluded that "losing the chance to manage Everton at that point in his career was one of the regrets of my life".
He never became our manager as we all know but nevertheless, he’ll always be remembered by all who love real football as a true gentleman. Pity he didn’t come along in 1977.
5 Posted 01/08/2009 at 19:03:36
A man of substance, integrity and honour. Sir John Hall also said that he had tried to get Robson when he was at Barcelona but Bobby said he was honouring his contract which he had just signed.
I just wish today’s players would follow this great man.
6 Posted 01/08/2009 at 21:12:47
7 Posted 01/08/2009 at 20:37:26
I admit to not having read the book; however it’s always been my understanding that Everton were an ace away from landing Robson as boss on just two occasions (I believe that his book suggests that there were two episodes?) and these were: i) between Catterick and Bingham in 1973; and ii) either between Royle and Kendall Mk III in 1997 or between Kendall Mk III and Smith in 1998 (but certainly during the chaotic mid-to-late 90s in any case).
Your submission — which I don’t at all dispute — would suggest that we actually came close to securing Robson’s services on THREE occasions, for I believe it’s indisputable that we were chasing him for the very first time in April 1973.
Using the 1973-74 edition of the Rothman’s Football Yearbook as a secondary source of some repute, its diarised summary of the 1972-73 season records the following salient extracts covering the period from the demise of Catterick, through the dalliance with Revie and then the eventual appointment of Bingham:
April 11th 1973: WBA defeat Everton 4-1, thus going up two places from the bottom of the table
April 12th 1973: Harry Catterick is kept on the Everton staff as general manager but the club is advertising for a ’track-suit’ team manager. Several well-known names are mentioned but in the meantime Tom Eggleston will be in charge.
April 17th 1973: Bobby Robson says that he is not interested in joining Everton as their new manager - he has instead signed a very long and lucrative contract at Ipswich.
May 15th 1973: Everton want Don Revie to join them as team manager. The Leeds manager will announce his decision after the Cup Winners’ Cup Final.
May 22nd 1973: The Leeds directors decide that a counter-offer will be made to Don Revie, which is near the the figure offered him by Everton. Revie will telephone his answer from Greece where he is on holiday.
May 24th 1973: The Government’s pay board is to launch a probe into the alleged financial offer made by Everton to Don Revie. According to ’phase 2’ regulations a newcomer must not be paid a higher salary than his predecessor in the same job.
May 25th 1973: Don Revie decides to stay with Leeds Utd.
May 28th 1973: Billy Bingham, their ex-player, is the new manager of Everton.
Leaving aside the mucky "Revie affair" (although I suggest that John Moores’s later assertion that the club listened to the fans — who made it plain that they were not enamoured by the impending appointment of the Leeds manager — was revisionism of the highest order (for, basically, had the government not stuck its beak into the affair then it seems clear that we would have employed him); the most interesting aspect of that timeline is the five-day gap between April 12-17th in 1973.
Contrary to what you say Robson himself says in the book, it was always my understanding that this was actually the episode when Robson accepted the job "in principle" and was then disgruntled to hear of the news being leaked to the general media by John Moores before he had been able to travel back to Ipswich to inform those most concerned.
There seems to be little doubt that we were actually courting Robson in 1973 so I wonder why he hasn’t referred to such in his book and only makes reference to two other occasions (77, as you suggest he does, and then, I assume, the 97 farrago when I believe he has suggested Everton were looking for a younger man)?
I know Robson was famously short on his recollections (had to laugh yesterday when I heard Eric Gates say he was called Eric Sykes by his boss for near eight years!) but I can’t imagine that he would have confused the actualities of events in 73, 77 and 97.
Either way, our failure to land him in 73, especially, was a major blunder as I’m convinced he would have won the Championship for us in 1974-75 (let’s face it, we came close enough under Bingham and only needed to beat Carlisle home and away in order to have done so... and I don’t even want to think about where Carlisle finished in the league that year).
When you add the extra context that in April 1973 LFC were just about to end seven trophyless years and were just weeks away from launching their 17-year dynasty, it’s a sore wound indeed to think that we came so close to landing a young and eager Bobby Robson.
But even though we failed to land him in 1973, it would still have been a timely appointment in 1977; and again when you consider that Lee wasn’t all that far from securing glory for us, I’m sure that Robson could have provided the extra ingredients.
Also, I wonder how things would have panned out had we secured Robson "the elder gent" after the Royle era and been spared four years of the Blessed Walter’s "disappointments".
All ifs and buts, I guess...
8 Posted 01/08/2009 at 22:35:02
9 Posted 01/08/2009 at 22:53:02
A heavyweight in his time, respected around the world and one of the great men in football.
Find Peace, Sir Bobby...
10 Posted 01/08/2009 at 23:14:27
Let's hope he is now at peace and the football authorities and controlling bodies remember his dignity and principles.
11 Posted 02/08/2009 at 00:22:06
12 Posted 02/08/2009 at 05:07:31
13 Posted 02/08/2009 at 07:58:56
14 Posted 02/08/2009 at 08:12:02
Rest in peace Bobby.
15 Posted 02/08/2009 at 21:18:15
16 Posted 03/08/2009 at 14:00:41
I will give Gordon Lee credit for the revival in the 2nd half of 1976-77 season and a great 3rd place in 1977-78 but after that he started to go downhill.
Ipswich under Bobby Robson, even before their sucessful seasons played entertaining, attractive football. I recall Bobby Robson as being very gracious in victory, after a 4-0 win at Goodison in Feb (I think) 1980, when we were lucky to get none. I think Ipswich hit the wood work twice!! He was also generous in his praise a month later, when we won 2-1 in the FA Cup, a remarkable turnaround. I could not imagine Mr Benitez being so generous in his comments !!!
I also remember I think it was the week before the Cup tie, whilst we were losing 1-2 in the Derby match at Goodison, Ipswich were winning 6-0 at Portman Road against 2nd place Man United!!! And they missed 2 penalties — I think the Evertonians didn’t know wether to be pleased at the Ipswich score as it was against Moan Utd or worried as we were playing Ipswich the next week!!!
He was clever in several of his signings, eg, Mariner as well as the celebrated Thiessen and Muhren. But several of the Ipswich team of the mid-/late-1970s had come through their youth/reserve set up.
I haven’t read the Booby Robson autobiographies — but I have read his "Diary " of his year in Barcelona. I expect that both Barca and Newcastle United wish they had retained his services.
As Tim O’Connell states — he was the epitome of what football should be. The game could certainly do with more people like him.
17 Posted 03/08/2009 at 15:03:13
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