THE widow of football legend Sir Bobby Robson has spoken - on the fifth anniversary of his death - of her pride at his £7.3m legacy to the North East.
In March 2008, after a request for help from his oncologist, Professor Ruth Plummer, the former Newcastle United, Barcelona and England manager launched a cancer charity which he said he hoped would become his legacy.
His wife Lady Elsie and sons Paul, Andrew and Mark are committed to continuing the work he began through the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, which as now raised £7.3m to find more effective ways to detect and treat cancer.
Sir Bobby had a great passion for his charity, which he called his “last and greatest team.”
Lady Elsie has been reflecting on the last five years and the importance of the Foundation to other people facing the pain caused by cancer.
She said: “That was a great thing for Bob, that he had the charity. It gave him a function and a goal to lead his life in that way. He was very, very committed to the charity.
“In fact, I think he was more committed to it than he had ever been, or he felt he was achieving more in a helpful way than he had been as a famous person in his own profession.
“The charity has helped enormously. It’s given us a combined thing as a family to aim for.
“It’s proved over and over again the respect he was given, for the work he did. I think that has come over to us all in a very strong way. Quite unbelievable what we’ve raised in that short time.”
Sir Bobby was humbled by the support his charity received.
Lady Elsie said: “We’ve achieved more than we ever expected. He was hesitant in the beginning about whether we’d raise the initial £500,000 we needed to help Professor Plummer, and some of his friends said ‘yes, yes, yes, of course we will’, but he had his own doubts.
“Now, he would be astonished to know what we’ve achieved and what we’ve done with the money.
“It unites people who are interested in football and affected by cancer. It unites them somehow across our region and beyond.
“He was always a fighter, right throughout his life. He always wanted to achieve. That never left him, and with the charity that was very much the case.
“He wanted to fight on. He had an aim in life and that carried him through really.
“I suppose it gave him less time to focus on his own illness.
“We would drive out daily, or certainly two or three times a week, to various happenings in the area, and that gave him a kind of a lifeline.”
The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation is going from strength to strength, and last year was its biggest fundraising year to date.
Lady Elsie said: “We have been busy, organising all the funds and putting them to absolutely marvellous use.
“If we hadn’t had the medics as part of our trustees, we would have floundered I think. Because of their knowledge and their drive and ambition, we’ve done wonders.
“People say to me that the charity’s just going to go on and on, and I really believe that. It will carry on and go into infinity or whatever you call it. I can’t see it coming to an end.”
“I never thought we’d achieve what we’ve achieved, but it just keeps going on and on.
“We’ve had such a wonderful response from people, from everyone. You still see how people’s faces light up when you say his name. You see the change. That’s a very powerful thing.
“We all admire him so much and miss him, of course, because he was such a larger than life man. In the best way possible, he had to be obeyed! Five years. A long time.”
* To make a donation, view messages of support, or for more information, visit www.sirbobbyrobsonfoundation.org.uk.
You can also send donations by cheque to Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, Charitable Funds Office, Peacock Hall, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 4LP.