Sir Bobby Robson really was more than a manager – and he’ll never be forgotten

Sir Bobby Robson
Sir Bobby Robson

Sir Bobby Robson was never lost for a word.

And it was fitting that the late, great Robson narrated his own remarkable story in “Bobby Robson: More Than A Manager”.

Sir Bobby was an incredible man who had an incredible story.

And he told it well through archive footage and interviews.

The film, which had its world premiere at St James’s Park this week, charts the life of Sacriston-born Sir Bobby.

I was lucky, very lucky. For the first four and a half years of my career as a football writer, Robson was Newcastle’s manager.

So I got to write thousands and thousands of those words. They were always illuminating and entertaining and occasionally cutting.

The quips and asides were even better.

And then there were the off-the-record words we could never print.

I’d watched the 8-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday, his first in charge of the club, from the Leazes End of St James’s Park.

Former Newcastle players Steve Harper, Nikos Dabizas, Stephen Taylor, Olivier Bernard, Andy O'Brien and Andy Griffin attend the premiere.

Former Newcastle players Steve Harper, Nikos Dabizas, Stephen Taylor, Olivier Bernard, Andy O'Brien and Andy Griffin attend the premiere.

It was the start of something special, and four months later I was watching the team from the press box.

That said, I hadn’t been in the job long when I first angered Sir Bobby by canvassing fan opinion of the expected departure of Mick Wadsworth, one of his coaches.

Robson, fiercely loyal, called a press conference. I was off that day, but I was told by a colleague that he’d angrily waved the newspaper at the assembled journalists.

The funny thing was that when he read my byline he thought it was a nom de plume, a made-up name.

A person does not die until the last person who loves him dies.

Jose Mourinho

I was lucky enough to get an insight into Sir Bobby during those four and a half years as he took the club from the lower reaches of the Premier League to the Champions League.

The film, without giving much away, starts and ends in the North East.

It charts his career, which took him to the England job and some of Europe’s most prestigious clubs, notably Barcelona.

The footage unearthed by filmmakers Gabriel Clarke and Torquil Jones is incredible. So too is the cast of interviewees, which includes Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho, Alan Shearer, Ronaldo and Paul Gascoigne.

Their recollections are woven into footage of Robson and his teams.

I laughed. And I cried. And so did many of those at St James’s Park for the premiere.

It was Sir Bobby’s spiritual home, and managing Newcastle was one of the highlights of his career.

Robson, by then in his 70s, never recovered from his sacking, which came months after a UEFA Cup semi-final defeat to Olympique Marseille.

Then-chairman Freddy Shepherd felt that he had lost the dressing room and, in his own words, “shot Bambi”.

Sir Bobby had a different view, and I vividly recall an interview I did with him a year after his dismissal for his book “Farewell but not Goodbye” in a suite at the Copthorne Hotel.

Robson didn’t hold back once the tape was turned off.

It was his club and the episode hurt him.

This was the man who had proudly taken Newcastle back where he felt the club belonged. The club didn’t look out of place in Europe’s elite with Sir Bobby in charge.

Robson, of course, had already twice fought cancer by then.

In 2006, he was diagnosed again and he passed away three years later.

The film is moving and poignant as it addresses his final years.

Mourinho – who had been by Sir Bobby’s side for so many years – put it beautifully.

“A person does not die until the last person who loves him dies,” said Mourinho.

Robson’s memory will live on and on.

* “Bobby Robson: More Than A Manager” is released on June 1.