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COLUMNIST KEVIN SPARKE

Sir Bobby Robson — a tribute

By Kevin Sparke :  01/08/2009 :  Comments (17) :
I know this is an Everton Website for discussing ‘Everton’ issues but I can’t let this man’s passing go without a few words of tribute from a football fan.

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.

Reader Comments

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Michael Kenrick
Editorial Team
1   Posted 01/08/2009 at 18:06:30

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Excellent tribute, Kevin, and more than passing or gratuitous Everton content. Two other phrases caught my attention:

"free-flowing attacking football"

and

"delighted football purists with their flair and never-say-die attitude to the game".

I’ll not spoil it by saying any more.
Santosh Benjamin
2   Posted 31/07/2009 at 12:15:32

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I just wanted to express how sad I feel that Sir Bobby Robson has passed away. A true gentleman with a wonderful soul. You will always remain in my heart and mind. Farewell, Sir Bobby!
Tony Marsh
3   Posted 01/08/2009 at 18:40:38

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Nice one, Kev. It's when some one like Sir Booby passes on you only then realise what a true great he was. If we are the People's Club then Bobby was the People's manager. Puts the likes of Wenger and Benitez to shame.

God Bless you Sir Bobby. RIP.
Ron Joynson
4   Posted 01/08/2009 at 18:36:20

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Does everyone know that Sir Bobby agreed to become manager of EFC after having talks with Sir John Moore and Philip Carter in January 1977, having done so well at Ipswich? They had agreed apparently to give Bobby time to tell the Ipswich owner John Cobbold. Before he had been able to do this, the news appeared in the press and Bobby cancelled the deal as he felt that he’d been let down and if Everton were to break their promise to him on the first day, what might happen further down the line. This taken from his Autobiography "Fairwell but not Goodbye (pages 91 / 93)

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.
Mike Oates
5   Posted 01/08/2009 at 19:03:36

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Ron I was in my mid-twenties at the time of the news that "Everton sign Robson" hit the press, then was refuted etc etc. One minute I was overjoyed at getting the best manager in the league... then despair at what I thought at the time was made-up fanatasy jounalism. Only for the truth to come out later that he had indeed agreed to sign for us but felt let down by some internal blabber mouth.

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.
Tony Williams
6   Posted 01/08/2009 at 21:12:47

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RIP, Bobby — a great name and well respected man in the sport.
Greg Murphy
7   Posted 01/08/2009 at 20:37:26

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Is that definite, Ron, that Sir Bobby’s book refers to the premature press leak episode as being in the 1977 interregnum between Bingham and Lee?

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...
Gavin Ramejkis
8   Posted 01/08/2009 at 22:35:02

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I watched the tribute programme on TV last night and it brought back some great memories of football before it was poisoned by Sky, when teams could under shrewd management reach for the stars. Sir Bobby, time after time, country after country. proved his ability. A gentlemen from a time sadly gone, rest in peace.
Jason Broome
9   Posted 01/08/2009 at 22:53:02

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Gary Stevens, Trevor Steven, Gary Lineker, Peter Ried... he had faith in our boys and took them to the World Cup... which made me so proud in the summer of 86.

A heavyweight in his time, respected around the world and one of the great men in football.

Find Peace, Sir Bobby...
Jay Harris
10   Posted 01/08/2009 at 23:14:27

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I am really pleased somebody took the initiative to honour Bobby Robson on this site. He was truly a man of the people and although gone, his greatness will live on.

Let's hope he is now at peace and the football authorities and controlling bodies remember his dignity and principles.
Steve Carter
11   Posted 02/08/2009 at 00:22:06

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Well, that’s made me feel a bit glum, Greg, to think that my schooldays could have been spent in the parallel universe where we landed Bobby Robson, where it was my team, not my cruel redshite loving mates’, winning just about every Football League Championship (or so it seemed). And, ah, the Rothmans Football Year book — at least that brings back some happy actual memories.
Carole Williams
12   Posted 02/08/2009 at 05:07:31

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Always a big fan of Sir Bobby and hated his detractors... remember walking through the car park at Villa Park... must have been after the 85 semi-final against Luton and spotted him, shouted over ’bet you wish Nev was English’... he just chuckled and waved, ok maybe not a momentous meeting, but one I’ll remember.
Dave Wilson
13   Posted 02/08/2009 at 07:58:56

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Well done, Kevin, lad. A good and fitting tribute to one of the greats.

RIP Bobby
John Andrews
14   Posted 02/08/2009 at 08:12:02

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I would also like to add my condolences to his family.

Rest in peace Bobby.
Tim O'Connell
15   Posted 02/08/2009 at 21:18:15

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Bobby Robson was the epitome of what football should be — passionate determined but with unshakeable values. I believe DM is of the same mould but I fear too many people aren’t. The massive public show for Bobby is uplifting but I fear the likes of Mark Hughes and the City values will only bring the ruin of the game. I passionately hope I am wrong.
Michael Brien
16   Posted 03/08/2009 at 14:00:41

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As others have stated e.g. Ron Joynson - Bobby Robson very nearly became our manager in 1977 and but for some rather unethical behaviour on the part of some of the Everton board/management he would have been. What an awful mistake that some person/persons unknown made. What could have been a great period in our history!! Do you reckon we would have had to wait 7 more years for a trophy? Personally I think he would have got us back to the top and challenging for honours.

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.

Michael Brien
17   Posted 03/08/2009 at 15:03:13

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Apologies to Sir Bobby for the mispelling of his name — teach me to write during my lunch break!! He would most probably laugh at the mistake!!! If I was compiling a list of people I wished had been Everton manager; Bobby Robson would be at the top, with Joe Mercer a close 2nd.

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