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Sir Bobby will never be forgotten

PUBLISHED: 10:55 22 September 2009 | UPDATED: 08:33 01 August 2010

FOOTBALL royalty paid tribute today to Sir Bobby Robson - one of the game's favourite sons.

Among the 1,000 guests at Durham Cathedral were Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Charlton, England boss Fabio Capello and the president of Barcelona, the current European Champions, Joan Laporta.

FOOTBALL royalty paid tribute today to Sir Bobby Robson - one of the game's favourite sons.

Among the 1,000 guests at Durham Cathedral were Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Charlton, England boss Fabio Capello and the president of Barcelona, the current European Champions, Joan Laporta.

Former England managers spotted included Steve McClaren, Sven Goran Eriksson, Graham Taylor, Howard Wilkinson and Peter Taylor.

Football fans were invited to watch live broadcasts of the 75-minute service on big screens in Ipswich town centre and at Newcastle United's ground - clubs where he served as manager with such distinction.

Paul Gascoigne, who famously wept during the 1990 World Cup semi-final, looked emotional throughout the service.

It included a stirring performance of Nessun Dorma which is forever linked to the tournament.

He sat by former team-mate Gary Lineker who was one of four people who read a eulogy.

The former striker said: "He was everything that was good about the game.

"He loved the game and the game loved him. He was a lion of a man. No, make that three lions.

"Sir Bobby Robson, we will miss you but we will never, ever forget you."

His great friend Sir Alex Ferguson spoke about Sir Bobby's time at Newcastle United, where he restored Geordie pride on his return from success throughout Europe in the 1990s.

Sir Alex seemed still angry that his pal had been forced to leave the job he loved.

"A man like that could have gone on and on,' he said.

"It has been one of the privileges of my life to have met him and to have been enthused by him.

"He influenced me then and he's always influenced me.'

Sir Bobby's best man, Tom Wilson, harked back to simpler times when they were both young players at Fulham in the 1950s.

He said they earned £7-a-week and would save up for the treat of spam fritters.

He said: "Friends have said to me you should never finish a eulogy with a cliche such a 'we'll never see his like again'... but we won't.'

In his last years, Sir Bobby devoted much time to raising funds for the early detection of cancer and this final battle was represented by his oncologist Dr Ruth Plummer.

Dr Plummer said Sir Bobby was recruited to raise cash to fund research into the early detection of cancer.

He put his name to the project and the £500,000 target was reached within seven weeks.

The total raised now stands at around £1.8 million, and a trials centre in his name was opened at Newcastle's Freeman Hospital in February.

She said when Sir Bobby was asked why he set up the foundation, he replied: "It's like when a friend asks you for help, do you walk away?

"We are here to give thanks and celebrate the life of a true gentleman who never walked away.'

Opera singer Katherine Jenkins performed Pie Jesu, during the moving service, which included the traditional FA Cup Final hymn, Abide With Me.

Afterwards, she admitted nerves, saying: "I wanted to go out and do my best. I appreciate how much he was loved.'

Lord Triesman, of the Football Association, represented its president Prince William.

Among the football luminaries there were Premier League managers Steve Bruce, a close friend of the Robson family, David Moyes, Mick McCarthy and Sam Allardyce.

World Cup winner Jack Charlton was at the service, as was Ipswich Town's current boss, Roy Keane, who arrived alone and sat at the back of the cathedral.

Niall Quinn, Sunderland chairman, was there, along with Freddie Shepherd, who famously said he did not want to be the man who shot Bambi, but still sacked Sir Bobby.

Afterwards, Sir Bobby's son Andrew said he hoped the public service, which followed a private funeral last month, will help his family, including his brothers Paul and Mark.

Mr Robson said: "I think it was a final tribute to him and singing Nessun Dorma, which always will be associated with him, at the end of the service was very poignant.'

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