At nine and a half feet, the statue of former England manager Bobby Robson stands tall over supporters of Newcastle United after it was unveiled outside St James’ Park before the Magpies’ Premier League match against prospective champions Manchester City this afternoon.
Robson, knighted in 2002, passed away almost three years ago after a lengthy battle against cancer. His death was an extremely sad time for football not only in England, but across Europe. His sense of adventure and his brilliant knowledge of the game took him to Holland, Portugal and Spain after a wonderful tenure at Ipswich Town and a spell in charge of the England national team that is now looked back upon as a modern golden age.
On the continent, Robson filled his boots as if silverware were going out of fashion. After already leading Ipswich to FA Cup and UEFA Cup glory, he won two Dutch championships with PSV Eindhoven, two Portuguese championships with Porto and a European Cup Winners’ Cup with Barcelona, among other successes. Little surprise, then, that the statue on Tyneside is not the first to commemorate Robson’s career. In 2002, another statue (below) was unveiled at Ipswich’s Portman Road stadium in tribute to his phenomenal work at the Suffolk club.
Needless to say, not everybody gets multiple statues erected in their honour. Robson was a one-off, an almost uniquely decent football man who was also a very impressive manager. The football world grieved at the end of July 2009, with club partisanship set aside and a string of global football stars lining up willingly to pay tribute to a man whose influence reached far beyond these shores.
Today’s ceremony represents another fitting remembrance of an England great, a Newcastle legend and a football icon.