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Sir Bobby Robson (1933-2009)

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.…I had lost someone extremely special to me…my Boss, my life coach, my mentor and latterly, my friend.

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The recent passing of Sir Bobby Robson wasn’t the way I wanted to or intended to start my career as a ‘blogger’, but such is life!

Where were you when you heard the news? I know where I was when Elvis died and Lady Di, also on England duty as it happens, but I will never forget where I was when The Boss died!! Donetsk in the Ukraine, England U19’s European Championships.

I had sent a text to The Boss before leaving to let him know my movements and whereabouts and we had arranged to meet up on my return, but our success in the Championship caused us to be home later than expected, unfortunately after his passing.

He loved to know what was going on at the F.A., one of his former employers, he was proud that ‘one of his lads’, that’s me – was working for them and expected a debrief after every trip or event. We were two hours ahead in Donetsk, I had taken the goalkeepers out training on their own as it was a rest day for the other players, we had a great session, everything was ‘right’. On returning to the hotel, Brian Eastick, who had also worked with The Boss at Newcastle United as Academy Manager, called me over and told me the news, I sat on the wall in the sunshine trying to take in the news, I felt ‘empty’! By the time I got to my room, I had voice messages and texts from home, I couldn’t reply. How could he leave me, I know that sounds selfish, but I had lost someone extremely special to me…my Boss, my life coach, my mentor and latterly, my friend.

It was an honour, privilege and hard work, to work for The Boss. He was a hard task master, he expected you to have the same passion, commitment, dedication, ambition, loyalty and desire to the club and your job as he did! He expected you to deliver and if you didn’t he let you know…don’t expect praise for doing your job!

Only once, did I get a compliment and then it was a ‘back hander’, when Shay Given signed a new contract, The Boss said to me,’ you got him that contract, working with him every day on the training pitch, he couldn’t do it without you’, I’m not sure either Shay or myself would agree but it was the only compliment I got, so I will take it!

People often remember The Boss for his ability to forget someone’s name, I experienced this myself on many occasions in the early days being referred to or introduced as ‘Goalkeeping Lad’. The other day someone was asking me if I had met Fabio Capello yet and I said I had met him, but not recently. It was on a mid season break in Spain, my golf partner (The Boss) and I had just finished playing and on the putting green was Fabio Capello, we had played Roma, his current club the previous season, The Boss made conversation and then introduced me as ‘and this is goalkeeping lad ‘.

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However, The Bosses ‘tactical’ memory would have won him ‘Mastermind’, part of my match day role was as ‘note taker’ if there was anything that happened during the game that The Boss wanted to refer to either at half time or full time he would tell me to write it down, in the five years, he never missed a single thing that he had asked me to write down, I stood there game after game with my list ready to prompt if necessary, all I ever said was ,’ yes Boss, you’ve covered everything’, which caused some amusement amongst the players!

In the years since we both left our ‘beloved’ Newcastle United, our relationship changed and I would like to say turned into a friendship. When I resigned from Newcastle United, he told me I was either brave or stupid, but was incredibly supportive to both myself and my family, he supported and guided me through ‘changing times’, he spoke on my behalf and tried to help me get back to where he felt I belonged.

I was able to talk to him about his experiences both in life and in football, his openness was special…. I am not surprised that ‘The Special One’ has achieved so much in football given his closeness and working relationship with The Boss during his time at Barcelona F.C., working as firstly an interrupter and then as a coach, shadowing The Boss at meetings and discussions on and off the pitch on a daily basis.

It is difficult to sum up in words the effect The Boss has had on both my life and career, but all I can say is that I am a far better person and certainly a far better coach for the experience and The Boss will always be special to me.

Goalkeeping Lad

To donate to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation CLICK HERE

Originally posted September 12th 2009

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