Friday, 31 July 2009

Bobby Robson

What is it with certain old men? Particularly the boyish old men, who are never really old men but boys in shabby skin with a broadening ever-more brittle frame? Maybe they remind us of what the spirit goes on doing after the body has stopped doing very much at all. That's to say it gets excited about childish things, it weeps and laughs over absurdities, it plots and schemes and gets knocked down, but then it cocks a snook and gets on. It loves wonderful nonsense. It manages prose perfectly well but its secret vice is dreaming, which is almost poetry.

I took a glance at a partisan Manchester United fan-site where almost everyone has gone off topic to raise a metaphorical hat to him, though he had nothing to do with them, not even as England manager since one of their running adverts continually declares United>England. The club means more than the nation.

I think he won just enough and failed just enough. That's an honest state of affairs. When he didn't know something he didn't pretend to know. He came before mind games and he came before huge fees. He was successful abroad which was something everyone could respect. He managed Gascoigne in the latter's wounded naive idiotic pride. His players sometimes advised him and, apparently, he took their advice while retaining their respect. He managed small clubs and he managed big ones. He was passionate to the point of inarticulacy but good natured and good hearted. He was of that kindly, outgoing, generous, working class that represents as much good as the country has to offer.

The crab got him in the end, but the crab knows nothing. It's a plotless enfeebler that has never built a team out of a bunch of tractor boys and a couple of dutchmen.

A few apocryphal (and possibly true) Robsonisms:

"They've probably played better than they've ever done for a few weeks."

“Ray Wilkins' day will come one night.”

“I'm not going to look beyond the semi-final - but I would love to lead Newcastle out at the final.”

“He never fails to hit the target. But that was a miss.’

“We didn't underestimate them. They were just a lot better than we thought.”

“Eighteen months ago Sweden were arguably one of the best three teams in Europe, and that would include Germany, Holland, Russia and anybody else if you like.”

"We can't replace Gary Speed. Where do you get an experienced player like him with a left foot and a head?"

“If you count your chickens before they've hatched, they won't lay an egg.”

“Alan Shearer has done very well for us, considering his age. We have introduced some movement into his game because he has got two good legs now. Last season he played with one leg.”

“He has four lungs and two hearts – no doubt about it.”

“He's very fast and if he gets a yard ahead of himself nobody will catch him.”

"I've had to come out of the dressing room because I don't want to get too excited."

"We've dropped two points against Ipswich and I mean that sincerely."

“Some of the goals were good, some of the goals were sceptical.”

“I'd say he's the best in Europe, if you put me on the fence.”

And, pure Beckett:

"We are all in the same bucket."

OK, pure Bucket. Quotes from here (but probably, I suspect, from everywhere and nowhere.)

There it was. There goes life!


Billy C said...

It is exactly because of the traits you so eloquently describe, George, that no one ever had a bad word to say against him. Well, I never heard or read one. That's an extremely rare thing to say about a fellow human being. He was universally respected because he never tried to be what he wasn't. His personal aura transcended all boundaries and that includes the extreme tribalism his profession creates in the most passionate of us. Last season, I was passing the away end at the Britannia Stadium after the Newcastle game and Sir Bobby came out to board the coach. Normally, any other opposition manager or player, because they're fair game in this game of passions, would have been heckled. Not Sir Bobby. To a man, and even to a scroat, we applauded him. It was spontaneous. He smiled at us and waved. A lovely moment.

George S said...

Bad words were heard and written when he was England manager I seem to remember, Billy. The usual: hopeless, incompetent, lost it at the top end moving down via geriatric, senile at Newcastle in a rapid glissando.

But even then nobody actually disliked him.

Billy C said...

You are right, George. My old memory is failing me. Now you remind me, it was the gutter press up to their usual stuff. How strange that I don't count them in my thoughts and recollections of events. Perhaps I was just thinking decent thoughts and they have no place there. :)

George S said...

Oh, I don't think the fans were far behind the press, Billy. Fans and press form a kind of duo, a push me-pull you: now one leads, now the other.

Even Ipswich fans. early on, wanted to be shot of him.

It happens, but nobody looks good at the end.