I was very sad to hear of the death of Sir Bobby Robson, a man I regarded with immense fondness and respect as a football man and, more simply, a man.
A Newcastle supporter since I was young, I followed the Magpies closely until the end of Robson’s tenure, at which point I felt a final disconnect with the club.
Their most grievous in a series of terrible decisions over the years was sacking Sir Bobby, after he took Newcastle from several years of drift to Premiership finishes of fourth, third and fifth.
I never really felt the same about NUFC or football in general after that. It was as if all the greed, stupidity and vulgarity of modern football had finally won, and given the greatest servant of English football for a generation an unceremonious boot up the backside.
Robson continued to flourish in the public eye though, as his popularity had grown beyond Newcastle, or football. He became something of a national treasure. Everyone loved Uncle Bobby.
Some of his last few public appearances seemed – to me – to sum him up: a recent replay of the 1990 World Cup semi-final at St James’ Park to raise money for cancer charities, attended by football’s great and good; opening a bank account with Northern Rock in 2007, rallying people behind the northern institution; and his gracious appearance at the Sports Personality of the Year. I watched the latter with tears in my eyes.
His football career speaks for itself, the outpouring of great love for the man today speaks of his character and generosity of spirit. We won’t see his kind again.
• Image of Sir Bobby Robson attending an aftershow at St George’s Hall, following the Royal Variety performance at the Empire Theatre, Liverpool, 2008. Image by Dave Evans.