Here’s an interesting trivia question: Name an individual in English football who was honored by a statue at more than one club.
I can think of two. The other one we’ll get to, but for now I want my readers to meet Sir Bobby Robson, legendary manager of Ipswich Town, Newcastle United, the English national team and many others.
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There is a wonderful English football documentary available on Amazon Prime that tells this story: Bobby Robson: More Than a Manager.
That Robson, who later became Sir Bobby, was honored by both Ipswich and Newcastle, that he is referred to as more than a manager, and that the people speaking highly of him in the film include Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and the Barcelona legend Ronaldo, all point to the fact that Robson was not only successful and admired but also endeared himself to the English football world.
If you want to learn about English soccer, you need to know about people like Sir Bobby Robson.
Bobby Robson’s Career
In watching the documentary, it immediately becomes apparent why Robson was successful and beloved; he loved the game through and through, and he lived that love. He played as a forward 18 seasons for Fulham (twice) and West Bromwich Albion. He then managed Ipswich Town for 13 seasons until 1982, taking a team that had just made the first division less than 10 years before all the way to hoisting the FA Cup and the UEFA Cup, now known as the Europa League. (related: What is the Europa League?)
After that, it was off to England’s national team, whom he took to the World Cup in 1986, where they lost in the quarterfinals to Diego Maradona (Argentina), and in 1990, where they lost to West Germany in the semifinals. Other than 1966, when they won it, that was as far as England got in the World Cup until they made the semis again in 2018.
From there, he went to Portugal, where he won two league titles while mentoring his (originally) translator, Mourinho. Then he won three cups in one season at Barcelona, followed by a couple of league titles in the Netherlands. In 2000, he returned to Newcastle, near his boyhood home in County Durham, and took over a United side at the bottom of the Premier League. He won his first game, 8-0, and within two years had them in the Champions League for the first of three consecutive seasons.
Sir Bobby Robson died of cancer in 2009.
Bobby Robson’s Impact
All of the above, though, is just a list of on-field accomplishments. What is obvious in the documentary is that he was a beloved figure, and even when some people despised him — and this will always happen in football — they will later sing his praises and build him a statue.
More than that, though, is that the documentary shows you his impish grin, his sly humor, his humility, his (at times) fierce coaching style, and simply the fact that, as they sing at Newcastle and Ipswich, there’s only one Bobby Robson.
You’ll see him laugh, shout, cry, try to learn Spanish, deal with fools, win games, lose games, and do it all in a way that will make you wish the film was longer and we got to spend more time with him.
And the Other Manager With Multiple Statues?
That would be the legendary Brian Clough, who has three: one with Peter Taylor at Derby County, one in Nottingham (where he managed Nottingham Forest, and one in his boyhood home of Middlesbrough.