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Sir Bobby Robson
|Date of Birth:|| 18/02/1933|
Many people remember Bobby Robson as the man who very nearly led England to their first World Cup final since 1966, but in a long and varied career he has enjoyed considerably more success than disappointment.
Bobby's managerial career began in Canada in 1967, as player-coach of Vancouver Royals. As a player he earned 20 full England caps and represented his country in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden having played for Fulham and West Bromich Albion.
He returned to Fulham as manager in 1968 but was sacked in November that year and within two months was appointed to manage Ipswich Town.
He struggled to lift Ipswich from the lower reaches of the First Division in his first three seasons in charge but from 1972-73 to 1981-82 the team only finished outside the top six once, competing in Europe eight years out of nine. Players such as George Burley, Mick Mills, John Wark, Paul Mariner, Terry Butcher, Rusell Osman, Eric Gates and the Dutchman Arnold Muhren played the kind of football that the fans at Portman Road had rarely seen.
Bobby's team won two trophies during that period - the FA Cup in 1978, with a famous victory over Arsenal, and the UEFA Cup in 1981, probably Ipswich's greatest achievement in their history. He was also very unlucky not to take his team to the League title two years running as they were edged out by Aston Villa in 1980-81 and by Liverpool the following season.
Bobby was not to get another chance to win the League with Ipswich as the FA selected him to manage the national team. He took England to two World Cups, where his team was beaten by the eventual champions on both occasions. England lost at 'the hands' of Argentina in the quarter-finals in 1986, and to West Germany on penalties in the semi-final in 1990.
With his England career over after the World Cup in Italy, Bobby surprised many people by accepting a job in Holland as manager of PSV Eindhoven. In his first season he won the Dutch League and successfully defended the title in 1992.
He moved to Portugal to take charge of Sporting Lisbon but was controversially sacked after a year following defeat in the UEFA Cup, despite the team being top of the league. Staying in Portugal however, Bobby took the helm at FC Porto just weeks later and guided his new team to victory in the Portuguese Cup that season, beating Lisbon in the final. Successive League titles followed in the next two seasons, before Bobby moved to Spain to manage Catalan giants Barcelona.
Persuading the club's president to 'gamble' £20million on a young Brazilian called Ronaldo - who Bobby had worked with briefly at PSV - the Englishman admits he effectively staked his managerial reputation on one player, and that certainly paid off; in 1997 Barca won the European Cup Winners Cup, the Spanish Cup and finished as runners-up in the league, but Bobby was replaced as team manager by Johann Cruyff and took up a position as General Manager, searching Europe for new talent.
Bobby returned to PSV in 1998 before being offered the chance to return to England, and his hometown, with Newcastle United. He accepted the challenge of taking over from Ruud Gullit and resurrecting the Magpies fortunes, receiving a hero's welcome at St. James's Park.
He never achieved his aim of winning a trophy at Newcastle but having ensured the club's Premiership survival in his first season in charge, then consolidated their position in the top flight, Bobby began to mould a team capable of challenging for honours.
He was offered a second chance to manage England by the FA following the resignation of former Magpies hero Kevin Keegan, but despite his eagerness to accept the job, the Newcastle board would not allow Bobby to take on the dual role.
Having signed some of Britain's brightest young stars, such as Kieron Dyer, Craig Bellamy and Jermaine Jenas, Bobby saw his side - led by former England hero Alan Shearer - take the Barclaycard Premiership by storm in the 2001/2002 season.
The Magpies exceeded many people's expectations to top the table at Christmas. Although they could not maintain their challenge for the title, they held off the challenge of Leeds and Chelsea to claim fourth place and qualification for the UEFA Champions League.
Bobby did not finish the season empty-handed however, as he was rewarded for his efforts with a Barclaycard Merit award at the LMA's annual awards dinner in May 2002.
He was further rewarded the following month, with a knighthood, which he received in the Queen's birthday honours list, to the delight of the Newcastle fans and, undoubtedly, the majority of football fans in the country.
With his Newcastle team struggling amidst rumours of ill-discipline within the changing room, Sir Bobby left St.James Park in September 2004.
Newcastle United, PSV Eindhoven (HO), Barcelona (SP), Porto (PO), Sporting Lisbon (PO), PSV Eindhoven (HO), England, Ipswich, Fulham
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Unlike the stigma that comes with being bottom of the Premier League at Christmas, there is no particular cachet to being top when the Queen (a fan of no sport that does not involve a horse) addresses the nation. Kevin Keegan, Sir Bobby Robson and Rafa Benitez have all enjoyed Christmas at the top without anyone making a fuss about it. www.independent.co.uk