Sir Bobby Robson’s spirit lives on

INSPIRATIONAL ... the late, great Sir Bobby Robson.
INSPIRATIONAL ... the late, great Sir Bobby Robson.

A DECADE ago, Newcastle United were poised to embark on a remarkable comeback.

It was a fightback that was to embody the qualities of the club’s then-manager, the late, great Sir Bobby Robson.

Joe McElderry and Alan Shearer

Joe McElderry and Alan Shearer

Beaten in their first three Champions League group games, Newcastle were heading out of the competition.

Three games – and three remarkable wins – later, United were through to the next stage.

It hadn’t been done before.

And those memories, not least a dramatic night at Feyenoord’s De Kuip with a 90th-minute goal from Craig Bellamy sending the club through, will live long in the minds of the fans.

Robson’s legacy isn’t limited to football, of course, and his former captain, Alan Shearer, was yesterday at the Sage, Gateshead to launch Sir Bobby – A Celebration, which is to be held on February 18 next year on what would have been his 80th birthday.

The event, which will feature Mark Knopfler – whose theme from Local Hero is still heard as the teams run out at St James’s Park – will raise money for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Alan Shearer Foundation.

South Shields’s Joe McElderry is also on the bill.

Robson’s foundation has raised more than £4m to help find more effective ways to treat cancer, the disease he bravely fought again and again, but which ultimately claimed his life.

Reflecting on what Sir Bobby, pictured, brought to his beloved club, Shearer said: “He was an inspiration because of where he’d been in his life, because of what he had achieved – not only in this country, but abroad- and because of the incredible fight, battle and strengthen he showed in his last few years with us.

“That’s why he’s an inspiration. He had some great times in his career, but he also had some tough times in his life, as in the battle with cancer.

“He showed tremendous courage, battling spirit and mental toughness – all of those attributes we’ve heard over the years.

“You could see it in him what it meant to him.”

Shearer and his team-mates carried Sir Bobby’s spirit on to the pitch.

And all those years ago, the pacy and powerful side which Robson built from the wreckage of Ruud Gullit’s tenure was feared at home and abroad.

“I think that’s what a team should be – it should echo one, the fans, and two, the manager,” said Shearer.

“I think our team, that he had and built up, did that. Let’s not forget he took over a side that was at the foot of the (Premier League) table and turned it into a Champions League team – that was an incredible achievement.

“And that team mirrored him.

“What epitomises people up here is their willingness to work hard, and I think he did that more than most. He did it at Ipswich, Barcelona, Porto and Lisbon.

“For him to come back here and do to Newcastle what he did, and then battle on through what he had to go through, I think epitomised what this region’s all about.”

Supporters of Sunderland and Middlesbrough have raised money in Sir Bobby’s memory in the years since his sad passing.

Football can be devisive, but Robson was a figure of which the whole region was – and still is – proud.

“Football’s tribal at times with Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough,” added Shearer.

“We’re all guilty of it, whether you’re a Newcastle, Sunderland or Middlesbrough fan.

“When you mention his name, I don’t think there’s any of that.

“There’s a willingness to help out and try to raise as much money for him and his legacy.”

* Tickets for Sir Bobby Robson – A Celebration, to be held at the Sage, Gateshead on February 18, are priced from £45 and are on sale from 443 4661.

Twitter: @milesstarforth