Football's finest unite in Sir Bobby Robson tribute
Monday 21 September 2009
A Who's Who of football came together today to give thanks for the life of one of the game's best-loved figures.
Manchester united manager Sir Alex Ferguson, England coach Fabio Capello and football legend Sir Bobby Charlton were among the 1,000 guests who filled Durham's magnificent Norman cathedral to pay tribute to Sir Bobby Robson.
Former England players including Gary Lineker, Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer and Stuart Pearce also attended the memorial service, held seven weeks after Sir Bobby died aged 76 at home in nearby Langley Park.
Lineker, who played in Sir Bobby's Italia 90 England World Cup side, praised his "hugely supportive and fiercely loyal" former coach, telling the congregation: "Sir Bobby Robson, we will miss you but we will never, ever forget you."
One of Sir Bobby's other great triumphs away from football - helping to raise around £1.8 million for his foundation which funds research into the early detection of cancer - was represented by his oncologist, Dr Ruth Plummer, who recruited him to raise money.
The service, broadcast live on television, was beamed to the grounds of Ipswich Town, where Sir Bobby brought incredible European and FA Cup success, and Newcastle United, where he restored belief and Geordie pride when he returned in 1999.
Fans gathered to watch the service on big screens at the grounds, while entry to Durham Cathedral was restricted to guests only.
Locals thronged the winding medieval approach to the cathedral before the event, hoping for a glimpse of some of football's biggest names.
Before the event, Lineker admitted he would be nervous speaking about his mentor's time as England boss.
He said: "I will be nervous because I won't want to let him or his family down. I could probably do with one of his famous pep talks beforehand."
Sir Bobby fought cancer five times and devoted his final years to helping others with the disease.
Such was the affection felt for a genuine football man, his target of raising £500,000 was met in just eight weeks.
In February, he was proud to officially open a cancer trials centre at the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle, and he said then that he wanted that to be his legacy.
Other guests included managers Sam Allardyce, Mick McCarthy and Terry Venables, and Geordie showbusiness duo Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly.
England and Newcastle star Peter Beardsley said as he arrived for the service: "Sir Bobby was one of the greatest football men of all time."
Current Ipswich manager Roy Keane walked alone into the cathedral before the service.
Everton manager David Moyes remembered receiving a hand-written letter from Sir Bobby when he was at Barcelona in response to a request by the would-be coach to come to watch training.
Moyes said he still has a copy of the letter at home.
He added: "All the Premier League managers look up to Sir Bobby."
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