Former England manager Bobby Robson has died

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The Independent Football

Sir Alex Ferguson and Fabio Capello have led the tributes to former England manager Sir Bobby Robson, who died today aged 76.

Robson died at his home in County Durham this morning after a long battle against cancer. His wife Elsie was by his bedside.

Manchester United manager Ferguson said in a statement released by the League Managers' Association: "I was never too big or proud to ask him for advice which he gave freely and unconditionally. And I'm sure I am speaking for a lot of people when I say that.

"In my 23 years working in England there is not a person I would put an inch above Bobby Robson. I mourn the passing of a great friend; a wonderful individual; a tremendous football man and somebody with passion and knowledge of the game that was unsurpassed.

"His character was hewn out of the coal face; developed by the Durham County mining background that he came from.

"His parents instilled in him the discipline and standards which forged the character of a genuinely colossal human being. He added his own qualities to that which then he passed on to his sons.

"The strength and courage he showed over the past couple of years when battling against his fifth bout of cancer was indescribable. Always a smile; always a friendly word with never a mention of his own problems.

"The world, not just the football world, will miss him. Let's hope it won't be long before another like him turns up because we could never get enough of them."

England head coach Capello, now president of the LMA, said: "Sir Bobby was a wonderful man, a real gentleman.

"It's extremely sad that Sir Bobby has lost his final fight against cancer, but he will never be forgotten. He really was a great man.

"To manage the national team for so long was a remarkable achievement, and we all remember how close he came to leading England to the World Cup final in Italy."

Robson played for Fulham and West Brom during the 1950s and 1960s, and started his managerial career with Fulham in 1968. He went on to manage Ipswich, PSV Eindhoven, Sporting Lisbon, Porto, Barcelona and the club he supported as a boy, Newcastle.

He was England's most successful manager after Sir Alf Ramsey. In the 1982 World Cup his side fell victim to a complicated second group stage and exited the tournament without losing a single match.

In the 1986 World Cup, England were defeated by Argentina in the quarter-finals, thanks in large part to Diego Maradona's infamous 'hand of God' goal.

Four years later, Robson took England to the semi-finals of the World Cup in Italy losing on penalties to West Germany.

It was not until 1999, 31 years after he first became a manager, that Robson took the job he always seemed destined for: Newcastle United's manager.

A successful five-year spell saw the Magpies qualify twice for the Champions League but in 2004, he was dismissed after a poor start to the season.

Robson had beaten cancer on a number of occasions - bowel cancer in 1992, a malignant melanoma in 1995, and a tumour in his right lung and a brain tumour, both in 2006.

Last year he launched the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation to raise money for cancer research.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Robson "epitomised everything that is great about football in this country".

He added: "His passion, patriotism, dedication and professionalism knew no equal during his time both as a player and a manager."

Former England and Newcastle captain Alan Shearer paid tribute to a "great man".

"He will be sadly missed by everyone, not just by people in the football world but from all walks of life," Shearer said.

"It's a very sad day for everyone, especially his family, his close friends and anyone who's ever worked with him."

Glenn Hoddle, who played under Robson for England, told Sky Sports News: "He's the closest we've come to winning the World Cup (since 1966) - that's how good Bobby was."

Former England striker Gary Lineker, who played under Robson at the 1986 and 1990 World Cups, said: "He had a tremendous enthusiasm and passion for football and life and continued to retain this right to the last days of his life."

Former Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd said: "I worked every day with him for five years and that's when you see the character of a man. He was certainly the best manager I worked with."

Richard Caborn, former sports minister and now the Prime Minister's England 2018 World Cup bid representative, added: "He was a legend in the game and extremely helpful to me - his counsel was truly valued. He will be sorely missed as epitomising all the very best in English football."

Inter Milan boss Jose Mourinho owes much to Robson too - he was working as a schoolteacher when Robson gave him a job on his coaching staff at Sporting Lisbon before taking him with him to FC Porto and Barcelona.

Mourinho said: "It is difficult to accept such a person is no longer with us - but he is immortal because he leaves in everybody who knows him a mark of his personality - a great coach but, more than that, a great person.'

Scotland manager George Burley was just 15 and living in Ayrshire when Robson asked him to join Ipswich.

Burley said: "It was a big decision for me and my parents to make such a long journey at that age.

"But Sir Bobby was like a father to me, taking a personal interest in me right from the start, always checking whether I was happy; were the digs all right; was I getting the right food and so on. His support and enthusiasm was the perfect cure for homesickness and helped my career to get off the ground and thrive.

"I went on to play over 500 games for Ipswich in a side that drew inspiration from its manager.

"I could not possibly get my head round how my career would have gone had it not been for Sir Bobby Robson. I owe him everything and I only hope I can be guided by the example he showed me."