'I always thought of him as a second father'

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The Independent Online

Football fans and former players alike were in mourning yesterday as Sir Bobby Robson, one of the sport's true "gentlemen", died aged 76 after a long battle with cancer.

"Not only did he manage my career from the age of 15 when I signed for him at Ipswich, he also had a huge influence on my life. He brought me up as a person and I have always considered him to be a second father," said Scotland manager George Burley. "Football has lost a legend and I have lost the man to whom I owe my career."

Other former players expressed their sadness, including Alan Shearer, Ray Wilkins and Gary Lineker. "He was unbelievably passionate about the sport and he gave his all – it was his life, in many ways," Lineker said. The ex-England, Newcastle United and Barcelona manager had fought "very bravely" against cancer and "never complained", he added.

"Despite his illness, he concentrated his efforts on raising money for his charity to help others, and that's the measure of the man."

"He handled people in the right fashion, and I think that was his major strength," said Wilkins, who played under him for England. "Everyone had the utmost respect for him," he said, adding that players were willing to "run through a brick wall" for Robson.

Shearer said: "He will be sadly missed by everyone, not just by people in the football world but from all walks of life. It's a very sad day for everyone, especially his family, his close friends and anyone who's ever worked with him."

England manager Fabio Capello said: "His spirit and courage was incredible. To fight cancer so many times really showed the strength of the man."

Football pundit Alan Hansen described Sir Bobby as "a tremendous manager, a tremendous person".

"You've got to be tough, you've got to be hard, but Bobby did it in a way that was special, in as much as he was hard, he was tough, he was single-minded, but the players knew that and they respected him for that," he added.

Ipswich fan and employee Justin Parker said: "He is one of the only men in football who has global respect from everybody. He was a real gentleman. I had the pleasure of meeting him one day and I was completely star-struck."

Gordon Brown also paid his respects: "He epitomised everything that is great about football in this country."

And Prince William, the president of the FA, said: "His contribution to English football as a player, manager and superb ambassador for our national game has been immense. He will be sadly missed by football fans everywhere."

Professor Ruth Plummer, the director of the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Unit, said: "Sir Bobby was an extremely warm, generous, and special man. It took great personal effort for him to set up the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and it was typical of the Bobby we came to know that he thought of helping others even when fighting his own battle with cancer."

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