Philosophy of Sir Bobby still moulds game's great tacticians
Villas-Boas and Mourinho among many paying tribute to Robson at charity auction
Ever wanted to attend a Barcelona training session with Josep Guardiola, share post-match drinks with Sven Goran Eriksson or take part in a Brendan Rodgers press conference?
Click HERE for graphic: The lasting legacy of an Englishman coaching abroad (746.14kB)
Maybe you would prefer to have one of Jose Mourinho's trophies on the mantelpiece, or a framed and signed Chelsea shirt handed over by Andre Villas-Boas on the wall? Not impressed yet, how about a three-night stay in Portland, Oregon, in the Portland Timbers' team hotel, taking in one of their MLS matches and all manner of goodies.
They are six of the impressive prizes donated to a charity auction launched today in aid of the foundation set up by Sir Bobby Robson before his death. More than 100 prizes are under the online hammer, testament to the affection in which Robson was held, but those six are particularly significant as they reflect Robson's extraordinary impact on coaches across Europe and beyond.
It is well known that Robson was hugely important in the careers of Mourinho and Villas-Boas, promoting Mourinho from his translator at Sporting Lisbon to his assistant manager at Barcelona, and hiring Villas-Boas to work for Porto while still a schoolboy, but his influence extends across the Continent and continues to do so regardless of his death two years ago.
Brendan Rodgers' rise from coaching kids to being a Premier League manager at 38 has been, for example, influenced by two Robson protégés. Not only was Mourinho involved in Rodgers' progression from youth coach to reserve team manager at Chelsea, so was Frank Arnesen. Now general manager at Hamburg, Arnesen twice worked alongside Robson at PSV Eindhoven, as his assistant manager in 1991-92, and as the club's technical director in the 1998-99 season. The experience has shaped his own approach to football management, though not as much as he would like.
When we met this week, Arnesen said he learned two main lessons from Robson, one of which he struggles to follow. "His temperament was great. We could win 4-1 and within two minutes of getting on the team bus he'd be asleep. We could lose 4-1, and it was the same. Later I realised what a gift that is. I can't lose so well, but when you lose badly it stops your creativity for a day or two. He would say: 'Get on with the work Frank, the next game. It's a season, not a game, you will lose, you will win'."
The second lesson he has adopted. "I learned from him to give other people the range to prove themselves, to give them responsibility."
Arnesen was a beneficiary of this philosophy, as Mourinho and Villas-Boas would be. When Robson first went to the Netherlands, in 1990, Arnesen was a newly-retired player engaged in PSV's youth system. The following season Robson promoted him to assistant manager.
He had one year's experience, with the under-12s, but, said Arnesen, "Bobby would let me take training, do the team speech, scout opponents. It meant when, after three months, he found he had cancer [of the colon, Robson's first encounter with the disease which eventually killed him], and needed an operation which kept him away three months, I was able to take over as I had the experience he had given me.
"He said to me: 'Frank, it gives you a lot of satisfaction to see people develop.' That has influenced me as I've got older, especially in my years at Chelsea [where Arnesen was sporting director from 2005-11], to give space to people around me to develop. Brendan Rodgers went from the under-18s to the reserves, Paul Clement [now Villas-Boas's assistant at Chelsea] from U16 to reserves in three years, Lee Congleton, who was U19 coach, [then chief scout] is now my right-hand man at Hamburg. Bobby was always positive. It was not 'Can he do it?', it was 'Try him and see'."
That attitude was never more apparent than when, while coaching Porto, Robson's team selection was queried by a 16-year-old neighbour. "Bobby gave me the stimulus to start my career," Villas-Boas has said. "I was planning to go into sports journalism, but when Bobby came to Porto in 1994 he moved into my building and I had the opportunity to confront him about my club, how they were doing and the way the team played. Only an open-minded person like Bobby would accept such arrogance from a young kid.
"He liked my passion so helped me to enrol at Lilleshall to take my FA coaching qualifications. I shouldn't really have been there, because I was too young, but Bobby smoothed the way. He also arranged for me to do my Scottish qualifications in Largs and spend some time at Ipswich with George Burley."
"Andre is a legacy of Sir Bobby Robson, 100 per cent. Bobby took him under his wing when he was just an interested kid really," said Burley, another product of Robson's schooling. The former Scotland manager added: "He obviously listened a lot to Bobby, you could tell he'd had a big influence on him. People compare Villas-Boas to Jose Mourinho and there are things about him that are similar, but in terms of his love of very attacking football, well that philosophy came from Bobby. There was no better person to learn your trade under than Sir Bobby."
Mourinho agrees, up to a point. He met Robson when he was employed to translate for him at Sporting Lisbon. As the pair moved to Porto, then Barcelona, Mourinho was given more responsibility, moving from preparing reports on opponents to planning training sessions. It was Robson, however, who conducted them.
"I used to prepare the whole training session," said Mourinho, who has donated to the auction the Ballon D'Or Coach of the Year award he won after leading Internazionale to a treble of Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League in 2010. "I organised and sorted all the details and he would say: 'Jose, what are we going to do today?' I used to respond: 'Boss, let's do this, this and this'."
Only when Louis van Gaal took over was Mourinho allowed to do the coaching, this time to Van Gaal's detailed specification.
In the Barcelona team under Robson was Mourinho's current rival, Josep Guardiola. Robson's influence on him was not so much practical or tactical (the Barcelona coach is a disciple of Johan Cruyff, and never agreed with Robson's preference for 4-4-2) but philosophical.
When making Barcelona's donation of attendance at a training session, and tickets for a match, Guardiola said: "I was lucky to be one of his players, and learn from him and his values, how to handle players, how to behave in victory and in defeat, and his fair play. He never lost his composure and always behaved like a gentleman."
While Guardiola may not have been convinced by 4-4-2, another coach was. Growing up in Sweden, Eriksson absorbed a lot of English football and was further influenced by a trip to Portman Road.
"He helped me a great deal when I was a young coach and I visited him in Ipswich," said Eriksson. "He took me, an unknown coach from Sweden, down into the dug-out and explained the tactics."
Robson's pedagogical nature is behind the Portland Timbers donation. The MLS club's first-team coach, Trevor James, was an apprentice at Ipswich when Robson was manager. He did not make an impact on the first team but Robson still took an interest in him.
He wrote: "Beginning as a young player at Ipswich Town and continuing through my transition into coaching, Sir Bobby's mentoring always had a large impact on my decisions and actions. Whether during guest visits to his many clubs or through letters penned in his elegant writing, I fondly remember that Sir Bobby always took time from his busy schedule for me and I wish to repay his kindness in any way possible."
That letter sums up not only why Robson influenced so many coaches, but also why the auction has attracted so many impressive donations. As Arnesen said: "Bob was a fantastic guy. Once in a while an English newspaper would say something about him and the people around him like me would be furious. We loved him and wanted to protect him. He was someone you would take a bullet for."
Auction Stations: From Beckham's shirt to naming a beer, via celebrity golf in Portugal: some of the prizes on offer
It is the football auction to end them all. From experiences to memorabilia, the sporting world has embraced the "money can't buy" theme chosen by the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation who will share proceeds with Breakthrough Breast Cancer.
Top billing goes to Jose Mourinho who has donated his Ballon D'Or World Coach of the Year trophy (right), awarded for his treble-winning achievements with Internazionale in 2010.
Other memorabilia include a signed limited edition of Pele's autobiography, a David Beckham-autographed LA Galaxy shirt and ball, and a 102-year-old safe in Newcastle colours with images of Robson and Alan Shearer airbrushed on to it.
The experiences are just as impressive. There are three nights with Portland Timbers, including going on the pitch before an MLS game. Andre Villas-Boas will present a Chelsea shirt signed by the squad to a winning bidder, plus two tickets for a match. Robson's old club Ipswich Town have donated the opportunity for two teams to play a match at Portman Road. Rivals Norwich City have offered the chance to present their player-of-the-month award.
Training sessions (watching, not playing) with England and several clubs, including Barcelona, are among the lots and a host of clubs have provided various matchday experiences.
There is also a chance to play in a football celebrity golf tournament in Portugal, attend the PFA's Player of the Year dinner, have post-match drinks with Leicester City manager Sven Goran Eriksson (right), attend the gallops at Newmarket Heath with Sir Michael Stoute, join former Ipswich player Alan Brazil on his TALKsport show (and drinks afterwards), and name a new beer. There are also tickets to various events including the 2012 Champions League final in Munich.
A variety of non-sporting prizes are also on offer. The online auction runs from today to 23 October 2011. Access to the auction is via the official website: http://www.sirbobbysbreakthroughauction.com
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