Sir Bobby Robson - the England years

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Having transformed 'little' Ipswich into a genuine force both domestically and in Europe, where he led them to the 1981 UEFA Cup, Bobby Robson was an obvious candidate to replace Ron Greenwood after the 1982 World Cup in Spain.

However, as at Portman Road, his career with his new employers began in inglorious fashion.

After taking just one point from two meetings with Denmark in the Euro 1984 qualifiers, the Scandinavians progressed to the finals and Robson could only watch as Michel Platini enjoyed his finest hour.

There were no such problems in reaching the World Cup finals in Mexico two years later as England finished above Northern Ireland.

Robson's men made a poor start in Central America as they slipped to a 1-0 defeat against an average Portugal side in their opening group game, and then recorded a goalless draw against Morocco.

Gary Lineker's hat-trick against Poland proved enough to reach the knock-out stages, where England defeated Paraguay before falling to Diego Maradona's magic and mischief in the quarter-finals.

The Argentinian's 'Hand of God' took the headlines and masked what had been a creditable fightback by England following their early struggles in the tournament.

The Three Lions carried that good form into the qualifying campaign for Euro 88 and they cruised through to the finals in West Germany - but their stay in the tournament proved brief and disappointing.

Ray Houghton's header condemned them to defeat at the hands of Jack Charlton's Republic of Ireland team, before thrashings by eventual finalists Holland and the USSR put them out.

Robson came under genuine pressure for the first time and the calls for his head increased in volume as England limped through qualifying for Italia 90, finishing second to a moderate Sweden outfit to go through as a best runner-up.

The Football Association made clear in the build-up to the World Cup finals that Robson would not have his contract renewed after the tournament, and a poor opening draw with the Irish meant few were planning to mourn his departure.

But a brilliant performance in drawing with a strong Holland side increased optimism and England went through to the last 16 with a win over Egypt.

Narrow extra-time wins over Belgium and Cameroon followed before an epic semi-final with West Germany, who would go on to lift the trophy.

The match went to penalties and misses by Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle condemned Robson's men to a scarcely deserved exit.

However, Gascoigne et al returned to a hero's welcome after England's best ever campaign on foreign soil - and Robson was soon missed after all.

Comments