Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “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.” – Sir Alex Ferguson.
Runner-up: “Iâ€™m speechless. Iâ€™m devastated. Bobby was like my second dad. I was like a son to him. I canâ€™t describe how much he meant to me. Iâ€™ve just been crying for three hours. Itâ€™s just unbelievable. He gave me a chance to play in the World Cup. I love him. And his wife Elsie â€” Iâ€™ll always be there for her. Iâ€™m going to miss him so badly.” – Paul Gascoigne.
Today’s overview: With dignity, honour and love, English football takes time out this Saturday to mourn and celebrate the life of Sir Bobby Robson.
The most complete summary of the life of Sir Bobby Robson is delivered by The Times’ obituary. The Times also collate a list of Robson quotes including lines such as “I played cricket for my local village. It was 40 overs per side, and the team that had the most runs won. It was that sort of football.”
Louise Taylor reported on the touching scenes at St. James’ Park after the news broke of Sir Bobbby’s passing. “It would not be an exaggeration to say that it was a sort of footballing “Princess Diana moment” and, had Tony Blair been around, the former prime minister would doubtless have called Robson “the people’s manager. That may be a saccharine soundbite nowadays but, like Lady Di, Robson had the real, often humour-suffused, knack of connecting with everyone from the chief executive to the man who emptied the rubbish bins.” Andrew Norfolk was also on Tyneside to witness the tributes. “By 5pm, more than 5,000 people had filed into the ground to pay their respects… Small boys clutched their parentsâ€™ hands, moody teenagers stood in silence. Two elderly women slowly made the uphill ascent to the stadium on mobility scooters.”
On the eulogies, the acclaimed North East scribeLast year, he asked me to assist him with a book about Newcastle â€” the city and the club. Even the request made me weep. It also prompted fear, not only because his autobiographies had been written so beautifully, but because it would form part of his legacy. To call it the proudest, happiest and most terrifying episode of my career is a gross understatement.”
In the Telegraph, Henry Winter praises Robson in his own poetic style. “A sport hardly blessed with statesmen instantly becomes a poorer place. Amid the heartache for family, countless friends and admirers, the richness of legacy and memory bequeathed by Robert William Robson needs honouring. His 76 years on this earth were special ones.”
Looking to fit Sir Bobby’s life into the annals of history is James Lawton. “Was Sir Bobby truly great? Yes, he was, beyond question, because what is greatness if it isn’t to persuade everyone you meet that life is indeed worth living.”
Richard Williams called Robson a man who “loved football as much as any man who ever lived,” David Lacey remarked how “Robson became the heart that English football wore on its sleeve,” Simon Barnes commented how Robson “embodied for us all the reasons why football is an addictive pursuit and a glorious, life-affirming struggle against logic and common sense,” and Gabby Logan described Robson as “funny, charming, wise, avuncular, articulate, and with an uncanny resemblance to Blake Carrington.
And the memories keep coming.
Gary Lineker relived Italia ’90 with Simon Burnton, Don Howe recalled how Sir Bobby reacted to England’s defeat to Germany on penalties, Terry Venables recalls playing against Robson in a Chelsea versus Fulham match in the mid-60s, while Robson never allowed people to be shy for long. He even forgave those who mocked his management of England.”
In other news, James Kirkup delivers what could be another hammer blow to the Premier League with news that foreign footballers may be compelled to learn English if they move to Blighty. “Under pressure from football authorities, the Government has allowed footballers to remain outside rules requiring new workers to learn the language. Clubs had argued that the rule could put an undue restriction on their ability to compete in the international transfer market. The Commons Home Affairs Committee has now dismissed that and said that the special exemption granted to footballers cannot be justified.”
All of a sudden opinion over Arsenal’s recruitment policy has turned 180 degrees with the fifth estate convinced that Wenger is about to buy.
According to David Hytner, while Patrick Vieira’s return remains a possibility the Professor “is hopeful of concluding an Â£8m deal for the 22-year-old St Etienne midfielder Blaise Mutuidi… [while] Wenger remained tight-lipped over his pursuit of the Bordeaux striker Marouane Chamakh, perhaps because he also has an interest in Real Madrid’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.”
Offering a second opinion, Sam Wallace looks to defuse the Vieira rumour writing “the suggestion that Vieira might return four years after he left the club was politely put to one side by Wenger.” And in a supplementary article Sam Wallace trumpets yet another name on Arsenal’s radar boasting how Wenger is targetting a Â£30m bid for Roma’s midfielder Daniele De Rossi.
Spurs have moved quickly to discipline Darren Bent after the striker spoke out against the club on Twitter. David Hytner reports “Darren Bent faces the final insult of an Â£80,000 fine from Tottenham Hotspur before he ends his frustrating spell at the north London club with a transfer to Sunderland.” However the fine increases dramatically in the Daily Mail where we learn “Darren Bent will be fined Â£120,000 by Tottenham despite issuing a grovelling apology for his foul-mouthed blast at chairman Daniel Levy.
On the Lillywhites new signing Peter Crouch, Barney Ronay investigates how the tall man with a good touch became the most expensive English striker in transfer fees. “Maybe we are addicted to Crouch, drawn to the lurking notion, embodied within his extreme height, of a gloriously direct kind of English football.”
If Xabi Alonso leaves Liverpool, where will the Spaniard end up?
Mischievously, James Ducker spices up the rumour mill by reporting “Chelsea and Manchester City are monitoring Xabi Alonsoâ€™s situation at Liverpool, although Real Madrid are hopeful of concluding a Â£30 million deal by the beginning of next week.” However the consensus opinion still places Los Blancos at the top of Alonso’s go-to list, and Ian McGarry already goes about spending the proceeds of the transfer farting “Benitez will use the money from the Xabi Alonso deal to bid for Spain striker David Villa.”
While Alonso’s move to the Bridge is unlikely, Sam Wallace announces “Chelsea finally made their move for Milan midfielder Andrea Pirlo yesterday which means that Carlo Ancelotti has won his first major battle as manager. The deal is expected to include striker Claudio Pizarro moving in the opposite direction with a cash addition of around Â£6m.”
Joleon Lescott’s proposed moved to Eastlands is up in the air this Saturday.
The move is definitely off according to Paul Walker who writes “Everton are bracing themselves for another bid from Manchester City for Joleon Lescott, but insist that they will not sell the England defender, even for Â£30m.” Taking the polar opposite view, David Woods counters with news that “moneybags Cityâ€™s persistence over Lescott looks set to pay off with a fee of Â£20m enough for the Toffees to part with the England defender.”
Offering a third way, Ian Gibb spouts that “City are preparing a take-it-or-leave-it offer of around Â£22million for Everton defender Joleon Lescott as manager Mark Hughes sizes up two other targets. Hughes may switch his sights to Newcastle’s Sebastien Bassong and Chelsea’s Alex if Everton remain resistant to City’s money. City have also lodged a Â£10m offer with Leeds for their much coveted England Under-21 midfielder Fabian Delph, 19.” While injecting a new set of facts with turn the story on its head once more, John Cross claims that Everton are poised to sign Arsenal’s Philippe Senderos in a move that suggests the Merseysiders may be about to lose Lescott.
Wrapping up the rest of the transfer gossip, the Independent link Hull to wantaway Toon defender Habib Beye, West Ham remain focused on attracting Eidur Gudjohnsen from Barcelona, and Alan Nixon toots that “Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce is hurrying through a Â£6million deal for Croatia striker Nikola Kalinic to stop Porto snatching him away.”
Lastly, Duncan Wright spread the tale that “Manchester United are hoping to snap up highly-rated Turkish striker Sercan Yildirm. Sir Alex Ferguson has been alerted to the 19-year-old Bursaspor forward by his European scouts and is preparing a Â£3.5m bid.”