02 August 2009

What is it about death that brings out our inner hypocrite?

It's striking just how large a part of the footballing world was willing to pay tribute to Sir Bobby Robson, who died this week. But with such a long and distinguished career, it's not hard to see why. For me, my earliest memory of the man was at the 1990 World Cup, when England lost out on penalties to West Germany, coming fourth to Argentina.

Here's something to consider when looking at just how good Sir Bobby was: he was the third longest-serving England manager, behind only the first to occupants of the post, the wonderfully named Sir Walter Winterbottom and Sir Alf Ramsey. They lasted 16 and 11 years respectively; Sir Bobby was in the post for eight.

And take a look at his successors: Graham Taylor took over after Italia '90. His England team found itself propping up Group A at Euro '92 in Sweden, and didn't qualify at all for the USA '94. He left the job in November 1993.

Terry Venables didn't have to go through a qualifying round for Euro '96, but the story had a familiar ring to it: losing in a penalty shootout to Germany, in the Semi-Finals. He left after the tournament.

Glenn Hoddle took England to the Last 16 of France '98, where they were knocked out by Argentina on penalties. He began the qualifying campaign for Euro 2000, and would have finished it were it not for a rather unfortunate interview in which he suggested that (and I'm paraphrasing here) disabled people must have been bastards in a previous life. He lasted, in all, two and a half years.

After losing a Friendly under Howard Wilkinson, England then turned to Kevin Keegan, who got no further than the Group Stage of Euro 2000, and embarked on the qualifiers for World Cup 2002 only to resign after losing his first qualification match to Germany. He lasted 18 months.

Following this, England drew 0-0 with Finland under Howard Wilkinson, and lost to Italy under Peter Taylor, only for Sven-Goran Eriksson to take over. He lasted five years, taking England to the Quarter Finals of the 2002 World Cup, Euro 2004, and the 2006 World Cup, losing to Brazil, Portugal and Germany respectively - the latter two on penalties.

Basically, when you look at that record, Sir Bobby did very well indeed to work for the FA for as long as he did, and to get as far as he did in a World Cup.

But there are some who did not see his inconsiderable talents - not that you'd know it from this week's press:

"It's very sad, especially on Tyneside. The whole of Tyneside will be grieving. Sir Bobby Robson was a great man and will be sorely missed.

"I worked with him for five years every day. He was certainly the best manager I ever worked with at Newcastle. He never put me under pressure and always tried to see my side.

"He wouldn't put up with fools and didn't take any nonsense. He came across as a very kind guy but underneath was very tough. He thought about football 24 hours a day and he would ring me at all hours of the day and never stopped thinking about football."

That was Freddy Shepherd, the former Chairman of Newcastle United, Sir Bobby's former club. It's hard to believe that this was the same man who sacked Sir Bobby less than a month into the 2004-05 season. Shepherd sacked him because of results: just four games in to the season, which the Board has decided would have been Sir Bobby's last in charge anyway. And he had taken Newcastle to the Semi Finals of the FA Cup and UEFA Cup, the Top 3 in the Premiership and the Last 16 in the Champions' League - all unthinkable prospects now for a Newcastle side which will be playing in the Championship this season.

And now Shepherd has the gall to come out and sing the man's praises - the man he himself cut loose five years ago!

It would, of course, have been hugely inappropriate for Shepherd to stick the boot in this week of all weeks, but given his treatment of Sir Bobby, he could at least have had the decency to stay quiet, and let the people who showed respect for the man while he was alive pay their respects to him at his death.

Indeed, he could have done worse than to follow the example of Dennis Canavan, who found himself at loggerheads with Donald Dewar on a regular basis, and did not buy in to the reaction to the First Minister's death in 2000, but at least had the sense not to make any sanctimonious tributes at the time.

But for now, my general belief is that the gobshite Freddy Shepherd should, for once in his life, shut up, and let real football fans do the talking.


Caron said...

That's a good posting.

It's a measure of how talented Bobby Robson was that I knew who he was and liked him despite the fact that he had something to do with non Inverness Caley Thistle based football.

I remember that 1990 World Cup. I got completely sucked into it - it was the first time in my life I actively supported England.

bus said...

Rest in Peace. Bobby Robson..

James Higham said...

Only the pollies do the Shepherd better.

Ted Harvey said...

Will as you know I’m not a blogger, so hopefully I can still make a remark or two.

You succinctly describe the aim of Scottish blogging as, “Positive impact on political discourse”. The more I think about it, the more I have to say that when I came upon the blogging sphere, I saw it as an alternative to conventional Scottish party politics; as opposed to having the aim of helping influence those politics.

This was well after I became thoroughly disillusioned – no, thoroughly sickened - by the un-intellectual charnel house that goes for party politics in Scotland (all praise Scottish Labour, dominant for a generation, for having rendered it thus).

My conclusion, however, arguably has the effect of rendering the blogshpere as something marginal and without mainstream influence or impact. Hmm.

Re Jeff’s question about “when people dip into blogs for the first time they might just think they have interrupted a private conversation” . I was recently bemused when somebody asked me how it was that I ‘was allowed onto’ a blog and how come I was ‘allowed to’ make comments; I, of course, explained that I had just had to force myself to overcome my natural strong shyness :-)

Ted Harvey said...

Doh! Will my apologies. I posted the above entry in this thread instead of your preceding one (my excuse is I'm distracted being just back from two weeks in the Med sun).

I have reposted it there.

Allan said...

Good post, though those of us with (slightly) longer memories will remember the treatment dished out to Mr Robson by several English based newspapers, all of whom were indulging in humbug last week.

Slight correction though, West Germany won that World Cup. The final remains one of the worst football games I have ever seen.