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Thursday, September 2, 1999 Published at 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK


Sport: Football

Bobby Robson: Homecoming hero

At 66 Robson could be about to face the biggest headache of the lot

Bobby Robson is hoping to end a glilttering management career, which includes stints with England and European giants Barcelona, by bringing glory to his beloved Newcastle United.


England manager Kevin Keegan: "Bobby Robson knows what the Geordies want"
The Durham-born Robson has described the Newcastle post as his "dream job".

Such is his devotion to the club that he proclaimed he has "black and white blood".


[ image:  ]
But the task now facing the 66-year-old is arguably one of the toughest in English football - at a club that has dispensed with three high-profile managers in the past three years.

Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish and Ruud Gullit have fallen in succession, unable to cope with the pressures that accompanied the job at St James' Park.

But Robson is accustomed to pressure and success.

When he took the mantle of England manager in 1982 after leaving Ipswich Town, the North-East man had a reputation of a letting his teams play with skill and flair.


Mark Lawrenson: "He's got black and white blood"
In a 13-year spell at the East-Anglian club, he enjoyed considerable success - taking the provincial side to an FA Cup victory in 1978 and then European glory in the Uefa Cup in 1981.

So impressive was his tenure at Portman Road that the call from the FA soon came.


[ image: Robson appointed his namesake Bryan as his inspirational England captain]
Robson appointed his namesake Bryan as his inspirational England captain
He took over the England job from Ron Greenwood after the 1982 World Cup in Spain - and the following eight years saw a rollercoaster ride of differing fortunes for Robson and the national team.

The 1986 World Cup was symbolised by Maradona's 'hand of God' incident.

The Argentinian denied Robson's side the chance of reaching the semi-finals in Mexico.

But a place in the last eight was still considered a success - particularly after Robson had raised national spirits by creating one of the finest strking partnerships in England history, as Peter Beardsley joined Gary Lineker up front and the goals began to flood in.

Tabloid abuse

But just two years later it was a different story altogether.


[ image: Robson led Barcelona to Cup Winners' Cup glory against his former club PSV in 1997]
Robson led Barcelona to Cup Winners' Cup glory against his former club PSV in 1997
After a humiliating 1988 European Championships in Germany, which culminated in a 3-0 demolition by the Soviet Union, the press were hungry for the manager's head.

A friendly draw with the relative minnows of Saudi Arabia sparked particularly hostile headlines: "In the name of Allah, go" screamed one.

That episode left a bitter taste and when no offer of a contract extension was forthcoming from the FA, he decided to quit the international scene after the 1990 World Cup.

But Italia '90 proved a spectacular swangsong for the out-going England boss as the team produced their best display for 20 years and reached the semi-finals.

'Gazza-mania'

England, inspired by his fellow North-Eastener Paul Gascoigne - the man he famously branded "daft as a brush" - produced a brand of continental-influenced, attacking football that few of their fans had seen before.


[ image: Robson said the lifestyle in Spain was one of the chief draws of the Barca job]
Robson said the lifestyle in Spain was one of the chief draws of the Barca job
In a memorable match against Germany, the outcome was decided on penalties.

But misses from Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle denied England and Robson their first appearance in a World Cup final since 1966.

He turned his attentions to managing on the continent, leading Porto, Barcelona and PSV Eindhoven to success both in their domestic championships and in Europe.

Robson now faces arguably the hardest task of them all, trying to revive the ailing fortunes of a team whom he used to watch from the terraces.





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