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Last Updated: Monday, 30 August, 2004, 14:49 GMT 15:49 UK
Football's favourite looks to the future
By Phil Harlow

Robson's sheer enthusiasm for the sport has endured throughout his long career
As one of football's best-loved characters, Sir Bobby Robson's dismissal as Newcastle manager has saddened all those who still value his unique contribution to the sport.

At a venerable 71, most would assume Robson would finally be looking forward to a richly-deserved retirement after a glittering career.

But earlier this month when Newcastle said they would not be renewing his contract, Robson admitted he would be keen to find a new club.

"I'm not thinking about retiring," said Robson.

"As long as I can do this job I will do it. I'm as excited and positive as ever and I still have a bright and alert mind."

These qualities - boundless enthusiasm and a remarkable football brain - have served as Robson's trademarks in his 55 years in the game.

As a player Robson was a star of his era, scoring 133 goals in nearly 600 games for Fulham and West Brom and earning 20 England caps.

But it was on retirement from playing in 1967 that Robson discovered his real vocation in the sport.

After dipping his toe in the water with a short spell in charge of Vancouver Royals, Robson returned to England to take over at Fulham in 1968.

Robson was a fine talent as a player, making England's squad for the 1958 and 1962 World Cups
Robson was a fine talent as a player, making England's squad for the 1958 and 1962 World Cups
Sacked inside 11 months after a poor run of form, it was an inauspicious start for Robson's managerial career.

But the chance to redeem himself soon arrived as he was appointed manager of Ipswich in 1969.

Within a few years he had turned the club around, guiding them to the 1978 FA Cup with victory over Arsenal and the 1981 Uefa Cup with a 5-4 defeat of AZ Alkmaar.

That was enough to convince the Football Association to appoint him as Ron Greenwood's successor in the England manager's position after the 1982 World Cup.

Overcoming a slow start at international level, Robson led England to the 1986 World Cup quarter-finals before being eliminated by Diego Maradona's Argentina, "Hand of God" goal and all.

He came in for some hurtful abuse from the media while managing England and a disastrous 1988 European Championships - in which England failed to win a match - left him in a weak position.

With the FA announcing Robson's contract would not be renewed regardless of their performance at the 1990 World Cup, he proceeded to take England to the semi-finals.

Coming within two missed penalties of beating West Germany and reaching the final, Robson ended his England career on a high and embarked on a tour of managing some of Europe's most famous clubs.

Winning the Dutch title with PSV Eindhoven in 1991 and 1992, Robson found himself in demand at the top level once again and made a switch to Portugal's Sporting Lisbon.

He left in controversial circumstances after a 1993 Uefa Cup defeat, but that dismissal only spurred him onto greater success with the Portuguese Cup and successive league titles at FC Porto before moving to Barcelona.

Robson led Barca to the 1997 European Cup Winners' Cup before moving to a general manager position specialising in attracting young players to the club.

Robson was back in his element in his native north-east
Robson received a hero's welcome on his appointment as Newcastle boss in 1999
In 1998, he returned to PSV on a temporary basis before coming back to England with the intention of retiring.

But within weeks of returning to his native north-east, Robson was presented with an offer he couldn't refuse: the chance to take over at Newcastle, the club he had cheered on from the St James' Park stands as a schoolboy.

With a team struggling in the relegation zone, Robson - knighted for his services to the game - transformed the club and turned them into a side challenging at the top end of the Premiership and regularly qualifying for Europe.

But despite reaching an FA Cup and a Uefa Cup semi-final, Robson's failure to take Newcastle the extra mile with an actual trophy eventually cost him his job.

Whether Robson will return to the sport that has dominated his life remains to be seen.

But that his personal popularity and the respect in which he is held will endure throughout the sport, is beyond doubt.

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