Sir Bobby Robson remains a legendary figure on and off the pitch. He was beloved by many, but dogged by health problems and perplexing decisions throughout his managerial career. In a glowing tribute to the revered manager, directors Gabriel Clarke and Torquil Jones have loving pieced together the highs and lows of Robson’s career for an in-depth, heartfelt and joyous documentary.
It doesn’t vie far from the familiar structure, jumping back and forth along the timeline of Robson’s career. From player to manager one message is unmistakable across the board; Robson was a man who loved Football, and it was his life. Sometimes his own family suffered for it, but the empathy shown from a man who tragically battled cancer five times in a fifteen year period, for those who played for him or worked alongside him, always gained admiration and a diehard loyalty.
We are nudged into remembering Robson’s foray as England manager as we tiptoed so close to winning the World Cup in 1990. Testimonies from the likes of Paul Gascoigne, Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer and Terry Butcher all convey the same message “Bobby made my career what it was” or words to that effect. Even in Robson’s twilight moments, when cancer took hold of his health, Gascoigne recalls that just mere days before Robson’s passing he would be on the phone making sure he was OK. He would even send complete strangers to approach the troubled ex-England star on the street just to check in on him. Precisely remembering these little gestures of love and concern from what can only be seen as a father figure, breaks Gascoigne into an emotional state.
From home turf with archival audio segments from the mouths of Robson’s father sending his boy off to play for Fulham in the 50’s, to the International stage and his management days abroad; the documentary is full of nostalgic, funny and poignant archival footage. Throughout his time as manager at the likes of PSV Eindhoven, Sporting Lisbon, Porto and Barcelona, the ever-present face of his protégé, Jose Mourinho, was always by Robson’s side. Hired as his trusted interpreter the bond between the two men was unbreakable, with Mourinho leaping to the defence of Robson in times of language confusion.
Robson’s time at both Barcelona and his final job at Newcastle are retold even to this day raise an eyebrow at his questionable treatment from both clubs. Although Robson brought in the young Brazilian Ronaldo at Barcelona, who he had formerly worked with at PSV, (Ronaldo also provides a loving insight into his time with his mentor.) and winning the treble, after only one season Robson was replaced by Louis Van Gaal. To say that felt like a kick in the stomach to Robson was an understatement, but he met his media with a positive quip “it’s probably the first time in history that a treble-winning club had sacked their manager, so I’ve made history,”
Hitting the mark on the key points of Robson’s career, his struggle with cancer isn’t ignored. His devoted wife Elsie reveals that his love for football inevitably made his family suffer. He never invested enough time with his own family but that of his family at whichever club he was managing. Cancer never prevented the man from doing what he loved, having been told to retire before joining PSV, he kept going. Even after his managerial career came to an end, even in the terminal stages of his life Robson simply didn’t stop giving. The last five years of his life where spent fund-raising, out on the road for The Bobby Robson Foundation, the cancer research facility he founded.
Just like the man himself, the documentary is full of empathy and devotion to a man that gave so much to those who knew him. It perfectly balances each segment in its pacing; shutting down the divide between Robson, the legendary manager and the tenacious, genuine and passionate man who produced nothing but love and admiration in his wake.
Bobby Robson: More Than A Manager is in select cinemas and digital download 1st June and Blu-Ray/DVD 4th June