Ipswich Town legend's football exit at the hands of Norwich City is still a sign of the times
I am not proud of the fact that the last time I saw Sir Bobby Robson I asked him to autograph a Norwich v Ipswich team sheet. It's not the 'done thing' for a journalist, you see.
The only other time I have sought something similar was when I met Sir Matt Busby outside Old Trafford: but I was only 15 at the time.
Sir Bobby has legendary status at various clubs... most notably Ipswich Town and Newcastle United. But there is little room for sentiment in football and, if results don’t go your way, legendary status and your P45 is all you have.
Thirteen years ago this week, he lost his job at St James Park – and it was all down to Norwich City.
The Canaries travelled north on August 25, 2004 for a Premier League clash.
The Geordies led through first-half goals by ex-Canary Craig Bellamy and Aaron Hughes. But David Bentley pulled one back thanks in part to a Shay Given error and Gary Doherty levelled with 16 minutes to go. And there was even time for a sensational Darren Huckerby volley to fly inches over the bar with the keeper beaten.
Doherty’s equaliser set in train events that brought Robson’s managerial career to an end, after 36 years.
Robson also, of course, managed England, as well as PSV, Porto and Barcelona, among others. He led Ipswich to Uefa Cup and FA Cup glory.
This was no mug of a manager. Yet after four games of a season he was out. Sacked by a club owner who admitted it was like shooting Bambi. One of the greatest of English managers. Given four games. Which goes to prove that what happens today with trigger-happy owners isn’t a new phenomenon.
The backdrop at Newcastle was of a club trying to buy success: they were courting Wayne Rooney, which unsettled Bellamy, whose team-mate Kieron Dyer was already cheesed off at being played out of position. And the club was openly courting Alan Shearer as Robson’s successor even when he was still in situ. The boat was rocking beneath Robson’s feet and it wasn’t his size nines that were causing it.
Robson’s exit should prove to be a salutary reminder to every manager in the country today: nothing is sacred in football.
There is a website called thesackrace.com with which many will be familiar. It does what it says on the tin and looks at who might be the next manager to lose his job.
In the Premier League it is currently Frank de Boer, who has had two games in charge of Crystal Palace, current Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez, and then Antonio Conte, who led Chelsea to the title last season.
And they are already suggesting that Steve Bruce is to be replaced by John Terry, one of his summer signings – even after the win over Norwich last weekend.
The thing with this website is, once you start it you have to have a favourite, and a second favourite and so on. It isn’t mischievous or scurrilous, it is just reflective of the ridiculous sport called football.
Sir Bobby Robson once said: “What is a club in any case? Not the buildings or the directors or the people who are paid to represent it. It’s not the television contracts, get-out clauses, marketing departments or executive boxes. It’s the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, the pride in your city. It’s a small boy clambering up stadium steps for the very first time, gripping his father’s hand, gawping at that hallowed stretch of turf beneath him and, without being able to do a thing about it, falling in love.”
Don’t want to get too nostalgic about this, but he was right you know. And no one should forget it.
Say it ain’t so, Hucks
I do hope Darren Huckerby doesn’t mind me writing this, but I think it’s best for his South Africa fans they should know the truth.
Hucks is alive and kicking and enjoying himself, as far as I am aware. He is most definitely not “the late Darren Huckerby”.
In The Herald newspaper, in an article about a player who is having problems at Mamelodi Sundowns (former employers of one Matty Pattison), Charles Mabika, a ‘special correspondent’ wrote: “My colleague Robson Sharuko, recently revealed in one of his Saturday columns, the effects of ‘clinical depression’ and gave the example of former England stars Paul Gascoigne and the late Darren Huckerby, who struggled to accept the realities of life after soccer greatness”.
We all know Hucks should have played for England. We all know he enjoyed soccer greatness. And we all know that players are not immune from the stress and illness.
Not wishing to throw stones in glasshouses here, but consigning Norwich’s favourite son to history like this is a bit much.
Rein it in, please
The League Cup is a much-maligned competition but it is probably fair to say it is currently at its lowest ebb among supporters.
The decision by the English Football League and the competition’s sponsors, Carabao, to make the draw for the third round ties in Beijing at 4.30am UK time on Thursday was a bit of a nail in the coffin.
It brought lots of self righteous indignation as many of those who have moaned and moaned about that timing are the same who have claimed the competition holds no interest, is a waste of time, should be scrapped etc etc.
Yes, it wasn’t great PR, but the sponsors are in it for the money, and aiming at an Asian market is where their money is made.
The draw’s timing is fairly irrelevant. Can fans not wait a couple of hours before discovering where their team will next play? Did it really cause that many problems? Really? The draw location and timing were perfectly in keeping with the competition’s status.
What’s the real reason?
Something is bugging me about Wayne Rooney’s decision to retire from international football.
Rooney’s statement confirming his decision doesn’t really explain why he made it. Rooney, having been told by England manager Gareth Southgate that he wanted him back in the squad, said he wanted to retire.
Most interpretations assume that a great England player has earned the right to retire from international football on his terms. Fair enough. But others might say he has snubbed the manager, that he has been a little selfish and that his feelings about playing for his country have been conveniently boxed up. Did Southgate want him in his team or ‘just’ his squad? Did Rooney want more?
Rooney has started the season well for Everton: what happens next summer if he is still playing well and England are heading to Russia for the World Cup? Will Southgate want him back? Will Rooney regret his decision? After all, that was his original plan – retirement post-Russia.