I'd just got out of a meeting yesterday and my phone chirruped with a text* - "Sir Bobby has passed away". Whilst this was probably the least surprising news, it still provoked an unexpected sense of sadness within me.
I never met Bobby Robson, but I'd stood in grounds singing his name "Walking in a Robson wonderland" as the team he created and I supported entertained me. He was responsible for a resurgence in the fortunes (no doubt both in a financial and footballing sense) of the football club. His passion and for his job shone through. I remember after one game, standing in a busy pub with the throb of conversation pulsing around me, all dissecting the the previous 90 minutes entertainment. As ever the TVs were all on in the background, merely adding to the noise. However, as the after match interviews started and the second that Bobby Robson's face flickered onto the screen a quietness settled over the pub. People wanted to listen to what he had to say about football - his passion, knowledge and honesty shone through.
Many of the tributes that are being given talk about his compassion. He directly touched my life once. In 2003 I was on my way to SJP to watch Toon v Man City. Now, living in Manchester and having a number of friends who are City fans, this was always one of the special fixtures that I'd make the trip to SJP for. I never saw that game - I had a bad car crash on the A1 and ended up in hospital for the next few days. I was lucky, I recovered fairly quickly but the friend who was in the car with me wasn't as fortunate, she broke her back. Over the next few weeks after the crash I helped out with whatever I could for her, and one of the things that I did was write to the club to see if they would send her something to cheer her up.
I'd explained that my friend was a City fan, and the circumstances of the accident. To be honest as I posted the letter I wondered if I was wasting the stamp. By return of post came a get well card, signed by Sir Bobby. The card was special, not a flashy corporate standardised card, but something that looked like it had been done in Wordart, signed in felt-tip pen by Bobby. We joked at the time that it looked like Bobby had done it himself on the computer... Thinking about it now, he just might have done. I hope that card is still treasured. It's one small example of the compassion that he showed for others.
His humour was also a overriding feature - apparently he regularly got players names wrong. One of those was Shola Ameobi, who when asked how Robson pronounced his name said "Carl Court". The other was Bryan Robson, who at the World Cup was called 'Bobby' by Robson... In the wrong context it would have been easy to dislike someone who gets your name wrong. But its interesting that Shola was one of the players who has laid a wreath for Bobby at SJP and Bryan has been keen to add his words to the tributes that have been given.
Next weekend sees the West Brom game, I'm going. Bobby Robson played for West Brom and managed Newcastle. The last game that I went to I was determined not to get emotional, not to shed a tear for the demise of my team. I'm not so sure it will be the same next weekend for Sir Bobby Robson.
* I've still no idea who sent me that text...