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Paying Tribute To Bryan Robson, A Real Captain Marvel

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I thought my third article for We All Follow United should correspond with who we are hosting on kick off to 2011/2012 season – West Brom, so if you have not already guessed the synergy it’s our very own Bryan Robson.

Bryan Robson was and still is one of the greatest players at Manchester United.  He was originally signed from West Brom in 1981 for £1.5m, my first question is, in today’s transfer market how much would he be worth? 

We owe this great signing to ‘Big Ron’ Atkinson who brought him to the club shortly after arriving from West Brom himself. Big Ron described him as ‘pure gold’, a midfielder who defends and runs from box to box, a born leader.

After only one year at United he was made captain, which was when our famous number 7 shirt was established as legendary & great.  He first made his name at United in 1983 scoring twice in the F.A Cup final reply against Brighton.

For me his finest game in a red shirt came against Diego Maradona’s Barcelona in the European cup Winners Cup which we won 3-0at old Trafford and guess what? Robbo scored twice again!

Two years after that great game came a huge clash between us and our biggest rivals Liverpool in the F.A cup semi final replay in 1985 which yet again he scored putting us through to Wembley where we beat Everton 1-0 thanks to that wonder goal from Norman Whiteside.

 For me he always popped up and played well in the biggest games because he knew what it meant to the United fans and that’s why I think he’ll be remembered as one of our greatest players to put on the famous red shirt of Manchester United.

The 1985/86 season didn’t go so well as Robson picked up a nasty shoulder injury and United’s challenge for the championship soon faded as a result.

At the end of that season, came the 1986 World Cup in Mexico and that’s where I have a lot of early memories of him in a white shirt representing England.

He started the campaign so well scoring the second fastest goal in world cup history after just 27 seconds against France in England’s first game! It was the fastest goal in a World Cup until 2002 when Hakan Suker scored after 11 seconds for Turkey against Park Ji-Sung’s South Korea.

I also remember when he suffered yet another bad shoulder injury against Morocco.  As he walked off the pitch and around the back of the goal I always remembered the look in his eyes as he realised his World Cup was over. 

The he late Sir Bobby Robson was a big admire of Robbo and was always calling him his ‘Captain Marval’ in the press during his time as England manager despite Robbo’s injury record. Injury struck again 4 years later during England’s second round match in Italia ’90 just as Robbo as captain was looking in form again.

His injuries were so bad that he broke or dislocated at least 20 bones in his body, by this time people started saying he’s finished and he’ll never play much again.

However Robbo played on for a few more years yet and was still an important member of our squad when we won the inaugural Premier League in 1992/93, to bring home United’s first title for 26 years.

I loved that moment when Steve Bruce picked up the title back in 1993 jointly with Robbo and it was a great memory for me and every United fan to celebrate the day we finally won back the league.

He was even part of our side that won the league the following season but sadly didn’t even make the bench for our FA Cup final against Chelsea in 1994 and missed out on a final winner’s medal at the club.

But surely most of you United fans reading this who played football at that time had a pair of ‘Bryan Robson Sondico’ shin pads- what boy didn’t own a pair of them!

They were class, made you feel you could tackle as hard as u liked and never thought about a broken leg, I suppose in Hindsight Bryan Robson was probably not the best ambassador for shin pads, given his history of injuries, but every kid that I knew had them, so it didn’t stop them being sold!

Robbo went on to play and manage Middlesbrough and later had spells in charge at West Brom, Sheffield United, and Bradford City through the 90’s and 00’s.

Unfortunately during that time he didn’t earn any major silverware but his highlights included getting ‘Boro promoted to the Premier League twice (once as Champions of Division 1 in 1995) as well as reaching 3 Cup finals with Middlesbrough inside 12 months.

Of course the other memorable highlight was keeping West Brom in the Premier League on the final day of the 2004/05 season when despite being bottom at Christmas and bottom before kick off on ‘judgement day,’ he somehow managed to keep the Baggies up to the shock of the whole country!

It could have all been so different though had he accepted the England managers job ahead of Euro 1996 to replace the outgoing Terry Venables.  Robbo decided at the time that despite his time as Venables’ assistant for England,  he didn’t have enough managerial experience and wouldn’t be the best choice for the job.

Instead England appointed Glenn Hoddle for the job.  It was to be Robbo’s one and only chance to manage his country as when Hoddle was sacked 2 years later, with the so called ‘man of the people’ people’  Kevin Keegan was quickly put in the England hot-seat.

Robbo of course in 2009 took the Thailand national coaches job. Sadly though he had to step down from the job, only last month after it was revealed that earlier on in the year he was diagnosed with throat cancer.

Having tried to research a little on throat cancer there are far too many types for me to discuss, and to be honest I am not the expert in this field so have no reason to take this topic further.

All I can say though is that cancer which ever type you have is a battle in itself, and one that I have no personal experiences to lean on. 

I admire anyone who battles with this disease, and I am inspired by those who go onto recover, and utilise their experience to help others, such as raising awareness or funds.

In truth Robbo is a Manchester United legend, and I wish him every bit hope that he can overcome these tough times and can recover to good health & wellbeing again sometime soon.

By Paul Fox – @foxythered7