ASBO Review: Bobby Robson: More Than A Manager

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Sir Bobby Robson will go down as one of the most influential people in the history of the beautiful game we know as football. He was a manager who was ahead of his time - from his ability to deal with the media to his understanding of how he had to approach different players in order to get the best out of them. But his life also goes beyond football, and that’s why Bobby Robson: More Than A Manager is such an appropriate title.

Every great film, whether it is a fiction or non-fiction, needs a protagonist. Someone the audiences can get behind, someone whose story we want to follow. It needs a person who exudes charm and passion making it incredibly difficult to for us to cheer against him or her. In the world of football, there is arguably no greater protagonist than the late great, Sir Bobby Robson.

 

The film is built off of his one season in charge of FC Barcelona in the 1996/1997 campaign. It’s this season that best showcases Bobby’s incredible qualities in both football and in life. This is also a season that might fall by the wayside when it comes to the history of Barcelona. Very few can blame historians or fans of the club for forgetting this season as it came after the Johan Cruyff era, which was arguably the most influential, and important era in the clubs history. And just like they said in the film, following Cruyff is like a player having to fill the shoes of Lionel Messi.

The film intelligently goes back and forth from Bobby’s time in charge at Barcelona, to his earlier days in charge of Ipswich and England. It also shows incredibly intermit footage of the man in action - on the training ground and in the locker rooms. It’s rare footage like this that takes a documentary from good to great.

We even see him at his unpredictable best in press conferences with the Spanish media, where he tries to communicate using broken Spanish and sign language. And a young Mourinho simply looks on; trying to do his best to translate whatever comes out of Sir Bobby’s mouth. It was this touch of humour that made him so likeable, but ultimately it is the number of players and coaches he has influenced that might go down as his greatest accomplishment in football.

In his one season at Barcelona, he introduced the world to a young Brazilian by the name of Ronaldo. He also managed a midfielder by the name of Pep Guardiola and fought to have a young Jose Mourinho by his side as his assistant manager. He was like a father figure to both Ronaldo and Jose, giving them their first taste of the big leagues at one of the biggest clubs in the world.

He master-minded a treble-winning season for the club. It may not have been the biggest of trebles, but at a time where the club was in the midst of a political war, three trophies were better than none. It was during this time where Sir Bobby had to deal with a great deal of scrutiny from both the fans and media, and it was the manner he handled these outside pressures that inspired a young Guardiola.

Pep Guardiola saw firsthand how you deal with the pressures of managing a club like Barcelona and how Bobby Robson fought tooth and nail despite the consistent criticism. It’s arguably one of the things that made Pep the manager he is today.  

Having spoken to legendary TV journalist Gabriel Clarke, who was also one of the directors of the film, he told me that the documentary was originally supposed to be about Sir Bobby’s time in Barcelona. But it ended up becoming so much more. As influential as he was in football, and it is what he devoted most of his life to, the film also discusses the Bobby Robson Foundation which helps to try and battle cancer. It is now supported by the legendary Alan Shearer and is still thriving today.

Bobby Robson: More Than A Manager will certainly satisfy the long-time football fans, and will provide more depth and insight into things like his relationships with Ronaldo, Guardiola, and even Sir Alex Ferguson. However, it’s also a film about a man who had a passion for his profession and lived his life to the beat of his own drum. The list of players, managers, and everyday people whose lives he affected in a positive way is simply incredible. And that’s why everyone needs to watch this film and remember the great man.

You can pre-order the documentary here


Words:  Humza Hussain

Images: Bobby Robson Film