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Saturday, Aug. 1, 2009

Ex-England coach Robson dead at 76

LONDON (AP) Bobby Robson, who coached England to the 1990 World Cup semifinals and won soccer trophies in four countries, died on Friday, his family said. He was 76.

"It is with great sadness that it has been announced today that Sir Bobby Robson has lost his long and courageous battle with cancer," a family statement said. "He died very peacefully this morning at his home in County Durham with his wife (Elsie) and family beside him."

The popular and garrulous coach, who was given a knighthood in 2002 for his services to soccer, was diagnosed with cancer five times since 1991 and had continued to work until November 2007.

Robson never won the English championship, but played for England at the 1958 World Cup and, as coach, took his country to its strongest World Cup finish since its 1966 title before stints at PSV Eindhoven, Sporting Lisbon, FC Porto and Barcelona.

He rose to fame in the 1970s when he turned unfashionable Ipswich into one of the country's top teams, winning the F.A. Cup and UEFA Cup.

His last club job was at Newcastle, the club he supported as a boy, and he took his final role as a mentor to novice Ireland coach Steve Staunton in January 2006 at age 72.

"I did what I loved, and I did what I was pretty good at and I suppose what I was born for," Robson said in 2005. "I enjoyed my career. It was wonderful.

"I played for some fabulous clubs and I played for England. Then I got the top job, the best job in the world really. I managed England."

A midfielder for Fulham and West Bromwich Albion, Robson's interest in coaching started in 1958 when England manager Walter Winterbottom suggested he attend a course at the Football Association's youth academy. His working-class background gave him a natural empathy with fans and made him determined to entertain them.

Despite being famous for getting players' names wrong and his comical non sequiturs, he was able to coax attractive passing soccer out of his sides, which placed a team ethic above a reliance on star players.

Robson was born in Sacriston, northeast England, on Feb. 18, 1933, as the fourth of five boys. His coal miner father would take him to watch Newcastle play and, although Robson began working in the mines as a trainee electrician, he soon turned full time to soccer with Fulham and West Brom.

He scored twice on his international debut in 1957 in a 4-0 win over France and made the squad for the 1958 World Cup. He was also picked for the 1962 tournament, but damaged his ankle in a pre-tournament friendly and never played for England again. He scored four goals in 20 internationals.

But his coaching training had already started and, in January 1968, after playing stints at West Brom and the Vancouver Royals, he took charge of struggling first division side Fulham.

The club was relegated and fired him after only 10 months, Robson only learning of his dismissal from a newspaper placard outside a local train station.

After two months out of work, Robson was hired by Ipswich and stayed there for the next 13 years.

"I was a young and inexperienced manager with no money to spend," Robson said. "I knew I would have to wheel and deal to get anywhere and, even more importantly, develop a strong youth policy to ensure the future of the club."



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