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Opponents unite to say thanks to a shared hero; Former clubs in joint farewell to Sir Bobby.

Byline: Luke Edwards

THEY came to pay their last respects: man, woman and child. A sea of blue shirts with scattered islands of black and white stripes - two football clubs united in grief for the passing of a shared hero -Sir Bobby Robson.

Although Robson was a North East native with a heart that always belonged to his beloved Newcastle United, it was Ipswich Town who came closest to stealing his affection. Newcastle United may have been the club he loved, but Ipswich Town were the team he built.

For 13 years, Robson managed this small Suffolk club, winning both the FA Cup and the Uefa Cup before accepting the England job which would endear him to the nation.

Lady Elsie loved living in the town, Robson's children were educated here. In Ipswich he is a legend and this was its chance to pay tribute to the man who once turned its football club into one of the best sides in Europe, let alone England.

Small teams like this no longer challenge the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United for titles and they do not compete with the European heavyweights for silverware.

But they did in Robson's days. No wonder a stand - the iconic former North Stand - has been named in his honour with a huge picture of a smiling Robson dominating the approach to the ground from the direction of the town centre.

The statue outside the main stand at Portman Road captures Robson in classic pose, the hair swept causally to one side, the crooked finger pointing as touchline instructions are enthusiastically delivered to an unseen player who presumably loved playing for English football's favourite knight.

The mood among the crowd which turned up more than an hour before kick off for a ceremony to lay wreaths at the foot of the life like metal cast was sombre. When chants of "There's only one Bobby Robson began," many were too embarrassed to join in, fearful that the chants were somehow not befitting a scene where so many had come to pay their respect.

And then they emerged, the former Ipswich Town players that Robson so famously gelled into one of the best teams English football has ever had the good fortune to call its own. Old men now, but still adored in these parts.

And then the cheers began, and the clapping. So too did the chants, quietly at first, then louder and louder until everyone caught hold of the moment.

They were right, of course, even if many of them were too young to have ever have seen his great Ipswich team play. There will only ever be one Sir Bobby Robson, the son of a Durham miner immortalised as a football great. Report & analysis 52

CAPTION(S):

TRIBUTE Lady Elsie Robson waves to the crowd after officially opening a stand in honour of her late husband at Portman Road, Ipswich, on Saturday. THANKS Ipswich Town supporters and Newcastle United's current squad show their appreciation to the late Sir Bobby Robson.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 28, 2009
Words:504
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