The first annual Sir Bobby Robson Foundation charity golf day illustrated the great man’s unique capacity to bring a fractured sporting region together. Mark Douglas reports.
WHEN John Carver reported for his first day as assistant manager of Newcastle United, something remarkable happened.
Deep in conversation with the rest of the coaching staff in Alan Pardew’s office after helping to oversee his first training session, a sudden sensation that he was being watched came over him – stopping him almost in his tracks.
Glancing up at the office wall, he clocked the giant canvas portrait of Sir Bobby Robson that dominates the brilliant white walls.
“I just went quiet,” the Newcastle number two explained. “I don’t think the rest of the staff understood why I wasn’t talking but it touched a place in my heart because of the relationship I had with him.
“It was a great gesture by Chris (Hughton) to put it up and its still there now. The manager has kept it up there – we see him every day, maybe that’s why we still talk about him every day. Some of the lads must think I’m his son because I talk about him every day. I get a bit of stick for it. But the type of guy he was, the type of figurehead he was – it would be sad not to talk about him every day.
“There are some funny moments that always crop up. Whenever we are feeling a little bit down or we’ve not had the right result, we start talking about Sir Bob and it puts a smile on everyone’s face.”
Eighteen months since his passing, Sir Bobby Robson – or his wonderful legacy, to be precise – is still doing incredible things. On a glorious afternoon at Steve Gibson’s sumptuous Rockliffe Hall resort there was confirmation of that with the first ever charity golf day in aid of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.
It takes something special to galvanise a North East divided along sporting lines. But then, as a roll call of superstars were only too happy to remind us, Sir Bobby was just that. A year and a half on, he remains a huge presence at all three of our most successful football clubs.
Want proof? Well the roll call of attendees yesterday was remarkable, a real fillip for the Foundation’s twin aims of raising awareness and funds for research and treatment of the dreadful disease that ultimately claimed his life.
Quite simply anyone of any note in North East football was there, under an azure blue sky, to lend their support to a charity that has raised more than £3million in three years.
Carver was joined by boss Alan Pardew and most of the Newcastle United first-team squad for an afternoon that had clearly captured the imagination of the squad.
Vice-captain Joey Barton, who plays off an impressive handicap of six, was one of the most heavily fancied golfers taking part but Shola Ameobi, on whom Sir Bobby was such an influence, was another taking an impressive reputation into the tournament.
Unsurprisingly in their owner’s own back yard Middlesbrough’s representation was strong – although the presence of former winger Adam Johnson, now one of English football’s hottest properties, was proof of the enduring appeal of such a worthy cause.
Sunderland, too, sent a worthy contingent. Lee Cattermole, Michael Turner and Phil Bardsley represented the playing side while Steve Bruce, a close friend of Sir Bobby’s, led one of the teams.