JULY 31 is a date firmly etched on the minds of all of Sir Bobby Robson’s family.
After the former Newcastle United and England manager sadly passed away at his home in County Durham, his wife and sons have spent time grieving for the loving husband, dad and grandad and today each will remember him in their “own special way”.
His son Andrew said: “We had to come to terms with my father’s passing and I think we did that fairly quickly as a family.
“He fought his cancer long and hard and obviously I saw it first-hand. Towards the end he wasn’t able to drive, play golf or do anything physical.
“The end came quickly and I remember it in my own way. But I think as a family, and my mum in particular, we came to terms with it fairly quickly.”
He added: “My mum is fine and keeps herself very busy, she is very independent. She’s had some holiday and she likes living up here in the North East.
“I’m very close to my mum and I’m sure she’ll remember him in her own special way as well.”
Not long after Sir Bobby’s death, a memorial service was held at Durham Cathedral, attended by football’s great names and members of Sir Bobby’s Italia ’90 World Cup squad, including Gary Lineker, Paul Gascoigne and Stuart Pearce.
Andrew said: “The memorial service that was held at Durham Cathedral was a very special occasion.”
As a way of coming to terms with Sir Bobby’s death, his wife of 54 years, Lady Elsie, and their three sons Paul, Andrew, and Mark, have all thrown themselves into fundraising for his charity.
The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation was set up in March 2008 and is focused on the early detection and treatment of cancer and the clinical trials of new drugs that will eventually beat it.
The Foundation has raised £2.4m since its launch and has helped fund and equip The Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre, within the Northern Centre for Cancer Care at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital.
As many as 600 patients from the North East and Cumbria have received treatment at the premises since it opened its doors in February last year and promising work is already being done into understanding the disease.
Andrew said: “It has been a busy year attending all kinds of events, almost all entirely up here in the North East, in support of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation. The initial aim was to raise £500,000 to really help and equip the clinical trials unit.
“But once that initial sum had been raised we just continued on. We just thought it was sensible and an opportune moment to continue the Foundation, which is what we’ve done.
“There have been a number of activities in the last three or four months and we support them as a family in every way that we can.
“The Foundation is his legacy outside of his own football career. He became a charity worker, almost by default from the fact he suffered from cancer and sadly in the end it took his life.
“I think the Foundation and the funds that have been raised and the cancer trials work being done at the Freeman hospital will be his legacy.”
‘So many people have been so good. It’s really inspiring’
SIR Bobby Robson’s youngest son has spoken of how he has adapted to life since the loss of his father.
Mark Robson said the family had been “thrown into the public eye” by his father’s death and admitted that it had been a difficult time.
“We didn’t really know how to handle it at first. It’s a big change for us. It’s going OK, though, but we do have to balance it out,” he said.
“We were grieving for our dad and, at the same time, we were suddenly in the public eye. That could be tough at times. But so many people have been so good and positive. It’s really inspiring and it’s really helped.
“The public response and messages of condolence when dad died knocked us back, really. We had no idea the level of affection that the public had for dad. We were completely overwhelmed.
“From the public response, we thought it was appropriate to keep going with the foundation. I think dad would be really pleased that we’ve got stuck into it. Obviously we couldn’t do it without everyone else. It’s definitely a legacy dad would be proud of.”
Mark also told how his father’s charity was proving a great comfort to his mother, Lady Elsie.
“She’s busy attending lots of events. There has been so much of it – several things a week. It’s quite incredible all that’s going on with the foundation and it’s definitely keeping mum busy and given her something to focus on.
“It’s difficult for her in terms of all the memories of dad that are combined in the foundation but it has definitely given her a source of strength. It’s continued the memories of dad in a positive way and it’s helped her grieve.
“She has her faith, as well, which has helped her cope, and charity work is part of that.”
Mark said his father would have been delighted to see his beloved Newcastle United promoted back to the Premier League. “That would really have pleased him – he would have been chuffed to bits,” he said.
“I think he would have been on the phone to Chris Houghton congratulating him because not everyone believed he could do it. Dad was like that, he would always give credit when credit was due.”
In the days after Sir Bobby’s death, well-wishers streamed through the gates of St James’ Park to pay tribute to one of football’s true legends. Now items left at the ground are helping impoverished children in Africa.
Mark and his brother Paul made the emotional trip to help distribute the shirts, spreading the legacy of their late father.
He said: “The amount of shirts at St James’, we just couldn’t believe it. We were in disbelief. But we’ve managed to get every one of the shirts, all 10,000, out to Africa and distributed them in the slums, townships and orphanages.”