The Best Player I Ever Worked with? It Has to Be Brazil's Ronaldo. A LIFE OF HIGHLIGHTS: Former Barcelona Manager Sir Bobby with Assistant Jose Mourinho and Ronaldo after European Cup-Winners' Cup Success in 1997 and as England Boss in 1982 (Left)

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), December 9, 2007 | Go to article overview

The Best Player I Ever Worked with? It Has to Be Brazil's Ronaldo. A LIFE OF HIGHLIGHTS: Former Barcelona Manager Sir Bobby with Assistant Jose Mourinho and Ronaldo after European Cup-Winners' Cup Success in 1997 and as England Boss in 1982 (Left)


Byline: Sir Bobby Robson

I'VE had some memorable times in my career and I'm sure tonight is goingto rank right up there with the best of them. To get a Lifetime Achievementaward at an event as prestigious as the BBC Sports Personality of the Year infront of a national TV audience really will be an extremely proud and specialmoment for me.

I almost have to pinch myself to be placed alongside previous recipients SirAlex Ferguson, George Best, Martina Navratilova, Sir Ian Botham, Pele and BjornBorg.

I've been passionate about football since the day I was born and in return ithas given me a life and career I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams.

My Dad used to take me to St James' Park every other Saturday and we wouldliterally be the first to stand in the queue hours before kick-off.

It's hard to believe that boy overawed by his first hero, Albert Stubbins,would end up rubbing shoulders with so many greats in the game.

I was lucky enough to play for England with Billy Wright, Johnny Haynes andBobby Charlton until I was left out for some bloke called Bobby Moore.

And what a privilege it was to be the manager of such great players as TerryButcher, Bryan Robson, Paul Gascoigne, Romario, Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer.

I had Ronaldo, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Luis Figo in my teams as teenagers,pitted my wits against Cloughie and Fergie, was cheated by Diego Maradona andplayed a World Cup game when I was picked for England and Pele was left out forBrazil.

All in all, it's been an incredible journey..

My secret has been to love the game more than the prize, a favourite saying ofmy old chairman at Ipswich, John Cobbold.

Winning is extremely important, of course, but without two teams and a referee,you've got no game at all.

I also found you have to try to stay young in football. I built a team atIpswich Town based on homegrown talent and Butcher, Russell Osman, GeorgeBurley, Kevin Beattie, Alan Brazil and others developed to build a side thatcould challenge the best in Europe.

The thrill of helping Figo, Ronaldo and Van Nistelrooy turn from raw teenagersinto world stars was immense. And even in my last job at Newcastle, I looked toyouth. That is why I signed Craig Bellamy, Jermaine Jenas and James Milneramong others.

I was also the first manager to make a formal bid for an 18-year-old calledWayne Rooney, who has the talent to be an all-time great..

In other words, I've never been one of the 'it was better in my day' brigade. Iknow there are problems with the football industry but the game itself isbetter than it ever has been. Players are fitter, stronger, quicker and moreskilful.

The pitches are better, the training ground facilities are better, the medicaland dietary knowledge is better.

Although no longer employed fulltime in football and despite my healthsetbacks, I'm still in love with the game.

That's why I'm a regular visitor to all the north-east teams, from Newcastle,Middlesbrough and Sunderland down to Hartlepool. I even travelled north lastseason to watch Berwick Rangers and Gretna. And you know, I enjoyed it as muchas going to Wembley.

How will I feel tonight? Proud, undoubtedly. A little nervous, possibly.

To be surrounded by so many sporting greats of the current era like LewisHamilton will indeed be an honour. I will think about my parents, particularlymy Dad, who gave me my love for football. I will think about my wife Elsie andmy sons who have been on this journey with me. …

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