When­ever I’m in New­cas­tle I have a chat with Bobby’s statue.. I’ll miss him for ever

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was first at­tracted to his walk – a cer­tain swag­ger,” she says.

Their courtship be­gan in their mid­teens and be­fore ev­ery date, Bobby turned up with flow­ers.

Elsie re­mem­bers the mo­ment she knew she’d found the love of her life.

“Bob was walk­ing me home from a dance and it was snow­ing. I was in a full-length ball gown. I still re­mem­ber the lovely feel­ing of his kiss and snowflakes on my lips. That was the mo­ment I knew I’d fallen in love.”

On June 25, 1955, they mar­ried at their lo­cal Catholic church in a “lovely and sim­ple” cer­e­mony. Bobby was 23 and Elsie was 21.

They then moved to Lon­don, as tal­ented foot­baller Bobby had left his job as a col­liery elec­tri­cian’s ap­pren­tice and signed for Ful­ham FC.

“For the first year, we would take off each night for the West End and just wan­der around, be­cause com­ing from the North and see­ing Pic­cadilly was such a con­trast,” says Elsie. “We had a flat which had a toi­let but no bath­room or hot wa­ter. It was quite ba­sic.

“That’s how it was in those days. And it so­lid­i­fied us as a cou­ple.”

Two years later, Bobby bought the evening pa­per to find out if he had made the Eng­land team. Scor­ing twice on his de­but was an early sign of the il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer to come.

Over the next five decades, as Bobby went from play­ing to man­ag­ing, the cou­ple lived in Van­cou­ver, Barcelona, Lis­bon, Porto and Holland.

Elsie set­tled their three sons – Andrew, Paul and Mark – into new coun­tries while her hus­band spent his time steer­ing the world’s big­gest clubs.

His highs in­cluded help­ing the ca­reers of greats such as Ronaldo, Gary Lineker, Pep Guardiola, Jose Mour­inho and a trou­bled Paul Gas­coigne, who con­sid­ered Sir Bobby a sec­ond fa­ther.

“Paul is the most lovely boy,” says Elsie. “I do think about him and am con­cerned about him.”

As well as all the highs, games were lost and a longed-for 1986 World Cup vic­tory was stolen by the cheat­ing hand of Diego Maradona. But one blow hurt far more than any other...

Few of­fers could have en­ticed Sir Bobby away from his highly suc­cess­ful run with PSV Eind­hoven in 1999. But he could not refuse New­cas­tle United, his boy­hood club. Yet in 2004, one sea­son af­ter tak­ing them to third, chair­man Sir Freddy Shep­herd sacked the man so pop­u­lar he was con­sid­ered king of the Toon. Sir Freddy said later: “It was like shoot­ing Bambi.”

Elsie says Bobby felt “guil­lotined”. “He was low and de­pressed af­ter that,” she says. “There was quite a lot of anger. But that was the de­ci­sion. They will know it was their loss, if they are wise.”

When Bobby fell ill, he told friends Elsie saved his life. Her in­stinct, and train­ing as a nurse, meant she saw tiny signs of ill-health and made him see a doc­tor.

Elsie says: “A wife knows her hus­band bet­ter than any­one. You just feel some­thing’s not quite right. I had worked as a nurse in Lon­don and that helped me care for Bob.”

Just as she had been there when he signed his first player’s con­tract, when he held the UEFA and FA cups aloft, when he led Eng­land to the 1990 World Cup semi-fi­nal and when he en­dured can­cer five times, Elsie was by Bobby’s side when he died at their home back in County Durham, aged 76, in July 2009. “Through­out our life, we had lots of laughs but also cried to­gether, es­pe­cially dur­ing Bob’s can­cer treat­ments. That was heart­break­ing. He was so brave, so tough and pos­i­tive it was hard for him to grasp that it was ter­mi­nal, even in his fi­nal cou­ple of weeks. “We didn’t have dif­fi­cult con­ver­sa­tions about his death. He’d have found it too hard to talk like that – too stress­ful to put it into words. In his fi­nal days he was de­ter­mined to go to the sta­dium in New­cas­tle in his wheelchair and trilby hat and we had to fa­cil­i­tate that. He died three days later. “Bob was peace­ful in the very end and all the fam­ily were there. Knowing CLOSE With Gazza in 1989 he’d been at home with us was a com­fort, as were all the mes­sages from friends and fans.”

Elsie gave many of Bobby’s be­long­ings to char­ity but keeps close what mat­ters most – their fam­ily and all their pre­cious mem­o­ries.

She hopes a new film, Bobby Rob­son: More Than a Man­ager, will help oth­ers get to know her hus­band and re­alise his good work stretched far beyond foot­ball.

Elsie says: “I miss his pres­ence, his com­pan­ion­ship, chat­ting to him. He was af­fec­tion­ate so I miss his hugs.

“Now I fo­cus on his char­ity work. Bob would be so happy to know he helped other peo­ple. He had a great en­thu­si­asm for life. He saw the im­por­tance of ev­ery­one. That’s just one of the rea­sons he was so spe­cial – one of the rea­sons I will miss him for ever.”

Bobby Rob­son: More Than a Man­ager opens in se­lect cin­e­mas on June 1 and can be pre-or­dered for dig­i­tal down­load on June 1 and Blu-Ray/DVD on June 4. Visit bobby rob­son­film.com

Find out about Bobby’s foun­da­tion at sir­bob­by­rob­son­foun­da­tion.org.uk

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