Documentary honours the football managing legacy of Bobby Robson; Father John Misty’s fourth album
A documentary about Bobby Robson reveals a manager who knew how to make others shine
Most biopics need light and shade. Ideally, they track the life of an individual of exceptional talent and Shakespearean flaws, who achieved greatness with monumental set-backs along the way, and ended in triumph or ignominy. Bobby Robson: More Than a Manager, a new feature-length documentary directed by Torquil Jones and Gabriel Clarke, is no such story. Instead, it shows a man of remarkably warm and robust character, buffeted by the winds of fortune, or rather the whims of high-level football. Which comes with a poignancy of its own.
The film opens with Robson’s discovery in 1995 that he had a malignant melanoma in his sinuses, a diagnosis which for most people, his doctor tells us, would mean that “two to three years would be good”. Not Bobby though: nine months later he took over at Barcelona. If this is meant to set out the stall for what kind of a man Robson was, then the film goes all out to prove its thesis. How, in the Eighties, his reign at Ipswich Town got them named “best club in Europe”; how, in 1990, he led England closer
to World Cup glory than they’d come since 1966, and how he breathed life into an ailing Newcastle United in his final managerial position in the early Noughties.
The lows, when they came, were often imposed on him — his unceremonious ousting from Barcelona, the media hounding preceding his exit from the England job and, of course, the disease that ultimately killed him. But the love that emanates from those interviewed, from
Ronaldo, Alan Shearer, Pep Guardiola and a tearful Paul Gascoigne is undeniably touching. Even José Mourinho, for many years Robson’s right-hand man, temporarily sets aside his sneer. Far from being a flaw, Robson’s niceness, this film suggests, was his singular strength.
Bobby Robson: More Than a Manager is out in cinemas on 31 May, available digitally on 1 June and is out on DVD on 4 June
Gaffer on tape: Sir Bobby Robson at St James’ Park duringhis tenure as manager of Newcastle United (1999–2004)