'Where do I begin to tell the story of a greater love than this?'
Bobby Robson:More Than A Manager
There is NO story like Bobby Robson's, for drama, romance and courage, and that's before we even come on to the football.
Yet until I started making this film I didn't realise just how unique his life and legacy are.
On the pitch, and off it.
The journey to finishing the first film documentary on Robson lasted around 18 months and had its germination in a quiz question:
'Who is the last English manager to win a European trophy at club level?'
The answer had intrigued me so I made a point of asking our interviewees if they knew who it was. Sir Alex Ferguson, Gary Lineker, Terry Butcher, Alan Shearer, Paul Gascoigne, and Ronaldo (R9) came up with decent guesses but were incorrect.Jose Mourinho got it right though. Well he would.
He was next to Robson when he lifted the European Cup Winners' Cup for Barcelona in 1997.
It was the second in a treble of trophies Robson won during a season like no other, that began with the Englishman succeeding Johan Cruyff, just months after recovering from a life-threatening cancer, and ended with him losing his job.
Image: Jose Mourinho
The rollercoaster intrigue of that largely untold crazy twelve months in Catalonia/at Camp Nou, starring Bobby, Jose, Pep and a 19-year-old Brazilian superstar - or as Mourinho pointedly refers to him 'the best Ronaldo ever!' - was a key pillar in the More Than A Manager narrative.
'Bobby was special. The way he dealt with pressure that season taught me a lot. When I saw Bobby, I knew I wanted to become a manager.' - Pep Guardiola
A talented, athletic midfielder Robson won 20 England caps, but the young professional was already seeing beyond his transitory playing days. A life without football for this self-confessed football addict was unthinkable. Management was his true calling and, with both eyes on the future, Robson had completed coaching badges by his mid-20s.
By his mid 30s, having suffered the sack at his beloved Fulham and the humiliation that came with claiming the dole as a result, Robson was in his element, beginning work on the pioneering 'project' at Ipswich Town that laid the foundations for a special career:
He transformed a provincial club into European winners.
He remains England's most successful manager at a foreign World Cup.
He is the only English manager to win trophies in three of Europe's top leagues.
He returned home to take his boyhood club and first love Newcastle United from the bottom of the Premier League into the Champions League.
'When you look at his range of success, he is the greatest English manager of all time' - Gary Lineker.
However, more than the sheer breadth of his achievements, Robson is special for his genuine life-changing influence on those who went on to become greats of the game in their own right.
Image: Bobby Robson
It's an A-list cast and their fascinating, emotional insight punctuates the film.
Like all great managers, Robson was a natural leader, a born communicator with a relentless drive and charisma.
Unlike some great managers in his search for perfection he was never totally ruthless.
He was a fighter, with the ability to be at his best when crisis loomed but he was never brutally win at all costs.
A talent for the darker arts of boardroom politics was not chief among Robson's skill set, a failing that was exposed with England, Barcelona and in the end heartbreakingly at Newcastle.
'Bobby always saw the best in somebody first. That was his starting point' - Freddie Shepherd (Former Newcastle United chairman)
That essential innocence came from a selflessness that Sir Alex Ferguson traces to Robson's upbringing in the Durham pit village of Langley Park where the community comes first.
Those 'socialist' values permeated Robson's character enabling him to connect on a basic, human level to players, managers, journalists and fans gaining him a unique respect, love and admiration.
It is the reason why there is such emotional power to the testimonies in this film.
It is the reason why the Bobby Robson Cancer Foundation, funded by word of mouth donations, is now able to fund one of the leading research units in the world.
It is the reason why Bobby Robson is so much more than a manager.
WORDS BY GABRIEL CLARKE.
Bobby Robson: More Than A Manager coming to select theatres 1st June
Now available to pre-order, Digital Download 1st June & Blu-Ray/DVD 4th June