Sir Bobby an Englishman who travelled
The demagogue of English football Sir Bobby Robson passed away last week. A true great of the national game, Sir Bobby had a successful playing and latterly managerial career, a career that took him across the breath of Europe. He worked at the zenith of European clubs, an achievement made even more respectable in the light of British managers’ failure to succeed abroad.
Sir Bobby managed at PSV, Porto and Barca, winning titles at each club in the halcyon days of his managerial fortunes. The testimonies of the great and the good of football over the last few days have provided substance to claims of greatness and it is true what a great man he was, a national treasure that we should all be truly proud of.
His greatness is exemplified through his demonstrable foreign success, for it seems to me that British managers don’t travel well – Steve McLaren is doing well at FC Twente but I can’t think of too many more. However if you look at the flipside – foreign managers in Britain – you’ll find a plethora of overseas coaching talent, who have provided their respective clubs with lashings of trophies, even two of the last three England managers have been foreign.
This simply boils down to the question: Are foreign managers better?
No doubt there is extraordinary ability in the British coaching system and there are a lot of exciting young managers guiding Britain’s clubs. However, I can’t help but feel that there is an innate quality that marks Brits as poor travellers – it’s the same for our footballers. There have been very few success stories bar the exceptions of a few including Keegan, Charles, Linekar and Beckham.
Whereas the other major European footballing nations thrive on their ability to succeed abroad, we plain and simply don’t. We often look at what we lack on a national level when we fail at football tournaments, could it be that by staying in England our players and our managers are missing out on learning lessons could provide the winning moment at the denouement of tournament.
One lesson that can be learned from the stunning career of Sir Bobby is not to fear travel but to embrace it. And there should be nothing to fear from claims that British players are failing their country by going to play abroad for one England’s greatest patriots, Sir Bobby, proved that there is no greater sporting achievement than to do it in someone else’s back yard.
Rest-in-peace Sir Bobby.