Saturday, 26 September 2009

Elsie, the brave

Today, Saturday 26th September, at Ipswich many emotional associations with football came together in a moving moment before the kick-off. The match was Ipswich Town v Newcastle United. Newcastle were lying second in the Championship and Ipswich second from the bottom without a win this season thus far. Sir Bobby Robson had managed both teams in his long enthusiasm for football.

Earlier in the week a thanksgiving service in Durham Cathedral for the late Sir Bobby took place. Testimonials to this great man who put his life on the line and in the news for so long for the game that he loved were made while millions watched on television. The occasion and what it represented was movingly described by Paul Hayward in The Guardian.

A powerful picture from today will always be in my mind: one of the spectators at the match was Elsie, Bobby's widow, Lady Robson, , remaining composed while 'Abide with Me' was sung with the television cameras on her. Her pride in the admiration that had been shown for her late husband must have given her that extra strength she needed.

'Abide with Me', sung before every F.A. Cup final, provides one of those goose-pimple moments in football every year. This was an extra and a special one for this year. How hard it must have been for her to stand up bravely through it; but she did it. What a grand performance! Very well played, Lady Robson! May I call you 'Elsie'?

Ipswich then lost 0-4 to Newcastle. This is the result he would have preferred, I think. He won the old First Division as manager of Ipswich but came from the north-east. A coal-miner's son, and a Newcastle supporter from a boy. He managed Newcastle for 5 years from 1999 to 2004 bringing two years of Champions' League football to Tyneside. The associations are too strong to doubt where his heart was.

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