He won't be in the dug-out, but Sir Bobby Robson will be kicking every ball come
He won't be in the dug-out, but Sir Bobby Robson will be kicking every ball come Wednesday night. Tomorrow night's Chief Guest talks to TheFA.com's Dan Freedman...
"I badly want to see us win," says the man who won 20 caps for his country before going on to manage it with distinction from 1982-1990. "I'm a great patriot, I love the English national team. I hate to see us lose or get a bad result."
Anyone who saw Sir Bobby's work as a TV pundit last summer will know that he's anything but a passive onlooker where England is concerned.
"I'm always thinking of the guy in charge and what he's going through," he says. "I'm going through the same emotions and willing the team on."
It seems the manager's brain never stops ticking for Sir Bobby.
"Absolutely I look at games tactically," he admits. "I can't divorce myself from that. I wish I could just be a supporter, sitting there to be entertained but I can't
"I'm constantly assessing the performances of the players to see who's inspiring the team and who's influencing the play. I'm thinking about what would I do if I was in charge. I never stop!"
Sir Bobby is the most successful former England manager since Sir Alf Ramsey, having taken us to the quarter-finals and semi-finals of the 1986 and 1990 World Cups respectively. And, during his eight years in charge, England lost only one qualifying game - a 1-0 defeat by Denmark at Wembley in 1983. It's a record of which Sir Bobby is understandably proud.
"I did better than maybe a lot of people would think I did in terms of results," he says. "In Mexico 86 we lost to a goal which Maradona pushed in with his hand and we had our chances to equalise.
"I still don't know how the second Lineker header didn't go in and he would tell you the same. Gary said that when he ended up in the back of the net, he couldn't believe the ball wasn't there with him!
"Then, four years later in Italia 90, we got to the semi-finals and ended up losing on penalties. You can't say we would have definitely beaten Argentina had we got to the final, but I wouldn't have bet against it."
If Sir Bobby could pick one member of Sven's current team and add it to the England team he managed, who would it be?
"Wow!" he says, with the enthusiasm of a coach given the keys to a treasure trove of talent.
"I just think Beckham's a great player but, you know, I had Barnes and Waddle in my teams so my need for Beckham might not be so great. Then there's Owen who's also brilliant, but don't forget I had Lineker.
"I like Sol Campbell very much. It's a tough one because Des Walker was a fine player too but I might just be tempted to go for the power of Campbell now."
It won't be just England on Sir Bobby's mind tonight. He's returning to a club where he is simply adored - and the feeling is mutual
"I was at Ipswich for fourteen years," he explains. "It was my baby. I nursed it and saw it grow. We put it on the map.
"I had the most wonderful reception when I first came back to Portman Road a couple of years ago - I got a marvellous ovation. I'm so happy for Ipswich that The FA are bringing an international game here.
"It's great that The FA think that this is the right venue to host an England game and I do too. It's a proud night for Ipswich Town."
Though it's easy to linger on the highlights that Sir Bobby has already experienced in his 35-year managerial career, his own mind is firmly focused on the present - and that means Newcastle.
"I'm working to succeed," he says. "I've won things with Ipswich, I've won things with PSV Eindhoven, I've won things with Porto, and I've won things with Barcelona. I'm just hoping that I can bring some fame and some silverware to Newcastle United before I decide to call it a day."
Sir Bobby Robson's Managerial Honours
IPSWICH TOWN 1969-82
1978 FA Cup
1981 UEFA Cup
1986 World Cup Quarter-Finals
1990 World Cup 4th Place
PSV EINDHOVEN 1990-92
1991 Dutch League Championship
1992 Dutch League Championship
FC PORTO 1992-1996
1993 Portuguese League Championship
1995 Portuguese League Championship
1997 European Cup Winners' Cup
1997 Copa del Rey
PSV EINDHOVEN 1998-99
1999 Dutch League Championship
NEWCASTLE UNITED 1999-2003
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