The signature surging run from midfield to grab a late winner, the defence-splitting pass, the header most would fear to attempt and, above all, the indomitable spirit.
Bryan Robson – or ‘Captain Marvel’, as he was christened for his lung-bursting efforts for club and country – summed up the best in sporting endeavour.
More’s the pity then, that in 90 games for England, the memories come tinged with a wistful sense of what might have been had injury – so often caused in the line of fire – not cost him so dearly.
Two of his three World Cup campaigns were cruelly cut short this way. The one he did manage to see through, his first, in Spain in 1982, began with him smashing home a fairytale goal after just 27 seconds against France – the first of two strikes in a 3-1 success in Bilbao.
At the time it was the second fastest goal in the competition’s final stages, but England would exit in the second round despite not losing a game. In 1986, a dislocated shoulder suffered in the stalemate against Morocco ended Robson’s hopes in Mexico. Achilles problems caused his early exit against the Dutch in Italia '90.
He scored the first of his 26 goals for England in the 1981 defeat by Norway. His best goal was probably a spectacular right-foot volley against East Germany in a friendly in 1984.
At his brilliant, driving best, Robson was probably the most complete midfielder of his day, with the vision to dominate in midfield and the tackling skills honed by playing as a left-back in his early days.