Respect is due for one former England midfielder from another. The reason? Pride and passion.
Leadership comes in many different styles. Bryan Robson’s was very simple: he led by example.
For more than ten years, the longest-ever serving Manchester United captain inspired club and international team-mates alike with his limitless energy and drive.
The man who became known to the nation as Captain Marvel made his England debut in a European Championship Qualifier at Wembley in February 1980. He missed out on the tournament itself, but it wasn’t long before he was established as a regular in the side. Over the next decade he accumulated 90 caps, the sixth highest of any player. He captained England in 65 of those games, a record bettered only by Bobby Moore and Billy Wright.
According to former Liverpool and Spurs midfielder Jamie Redknapp, Robson’s aura reached beyond his fellow players, inspiring him as a young footballer.
He says: “For me, Robson epitomised exactly what it meant to play for your country. He was as brave as a lion and an all–action type of player. You saw him in that no.7 shirt and he made you want to play for England, too.”
Indeed Redknapp, who became the youngest player to feature in Europe for Liverpool, went on to make 17 appearances for England – a number that would have been much higher had it not been for injury. Now a coach and a respected television pundit, Redknapp remembers playing against his idol.
“Obviously Robbo was no longer at the height of his powers when our paths finally crossed, but he was still superb. He was box-to-box and spraying
the ball about everywhere.”
Goals also formed a big part of Robson’s game – he scored 26 times for England, a total many strikers would be proud of. His most famous came against France in the World Cup of 1982, when he beat Jean-Luc Ettori in 27 seconds, the second fastest goal in Finals history, only since bettered
by Turkey’s Hakan Sukur, who took only 11 to net against South Korea in 2002.
Redknapp remains a big fan, saying: “I honestly think if he played today he would be an even bigger star – the modern game would really suit his style. And the other thing about him, of course, is that he is still an absolutely top fella.”