SIR BOBBY ROBSON’S widow has spoken of the family’s pride at the success of his cancer charity, as she reflected on the five years since his death.
Lady Elsie and their three sons Paul, Andrew and Mark, have pledged to continue the work the football legend began through the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation – which he called his “last and greatest team”.
Lady Elsie spoke as it was revealed an astonishing £7.3m has been raised by the charity, which seeks to find more effective ways to detect and treat cancer.
She said: “I think my husband would have been thrilled.
“I believe the success of the foundation is down to the memory people have of my husband – of his warmth, the way he related to people and the way he dealt with his own illness in the final years.
“I’m extremely proud of it. I never thought we’d achieve what we’ve achieved, but it just keeps going on and on.
“We’ve had such a wonderful response from people, from everyone. You still see how people’s faces light up when you say his name. You see the change.
“That’s a very powerful thing. We all admire him so much and miss him, of course, because he was such a larger- than-life man. In the best way possible, he had to be obeyed. Five years. A long time.”
Lady Elsie said she had been immensely touched by the remarkable outpouring of grief and the tributes left at football grounds like St James’ Park when her husband died.
She said: “It was difficult, very difficult for us all, for the family especially, and I suppose you just get through it. You don’t sort of understand until much, much later what it all meant.
“The public responded in such a compassionate way and I think it was something they needed as well at that time.
“It was wonderful to go and see the spread of flowers and tributes and memorabilia left at St James’ Park and, I think I’ve said this before, for 11 days at that time it didn’t rain, which is unusual in Newcastle, even in August.”
When rain was forecast the shirts were laundered, boxed up and stored until they were transported to various parts of Africa.
She said: “It was remarkable – the outpouring of grief. It was something I think the football public needed at the time, as well as us. We needed it.
“We learned a long time ago to share him in life and we sort of shared him in death as well. That was something which was part of it all and you deal with it.”
Recalling the setting up of the foundation, Lady Elsie said: “He was hesitant in the beginning about whether we’d raise the initial half-a-million we needed to help Professor (Ruth) Plummer and some of his friends said ‘yes, yes, yes, of course we will’, but he had his own doubts.
“He was always a fighter, right throughout his life. He always wanted to achieve. That never left him and with the charity, that was very much the case.
“He wanted to fight on. He had an aim in life and that carried him through really. I suppose it gave him less time to focus on his own illness.
“We would drive out daily, or certainly two or three times a week, to various happenings in the area and that gave him a kind of a lifeline.”
She added: “The charity has helped enormously. It’s given us a combined thing as a family to aim for. Since Sir Bobby’s death, the foundation has given us the family a kind of focus.
“We are just so grateful to everyone who has been involved in any way whatsoever.”
To make a donation, view messages of support, or for more information, visit sirbobbyrobsonfoundation.org.uk or donate by sending a cheque to Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, Charitable Funds Office, Peacock Hall, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 4LP.