“THERE is not one person in the world wherever you go that has a bad word against him. His name is gold wherever you go and he was just a phenomenal man,” said Robbie Elliott, as he pondered how best to surmise the wealth of feeling he’s encountered towards his former manager, Sir Bobby Robson.
It is fair to say the ex- Barcelona, England, Ipswich, Porto, PSV Eindhoven, Fulham and Newcastle United boss has left a lasting impression on Elliott, a full-back who cut his teeth with the Magpies under Kevin Keegan, before returning for a second spell under Sir Bobby.
Indeed, Robson made such an impression on the leftback, that Elliott immediately selected the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation when he decided to undertake a challenge to raise money for charity.
Bike for Bobby was that challenge, a mammoth 3,500-mile cycle ride across Europe, taking in all of Sir Bobby’s former clubs.
Seeing the good feeling towards Sir Bobby everywhere they turned during the ride was what kept Elliott going during three gruelling weeks.
“It really opened my eyes when we cycled through other countries. He hadn’t managed in Spain in tens of years, but you mention his name in Spain and people’s eyes light up. It really is incredible to see how he’s touched people throughout Europe,” he said.
From one European adventure to another and while riding, Elliott would often think back to playing in Europe during his days with the Magpies. That is something that still fills him with great pride and captaining the team away in France as Newcastle ran out 4-0 winners against Sochaux in the UEFA Cup is a night he’ll never forget.
“Being a lad from Gosforth, you never think you’re going to play for your club and then to captain it in Europe was just an extra special night, it really was,” he said.
“I captained the team once at home and once away in Europe, it was incredible.
You run out at St James’ and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up anyway, but leading the team out, you just can’t get close to it.”
Elliott still supports Newcastle United and he was delighted to see them finish fifth last season. This season it’s a different story, the Europa League games haven’t been kind to Newcastle and form in the Premier League has suffered.
“I’d like to think the Europa League hasn’t been a hindrance. They worked so hard last season and then were so excited to get into Europe but it does look at times like it has got in the way a bit, but that should never be the way, it’s a huge competition,” he said.
“You’re going places you’ve never been before, experiencing different stadiums, different teams and different players.
“I just hope Newcastle will pick up a bit in terms of their league form and then when they come back to the Europa League in February, they’ll be able to give it a right good go, because there are some fantastic teams in the competition and Newcastle on their day can beat anyone.”
Building on the achievements of Bike For Bobby, has made Elliott more determined than ever to make his own charity – The Robbie Elliott Foundation – as much of a success as The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation in tackling cancer.
”The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation is absolutely incredible.
“I started up the Robbie Elliott Foundation because we’re trying to make a difference with cancer and that’s something that touches me and touches my family,” he said.
“We’re just looking to make that little difference and speaking to the people that we’ve helped, we know we’re getting that little bit closer to actually making that difference and if we can be part of that, then brilliant.”