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North-East football stars celebrate Sir Bobby
STEVE HARPER spent five years working under Sir Bobby Robson and the goalkeeper revealed the former Newcastle United manager's methods are still used on the training ground today, while Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill also paid tribute to his universal appreciation.
Harper, along with current Magpies boss Alan Pardew and team-mate Shola Ameobi, took time out from Newcastle's Europa League preparation to attend a glittering event at The Sage in Gateshead on Monday night.
The show, which saw stars from across sport, TV, music and comedy gather on the banks of the river Tyne, celebrated the life and achievements of the former England manager on what would have been his 80th birthday.
The night supported Robson's charity, The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, which has raised almost £5m for cancer research and treatment since it was set-up 18 months before his death in 2009, as well as The Alan Shearer Foundation.
Robson left a big impression on everyone he worked with in football and no-one more so than Harper, who revealed his training drills are still very much part of their match preparation.
"Almost daily at the training ground we talk about him and think about him," he said. "John Carver did a shooting drill last Friday, which was Sir Bobby's.
"He had the respect of everybody in football, no matter what colours you wear or who you supported. He did a lot to promote Newcastle United and rightly so but the region in general, he did the same thing. He went to Sunderland all of his life and I'm sure he wished them all the best and wanted them to succeed.
"Wherever we went in Europe people were privileged and honoured to meet Sir Bobby Robson. Whether they met him for ten minutes or whatever, the world was a better place for them after speaking to him. That was the measure of the man.
"It's a fitting tribute to a great man - the only sad thing was knowing how much he would have wanted to be here on what would have been his 80th birthday.
"Sitting in the car with the gaffer and Shola, we were throwing stories back and forth, you can't help but smile."
Robson handed Ameobi his first-team debut in September 2000 and the striker played a big part the Magpies' Champions League and UEFA Cup campaigns under the esteemed manager.
Ameobi was also the centre of a famous Robson joke, in which he admitted to being given the nickname 'Carl Cort' by his former manager.
"He had time for every single player in the dressing room and everyone around him," Ameobi said.
"He was always trying to impart whatever wisdom he had. He was a great part of my career and I wouldn't be where I am today without him and I certainly have a lot to thank him for.
"His enthusiasm for the game rubbed off on everyone and it was a very special time certainly for me. We had some fantastic times under Sir Bobby. In a way he felt in football he could do everything he wanted to do and that is what was great about Sir Bobby, that rubbed off on his players and it definitely rubbed off on me."
Despite his close ties with Newcastle, Robson was a regular at the Stadium of Light in his latter years and Sunderland were also represented on Monday night by manager Martin O'Neill, who believes it was his infectious personality that made him liked by all.
He said: "He's got universal appreciation and I think that goes for his wife as well, who comes over to quite a number of our matches and is made very welcome and enjoys it, so I hope that isn't upsetting anyone over at Newcastle.
"It is remarkable really that he seems to transcend everything but I think that's been Bobby all of his life. Other than the harsh treatment he got as England manager for a little while when results were supposedly not going brilliantly, they ended up in a semi-final of a World Cup. Other than that time he was held in great esteem.
"The very fact is that he's universally accepted as being a fantastic manager and not only popular with everyone but he was appreciated by everyone and that is quite rare in football."
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