Bobby Robson (AP Photo)
LONDON (AP) - Bobby Robson, an ambassador of English soccer who coached his country to the 1990 World Cup semifinals and won trophies in four countries, died Friday. He was 76.
Robson had cancer and died at his Durham County home with family beside him, a family statement said. He was diagnosed with cancer five times since in 1991 but continued to work until November 2007.
His death came five days after he appeared in a wheelchair at Newcastle's St. James' Park. Thousands crowded the stadium to pay tribute to him and raise funds for his cancer charity.
Robson played for England at the 1958 World Cup and as coach led his country to its best World Cup finish since its 1966 title. The popular coach was knighted in 2002. He also coached PSV Eindhoven, Sporting Lisbon, FC Porto and Barcelona.
"He always showed great passion for the game and will be missed by all football fans across the globe," FIFA president Sepp Blatter said. "On behalf o f the worldwide football family, I would like to thank Sir Bobby Robson for his memorable contribution to the beautiful game."
Robson rose to fame in the 1970s when he turned unfashionable Ipswich into one of the country's top teams, winning the FA Cup and UEFA Cup.
His last club job was at Newcastle, the club he supported as a boy. In January 2006, he took a job mentoring Ireland coach Steve Staunton.
"I did what I loved, and I did what I was pretty good at and I suppose what I was born for," Robson said in 2005. "I enjoyed my career. It was wonderful. I played for some fabulous clubs and I played for England. Then I got the top job, the best job in the world really. I managed England."
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson said he drew on Robson for his generous advice.
"I mourn the passing of a great friend, a wonderful individual, a tremendous football man and somebody with passion and knowledge of the game that was unsurpassed," he said. " His character was hewn out of the coal face, developed by the Durham County mining background that he came from."
Robson began his coaching career in 1968, when he took charge of struggling first division Fulham. The club was relegated and fired him after 10 months. Robson was hired by Ipswich and stayed there the next 13 years. He was then appointed England's manager following the team's elimination from the 1982 World Cup, and he won 27 of 28 qualifying matches in his eight years in charge.
The loss cost England a place at the 1984 European Championship. After the Football Association rejected his offer to resign, Robson went on to lead the team to the quarterfinals of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
England was eliminated from that tournament when Diego Maradona scored two of soccer's most famous goals. The Argentine great punched the ball into the net for the first goal. On the second, Maradona surged halfway down the field, shredding much of the England t eam in the process.
Maradona called the first goal "The Hand of God." Robson would have none of it.
"It wasn't the Hand of God," Robson said. "It was the hand of a rascal. God had nothing to do with it."
A poor performance at Euro '88 was followed by a run to the semifinals of the 1990 World Cup in Italy, where England lost a penalty-kick shootout to West Germany after a 1-1 draw.
Robson joined PSV after the World Cup and won the Dutch league in 1991 and '92. He also coached at Sporting and FC Porto before moving to Barcelona in 1996. A year later, he was voted European Manager of the Year after winning the Spanish Cup, the Spanish Super Cup and the European Cup Winners' Cup with a team that included Brazilian star Ronaldo. He returned to PSV and then went to Newcastle from 1999 to 2004.
No matter what, he remained popular with fans, often chatting soccer with them even as his declining health prevented a full-time return to coaching. He had sur g ery to remove a brain tumor in 2006 but was again diagnosed with cancer the following year.
Asked in 2005 why he continued to work into his later years, Robson said: "Football is my drug. I don't like going to supermarkets on a Saturday afternoon."
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