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Today, Newcastle Utd face Manchester City. Perhaps more importantly to me, they have unveiled a statue of a man universally popular across football; Sir Bobby Robson – see the statue here.

It seems as good a time as any for me to tell, or retell, my personal story of Sir Bobby. It came when he was at Barcelona, and I was a young boy – well, thirteen/fourteen. Then, as now, my favourite Brazilian was Jairzinho. I’d read somewhere that he was the scout who plucked Ronaldo (the buck-toothed phenomenon) out as a scout, but could find nothing more about him in those pre-internet days.

I wrote to Sir Bobby, at Barcelona, asking if he knew – or could ask Ronaldo if he knew – where Jairzinho was, or what he was up to then; expecting to hear nothing back, really.

A wee while afterwards, I received a letter. Not only was there a signed photo of Sir Bobby – he always looked a little odd in Barcelona garb, to me – but a handwritten letter from the man himself. It seemed he’d asked Ronaldo for me, and they’d discussed it for a bit, but neither one of them had any idea of Jairzinho’s whereabouts. I still have the letter; the thing I remember most about it was his noting ‘its always sad when the great players disappear from the game’.

I don’t write this to show off, but every time Sir Bobby is mentioned, I think of that letter; picture him and Ronaldo talking, on my behalf, and can only agree. He loved his football, and had time for everyone.

One day soon, I shall have to visit St James’ Park to see his statue for myself.

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