Smiling Sir Bobby returns to Ipswich

THERE were plenty of happy Ipswich Town fans at Portman Road yesterday - but few had bigger smiles than Sir Bobby Robson.The 73-year-old made an emotional return to his former club for the first time in three months to watch the East Anglian derby clash with Norwich.

THERE were plenty of happy Ipswich Town fans at Portman Road yesterday - but few had bigger smiles than Sir Bobby Robson.

The 73-year-old made an emotional return to his former club for the first time in three months to watch the East Anglian derby clash with Norwich.

On his previous visit in August, the Blues' honorary club president had to be taken to hospital after feeling ill early in the game. A brain tumour was later discovered.

But yesterday the legendary football manager was all smiles again as he watched his beloved blues record a 3-1 victory over their arch rivals.


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It was a far better result than the game he missed in August, which saw Ipswich lose to Crystal Palace 2-1.

Accompanied by his wife Lady Elsie, Sir Bobby took his seat alongside club chairman David Sheepshanks and seemed delighted to be back.

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Speaking ahead of yesterday's clash in his national newspaper column, Sir Bobby said: “It will be emotional for me today when I go to the East Anglian derby between my old club Ipswich Town and Norwich City at Portman Road.

“The last time I was there was in August, when I was given a tumultuous reception on the pitch before the game to mark my appointment at Ipswich's honorary club president.

“But, of course, it turned out to be a very worrying day when my face started twitching and I had to be taken to hospital with the game still going on.

“It turned out to be a brain tumour, which was thankfully caught in time, and I can't wait to get back and see the full 90 minutes this time! Besides, I love a derby match.”

While the Town's performance would have undoubtedly provided a tonic to Sir Bobby in his continued recovery, it also marked a victory for new Blues boss Jim Magilton in his first proper East Anglian derby.

Much was made of his past fall-out with Norwich counterpart Peter Grant in the build up to the game but there were no similar flash-points yesterday.

A feud had developed between the pair during and after Ipswich Town's play-off defeat to West Ham in 2005, when Magilton was a player and Grant the Hammers' assistant boss.

Both have since insisted they have buried the hatched and seemed intent on proving it yesterday as they found time for a touchline embrace before the game.

While the two rookie managers were at their animated best throughout the 90 minutes, they shook hands at the final whistle.

Off the pitch, one of Suffolk police's biggest operations of the year “went off very well”, according to a spokesman for the force.

More than 200 officers, including British Transport Police, dog handlers and police spotters, were on patrol before and after the game.

Canary followers arriving via train were ushered to the ground in a “bubble” of officers in fluorescent yellow jackets, while those arriving on coaches were given a police escort in.

Although a crowd of around 100 Ipswich fans waited at the junction of Portman Road and Princes Street for the Norwich fans to be escorted back to the train station, the big police presence averted any potential for trouble.

A spokesman for Suffolk police said three people were arrested for offences of minor disorder and criminal damage.

He added: “It was a good atmosphere and we were very happy with the way it went.”

Editorial comment - Page 26.

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