'I had to pinch myself standing beside Sir Bobby on the Town Hall balcony'

Stephen Foster and Sir Bobby Robson

Sir Bobby Robson being interviewed by Foz at the Ipswich Corn Exchange in May 2008 - Credit: Archant

In his latest On Air in Suffolk column, broadcaster Stephen Foster remembers interviewing legendary Ipswich Town manager Sir Bobby Robson.

Oh my lads you should have seen their faces
Walking down Portman Road to see Bob Robson's aces

Based on the Geordie folk song Blaydon Races, that was a chant that'll be familiar to all Ipswich Town fans during the Robson era. Just the thought of those incredible years which culminated in the club lifting the UEFA Cup still makes me dewy-eyed.

Sir Bobby, as he became in 2002, began his time as Ipswich manager in early 1969. His arrival came only days after I'd visited Portman Road for the first time. My Dad took me to a match against Burnley which Town won two nil thanks to goals by Ray Crawford and Mick Mills.

I recall Sir Bobby's early struggles to win over both the dressing room and later a small faction of fans who after a League Cup defeat at the hands of a George Best-inspired Manchester United were calling for him to go.

He weathered those storms and set about creating Town teams who were more than a match for anyone here or on the continent.

The big highlight for me was going to Wembley to see my hometown club beat Arsenal to lift the FA Cup in 1978. Thirty years later I was lucky enough to host a huge celebration of that occasion at which Sir Bobby was given the freedom of Ipswich.

I had to pinch myself as I stood beside Sir Bobby on the Town Hall balcony. Thousands of Town fans watched as the mayor, Councillor Inga Lockington, made the presentation. It was a huge honour to be there and to interview Sir Bobby, not only on the Cornhill but also later that evening at a special dinner in the Grand Hall of the Corn Exchange.

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It was clear that Sir Bobby wasn't in the best of health. He needed help getting up to the stage that night but once he sat down next to me and we began our interview his eyes sparkled and he spoke proudly of his cup-winning players, all but one of whom were in the audience, hanging on his every word.

He really didn't need me up there with him and if I'm honest I don't recall asking many questions. Not only did Sir Bobby play for and manage England he talked for his country as well.

As the evening drew to a close I began to take in what a magnificent day I'd had. It wasn't the first time I'd spent so long in Sir Bobby's company. A few years earlier he'd been a guest of mine at BBC Radio Suffolk, the studios only a short walk from where he lived in Ipswich.

He was still working abroad at the time but was being linked with a move to his beloved Newcastle United, the club where he did eventually end his glorious managerial career.

Another marvellous memory for me was when he brought his Newcastle team to Portman Road. The game pitted him against one of his most loyal players - George Burley - who hadn't long taken the Town team up to the Premiership.

As Sir Bobby made his way from the dressing room to the dug-out the song Welcome Home was played on the public address system. Not exactly a football anthem but a fitting record nevertheless as one of Ipswich's favourite sons returned to the house that Bobby built.

Sir Bobby's death in July 2009 brought the curtain down on an incredible life. As an Ipswichian it's hard to put into words how proud I am that Sir Bobby made the town his home. He put the place on the world footballing map and I salute him and all the wonderful charity work the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation does in his memory.

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