Newcastle to bring full-strength squad

By David VincentSIR Bobby Robson is promising a full-strength Newcastle United side for the Dale Roberts testimonial match against Ipswich Town at Portman Road on Wednesday, July 28, kick-off 7.

By David Vincent

SIR Bobby Robson is promising a full-strength Newcastle United side for the Dale Roberts testimonial match against Ipswich Town at Portman Road on Wednesday, July 28, kick-off 7.45 pm.

Former Town bosses George Burley and Robson have put their weight behind the testimonial game to raise money for the family of the former Town player and assistant manager who lost his battle against cancer in February at just 46 years of age.

Yesterday, in launching the plans for the game, George Burley paid tribute to his "best friend in football".

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He said: "I took him to Ayr United as my assistant and he was there for three years with me, then at Colchester for six months and seven-and-a-half years at Ipswich.

"He played a big part in the success of that time, a major part in Ipswich getting back to the Premiership and in to Europe.

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"We had four play-offs, promotion, two years in the Premiership and Europe and he was involved in the development of the young players coming through the club too.

"We were best friends and on the football side Dale was a great assistant in my time as manager. We had a lot of success but things turned a bit when Dale was unwell."

Roberts' battle against cancer coincided with the club's dip in form and unsuccessful battle to avoid relegation from the Premiership.

Burley added: "I don't think it was a coincidence. It was a difficult time for everybody at the club.

"What he suffered over the last six months is something you can't put into words.

"He showed great strength. He would go for chemotherapy and then apologise to me for not being on the training ground. That was the type of man he was.

"He was special and he quickly gained respect from anyone he met. He always had time for everyone.

"All through his time he helped develop the youngsters. Not just the most talented, like Kieron Dyer, but others like Wayne Brown and Justin Miller to help them have good careers."

Even when fighting cancer Roberts managed the Town reserve side, captained by Miller, to win the reserve league title.

Burley, from Scotland, and Geordie Roberts arrived as youth-team players at Portman Road in 1971 and quickly hit it off.

They played in winning FA Youth Cup campaigns, represented their countries, and went on to the first team.

But while Burley became a regular in the famous Ipswich side which went on to win the FA Cup and UEFA Cup, Roberts appeared just 24 times before moving on to Hull City.

Burley said he was pleased Newcastle had agreed to play Roberts' testimonial. He said: "There are so many links between the sides including Sir Bobby and players like Kieron Dyer, Titus Bramble and Darren Ambrose.

"Dale grew up a Newcastle fan, his dad used to take him to all the games, and that makes it special.

"And it will be a real game so close to the new season, not an exhibition.

"Newcastle will want to win and Ipswich will want to beat Premiership opposition."

Roberts' widow Cheryl said: "This is fantastic. The turn-out for Dale's memorial dinner was incredible too.

"When this game was suggested to me I didn't think it was possible.

"We have made a lot of friends in football and they have been absolutely brilliant."

Tickets go on sale on June 21 for the Newcastle game priced £12, £8 concessions and £3 for children – call 01473 400555, or visit Planet Blue stores or the club's website

The East Anglian Daily Times will be media sponsors for the event.

Ipswich Town are also aiming to arrange another home pre-season friendly, on Saturday July 31, against a major European side.

n New Ipswich Town signing Jason de Vos has been named in manager Frank Yallop's 16-man Canadian squad for the friendly against his former club San Jose Earthquakes tomorrow. It is their final game before two World Cup qualifying matches against Belize in Canada.

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