Video and Gallery: Fans pay emotional tributes

WITHIN minutes of hearing about Sir Bobby Robson's sad death scores of Ipswich Town fans gathered at his statute outside Portman Road to pay their respects.

Craig Robinson

WITHIN minutes of news breaking about Sir Bobby Robson's death, scores of football fans gathered at his statue in Portman Road to pay tribute.

Many loyal fans struggled to fight back the tears as they left heartfelt messages and laid flowers and shirts in his memory.

Ipswich Town manager Roy Keane, alongside former players and club dignitaries, gathered at the statue yesterday afternoon and stood in thoughtful silence - mourning the loss of one of the game's true legends.

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The massive outpouring of feeling was testament to the heights reached by the former Ipswich manger when he led a modest team to European glory.

Fans wearing Newcastle shirts stood shoulder to shoulder with Ipswich supporters - a sign of the extent to which Sir Bobby encompassed the spirit of the game.

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A wreath was laid at the foot of his statue, already littered with messages of admiration and sympathy, and queues formed outside the ground as people waited to sign a book of condolence.

James Hehir, chief executive of Ipswich Borough Council, recalled his memories of Sir Bobby. “He was Mr Ipswich and really was the nicest man in football,” he said. “It was never too much trouble for him to come back to Ipswich.

“With the permission of his family we will hold a memorial service in the town.”

Former mayor Inga Lockington gave Sir Bobby the freedom of Ipswich in May 2008 to mark the 30th anniversary of the famous FA Cup victory. After laying posies at his statue she said: “He was such a lovely pleasant gentleman.

“He had a charming smile that I know will stay with me. He was absolutely delighted and honoured to receive the freedom of Ipswich, as were we. He really put Ipswich on the map and we should all live up to his example.”

One of the first people to pay their respects was current mayor of Ipswich David Goldsmith, who laid a wreath of blue and white flowers.

He said: “It is a sad day for the town. Sir Bobby Robson was an ambassador for Ipswich and for football in general.

“I never had the pleasure of meeting him but I have heard hundreds of great stories about him. He was a very determined man and very particular.

“He had great success with the team. It's very touching to see so many people paying their tributes. His memory will live on forever.”

Scores of other fans paid their respects to Ipswich's greatest ever manager.

Colin Plumb, 56, from Bury St Edmunds, who went to his first Town game in 1966, said: “When he came to the club we were struggling. But he changed it all. He often described us as a 'big little club' - and that's what we were. His managerial skills were second to none. We were going nowhere until he came along. He was just a fantastic man.”

Krissi Miles, 42, from Stowmarket, was fighting back the tears as she paid her tributes to Sir Bobby.

She said: “He was everything - it was because of him that I became a fan. He got me into football.

“He was the reason my friend and I travelled to Italia '90 for the world cup. We were crying in the stadium when we lost to Germany. He was an inspirational man. I came down straight away when I heard the news. I will never forget him.”

Brian Ball, 59, who has supported Ipswich for 52 years, said: “He gave me the best years of my life, travelling around and watching the team. He put Ipswich on the map.

“I remember when I wrote away to ask him to sign his autobiography for me. He didn't just send back the book but he sent back lots of pictures as well. That was typical of the type op man he was - nothing was too much trouble. He was incredible.”

Michael Tingey, 21, from East Bergholt, said: “I heard the news from my brother in law and came down straight away. Without Sir Bobby Ipswich would not have achieved what it has - he made us into the club we are today.

“We were a small club but we achieved great things. But its not just Town - he was just great for football in general. Whether you're an Ipswich fan, Norwich fan, Newcastle fan or Sunderland fan - you appreciate what he did for the game.”

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