Sunday, 31 July 2011


On the second anniversary of Sir Bobby Robson’s death this new blog from Tom Chaplin, writer in residence with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, feels particularly appropriate:

Wagers huh? They don’t half cause you problems sometimes. Like the one I made about competing (that is categorically not the right word for it but there we go) in the Great North Run if my Writer in Residence with the Foundation came together. As you know because you’re reading this, the residency DID come to together and so here I am fulfilling my end of the bet, preparing for the run.

Recently, another bet was made through the medium of twitter that has drawn a huge amount of interest in the last couple of days. If a certain player didn’t sign for Newcastle United one twitter user wagered, he would donate £100 to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation. All fine there and very noble principles. But what happens if the donation goes unpaid?!

For those unused to twitter, a very brief guide. It is a site where you share your thoughts on the world. Share what you’re doing, where you’ve been or where you’re going and friends can thus keep track of what each other are up to. It’s a 21st century social thing, where your friends are “followers” and all that matters must fit into 140 characters, which is kind of barmy I know but that’s the way it goes.

A key player in the drama, twitter user @TaylorandBesty picks up the story: “Here was a guy who’d made a bet and lost (the player Gervinho signed for Arsenal instead) but didn’t make good on his promise. To me and others it was an ‘I am Spartacus’ moment. We thought, for a bit of laugh, if a hundred people donated a pound to the Foundation we would have honoured his promise on his behalf.”

#IAmColin was born. Users share topics with others by the use of a hashtag – i.e. people who might want to talk about North East football might search for and use the hashtags #nufc or #safc to follow discussion online about their team. What followed can only be described as a phenomenon.

By the time @TaylorandBesty went to bed on Thursday evening (28th July) the donation had been made – three times over. The hashtag had worked. And the giving didn’t stop. Football fans of all colours and crests donated, pressed into action by modern technology and the good old fashioned pull of Sir Bobby. Heart-felt £1 donations were made, sometimes £2 or £3 pounds, then tens and twenties, fifties even.

The money poured in. Some were moved by the laugh of it all, happy to part with cash to be involved with #IAmColin, others were more sensitive – if you owe Sir Bobby you should pay, went the thinking.

As Friday came to a close @TaylorandBesty was hoping for even more – “donations are heading £1500 which for something that started out as a bit of fun is fantastic”, and by way of an update he tweeted later “keep donating and get us to £2000 this weekend”. Absolutely fantastic.

So it’s a cautionary tale. 1) If you make a bet on the internet, pay up or face the music, and 2) If you think you owe Sir Bobby something, try your best to come through on your end of the bargain. Please?

All of which set me thinking. I owe Sir Bobby 13 miles of the Great North Run. I guess I’m just going to have to find a way of honouring the bet. See you in South Shields.

If you’d like to follow the progress of #IAmColin or donate, search for it on twitter – you’ll find it! Or, if you’d like to support my run, please do so at

Saturday, 30 July 2011


The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation has reached a fantastic new fund-raising milestone and the total raised to fight cancer now stands at £3.5 million.

Pauline Buglass, head of fund-raising for the charity, says: "Everyone involved with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation is mindful that the success of the charity ultimately belongs to one man.

"Without Sir Bobby Robson this charity, everything it has achieved and will go on to achieve, would not have happened.

"He always said we were a team and that everyone who made a donation or helped in any way was part of that team. But it was his complete commitment to this cause, and to helping other people fighting cancer, which has made the charity what it is today.

"We are very proud to continue under his name and to build on the legacy he has left us. I am sure he would be very proud and grateful to know how great the ongoing support for his charity is."

In the last year, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation has funded a research doctor and research nurse specialising in clinical trials of new cancer drugs at the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre, Northern Centre for Cancer Care, Freeman Hospital, Newcastle.

Together with Macmillan, it has jointly funded a new patient ‘quiet and information area,’ also at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care, and is working with Newcastle University and has purchased an ultra-compact cyclotron, which will help with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

The cyclotron costs in excess of £500,000 and is only the second of its type in the world and the first in Europe and is expected to be in place from November this year.

None of this would be possible without the tremendous ongoing donations and support from fund-raisers. Sir Bobby's family and everyone involved with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation are very grateful.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011


The mutual promise made between Sir Bobby Robson and his Newcastle United goalkeeper Shay Given to do something together in the fight against cancer is now being fulfilled.

During Sir Bobby’s final battle with the disease he was very active raising funds and awareness of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation. Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Shay, who recently signed for Aston Villa FC, is equally passionate about raising funds to help improve cancer treatment and is a Patron of Macmillan Cancer Support.

When the two men last met they discussed a joint project which sadly could not be achieved during Sir Bobby’s lifetime. With the launch of a new cancer facility jointly funded by the two charities and provided by the Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust that promise has now been realised.

Launched today (Tuesday 26th July), the new quiet area will benefit visitors to the Northern Centre for Cancer Care, Freeman Hospital, Newcastle, who come from across the region for specialist treatment.

Tucked away in a peaceful corner of the hospital, it is now a comfortable space for visitors and patients to relax between appointments with books and a television. It is also stocked with useful information about cancer.

Lady Elsie Robson officially opened the quiet area alongside Maureen Rutter, Macmillan Cancer Support director, and Sir Leonard Fenwick, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s chief executive.

Lady Elsie says: “I’m very proud to see this wonderful new facility open. As someone who spent a great deal of time in various hospitals while my husband received treatment I can appreciate the value of quiet space such as this.

“Bob would be very proud to be working together with Shay and Macmillan to fund this new facility. I know Shay is disappointed not to be here but my husband would have understood his pre-season football commitments mean he has to be elsewhere.

“I hope the new quiet area provides a relaxing space for visitors to the hospital for many years to come.”

Tragically, Shay lost his mum Agnes to cancer when he was just five-years-old and he still has memories of the seemingly endless hospital stays.

Shay says: “It’s great to see Macmillan Cancer Support using the money raised from Fashion Kicks 2008 towards this fantastic, much needed facility.

“It is even more special for me because it has been made possible through collaboration with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.

“Sir Bobby was not just a great gaffer, but also a great friend. This new facility will operate just like Sir Bobby would want it to with the ‘door always open and everybody welcome to come in.’

“My wife Jane and I are really disappointed at not being able to attend the official opening due to work commitments. We hope this new quiet area will become a well-used place to relax within this busy hospital environment as well as providing visitors with useful information about cancer.”

Fashion Kicks is an annual charity fashion show which features Shay and his football team mates strutting their stuff alongside professional models. It began on Tyneside in 2004 and has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds to help fight cancer.

The new quiet area the Northern Centre for Cancer Care will potentially benefit tens of thousands of patients and visitors. Over 300 cancer patients visit the hospital every day for radiotherapy treatment alone.

Kevin Hayes, Macmillan Information and Support Service manager at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care, says: "I’m very grateful that Macmillan, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and Shay felt that this project was worthy of their support.

“Undoubtedly without it we would have been unable to make an idea into a reality. Thanks to their help we have been able to provide a comfortable, welcoming and relaxing area for our patients and visitors which I have no doubt will be well used and popular.”

Monday, 18 July 2011


As I was pounding the mean streets of Monkseaton today in my preparation for running the Great North Run in support of the Foundation, three questions came to mind:

1) Jeez, how on earth is my bionic knee going to manage 13 miles of this?

2) Am I really, NO REALLY, capable of cutting out all chocolate – as is necessary - between now and the race?

3) When, prior to him becoming the permanent personification of gentlemanly gracefulness and steely-eyed determination to me, did Sir Bobby Robson first enter my life?

Questions one and two were answered swiftly (“it quite possibly won’t” and “no, of course I’m not capable of that”, in case anyone was asking), but the third sent me on a wonderful trip - through time, my childhood and the football landscape as some like to call it, all during the course of a 30 minute run.

Of course, my first “meeting” with Sir Bobby wasn’t in 1999 when he took over as manager of Newcastle United, though his unique strength of character during that time sprung immediately to mind as the ‘sixty clicks’ generation of Kieron Dyer and Craig Bellamy tested his every skill, as must the backbiting and classless behaviour of the club’s board.

Neither was it, obviously, the time I stood high in the Gallowgate end of St. James’ Park with my son on one side and father on the other as I clapped until my arms were numb, with tears running unashamedly done my face, as Sir Bobby said one last goodbye before a charity match not long before his death. Beautifully sad times.

But then, the run now in full swing (ish), my memory finally kicked into gear as I effortlessly rolled back the Sir Bobby years – the spritely, tanned, relaxed Englishman abroad at Barcelona with the youthful Ronaldo in tow, the tactician supreme in Holland and that little jig at Italia 90. My mind raced – did I know of him when he took the England job in 1982? Nope, I was six. The Euros in ‘84? I have no idea! But then Mexico ‘86…. he must connect somewhere in my brain with the World Cup Finals in Mexico 1986, right? Er, no again. How is this possible I asked myself? But then for me – as a ten year old – that World Cup was about Gary Lineker’s hat trick, Peter Beardsley’s class, that cheating cheater Maradona and matches on telly in the middle of the night. The manager just didn’t play a part in that for me I’m afraid.

So then I flash forward to time where Sir Bobby most definitely was there in my conscious. Italia 90. A wonderful summer of English flair and despair, of New Order featuring John Barnes, of Pavarotti and…. Gazza. That’s it. Paul Gascoigne. My ultimate ball-playing, showboating hero. He created the “Meet Sir Bobby” moment for me. Not at the finals, where Sir Bobby’s contract situation, sweeper system debates and a roller coaster of gusty draws, epic wins and penalties (as ever) meant Sir Bobby was on the mind of everyone in the country, not just football-obsessed me.

I can now pinpoint – with the help of Google and Youtube that I was first aware of Sir Bobby Robson on the night of April 29th 1989. He and I were at Wembley together that night. I say together in perhaps the loosest possible sense of word, in that he was there as the manager of England, while I was on a school trip. We sat in the old Wembley on those bench-like seats beside the dog track from where no one could ever see any of the action. They were cheap - school trip friendly – seats. It was a World Cup qualifier with Albania. In the dying moments Sir Bobby brought Gazza on to see what he could do in an England shirt. The press, as always, had been on Sir Bobby’s back - this time clamouring for Gascoigne, believing he was the answer to England’s problems, though in reality he was far from a dead cert even as squad player for the World Cup. As it turned out, moments later Gazza picked up the ball in midfield, barged his way into the box with a trademark turn of pace and guided the ball into the far corner of the Albanian net. England 4, Albania 1. Gazza’s fate, tears and all, was sealed.

After the goal the TV cameras picked out a joyous Sir Bobby cheering the goal with that finger waggle of his. He can be seen mouthing the words “that’s the one” – widely believed to be the moment Sir Bobby realised he might just be able to rely on the combustible but brilliant Geordie lad. Looking back, that moment (and his relationship with Gazza that followed) was vintage Sir Bobby. Professional but passionate. Fiercely determined to be his own man. Compassionate and proud. Father-figure and leader. A winner, in sport and in life.

That was the night I met Sir Bobby. Maybe, this little jog of ours to South Shields in September isn’t going to be so hard after all.

If you would like to support my run, your donation would be very gratefully received at:

Saturday, 16 July 2011


Former Newcastle United manager Kevin Keegan will return to the dugout when his ‘Entertainers’ team from the 1990s reform to play Liverpool FC’s ‘Spiceboys’ in a match in aid of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and four other charities on Sunday 9th October.

Under the management of Kevin Keegan, a team boasting the likes of Les Ferdinand, Rob Lee and Pavel Srnicek, played a thrilling brand of football which won admirers all over the world and propelled the team to consecutive second place finishes in the English Premier League in 1996.

The ‘Entertainers’ are fondly remembered for their flamboyant attacking style and Sky Sports recently described Newcastle United’s 4-3 defeat by title rivals Liverpool as ‘the Premier League’s greatest ever match’ – now the ‘Entertainers’ are ready to put the record straight against a Liverpool team managed by Roy Evans and Phil Thompson.

Kevin Keegan says: “I'm really looking forward to seeing all the lads again and helping to raise a lot of money for the five charities. It's win, win all round.

“Let's see if the entertainers have got it within themselves to entertain a bit.”

Players already confirmed include Newcastle’s Pavel Srnicek, John Beresford and Robert Lee and Liverpool’s Ian Rush, Jason McAteer and Mark Wright.

Tickets for the match at the Northern Echo Arena, Darlington, will be priced at £10 for adults and £5 for children and are available at from Thursday 21st July. Tickets are expected to be in high demand and to sell out quickly so it’s recommended the fans make early purchases.

The main event ‘The Match’ will provide an afternoon of spectacular family entertainment from two star studded line ups while raising funds for the NSPCC, CHUF, the Alan Shearer Centre, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and NE children’s charity Pathways.

On the eve of the match there will also be a celebratory black tie dinner, where legends from opposing teams will reunite to share their memories of the iconic 4-3 game.

The dinner will be held at Newcastle’s Civic Centre on Saturday 8th October and tickets are priced at £65 or £85 for the VIP area and are available by calling 0191 229 9631 or logging onto Corporate and sponsorship packages are also available.