Main Page

Quick Links

The Rest
   Club info
   Last Season
   Small Ads
   Unlikely Lads
   A-Z Index
Robson's Wembley Memories
From "The Times" newspaper Friday 6th Oct 2000
MY STAFF at Newcastle United have been dispatched all over the world to scout for players this weekend, but I'll be saying
my goodbyes to the Grand Old Lady of football. I've refused offers for television and media work because I want to be at Wembley purely as a supporter, without any pressure or tension. 

I wouldn't miss it for anything.

I'll be there as an ex-England manager and a former international player, but mainly as a fan, just to wallow in the occasion. It's so sad to see her go. Wembley is part of our history. She has seen all sorts of battles, she has been our cathedral, our home, the flagship of our football. It is a unique place, recognised across the globe.

No one likes to see a lovely old lady simply disappear. So I'll be at Wembley just to watch, as I was so often from 1950 onwards, when I left my native North East to sign for Fulham. Throughout the next decade I hardly missed an England game. I witnessed the debacle of our 6-3 defeat to the Hungarians, I saw the Rest of Europe draw 4-4 with us and, of course, I saw my beloved Newcastle beat Blackpool, Arsenal and Manchester City in FA Cup Finals.

I even managed to scrape together a pair of tickets for a certain match in 1966 and took along my eldest son. I was actually a bit annoyed at the time - I was still a very good player at Craven Cottage and I'd hoped to be named in Alf Ramsey's squad - but those feelings dissipated when I saw England lift the World Cup. And my career didn't end up too bad, did it?

In those early days, you could pay 3s 6d (17p) to sit at Wembley. It cost more - five shillings (25p), in fact - to park outside. I once read that the marching bands, which made for such stirring entertainment before and during matches, used to charge 320 to perform while the players were on a 20 win bonus. It was all topsy-turvy then.

I discovered that iniquity when I made my debut for England in 1957, which is still my fondest memory of the place. I scored twice as we beat France 4-0, which was a decent start, but for others it would prove a poignant and premature ending. Three months later, the Munich air disaster robbed Manchester United and England of Roger Byrne, Tommy Taylor and young Duncan Edwards. Through Wembley I'll always remember those three lads.

There were some great days. I took Ipswich Town there when we won the Cup in 1978, a wonderful afternoon that's imprinted on my mind, and then for eight years as England manager I would roll out a team before a captivated audience. We received marvellous support, won a lot and didn't lose too many. Our single competitive defeat - losing to probably the finest Denmark team ever, to a debatable penalty - was extremely painful and cost us qualification for the European championship in 1984.

For some players, Wembley has been a source of huge inspiration. For me it was like home, and everybody who knew anything about it wanted to play there. It enlivened them (and that includes foreign teams, so it wasn't always a great advantage), but, on the other hand, if you weren't of good character, it could get to you too. I've seen people wobble there, not play to their potential, because the venue itself had unnerved them.

Most thrived on it. The long walk up the slope from the dressing-room and on to the pitch would turn up the hairs on the back of your neck. As you approach the plateau, when the field comes into view and the crowd swells into song, it must represent one of the best sporting experiences and spectacles that you could ever have in your life.

The Twin Towers are part of that, and as a traditionalist and a romantic, they should have been preserved. I have to say that. I understand the technology, the architecture, the development and the pricing problems, but the towers are our heritage. I wish we could have found a way to incorporate them in the next stadium and kept a touch of the old to complement the new.

Wembley itself is in my heart and soul and has played a decent part in my life, but it has become outdated and non-functional and can be a miserable place for supporters. Over the years, the facilities for players have been modernised, but it can't be right that some fans are forced to sit behind bloody great pillars. Not when they pay a good deal more than 3s 6d.

I think it being Wembley's last game tomorrow will work in our favour. It gives us every incentive to beat Germany, our greatest footballing foes. But I shan't be asking for any souvenirs afterwards - a yard of turf, half a goalpost or anything like that - not when I have so many outstanding memories which will never fade from my mind.

For all that Wembley means to me, they're enough to keep me warm when I've stood up from my seat and said goodbye.



Page last updated 24 June, 2009