Monday, August 3, 2009

AFTN was moved by two very different football related deaths in the last few days.

The death of Bobby Robson on Friday got the most media coverage of the two, and rightly so for what he achieved in the game.

It was sad to hear about his death after his brave battle with cancer. We'd just commented on this blog on Tuesday about how frail, gaunt and almost unrecognisable he was looking at his charity legends game last Sunday. Little did we know that that would be the last time we would see Sir Bobby in public.

After having suffered cancer on and off from 1991, he was diagnosed with it being terminal in 2008. He took it in his stride and commented "I am going to die sooner rather than later. But then everyone has to go sometime and I have enjoyed every minute". That quote just about sums up the character of the man.

Robson was a great of both English and worldwide football. What he achieved with an unfashionable small club like Ipswich will probably never be repeated in the current state of the game. In his 13 years at Portman Road he won the UEFA Cup, the FA Cup and finished runners up twice in the League.

He is probably best known for his role as England manager and in later years his associations with Newcastle United, but he managed top clubs in Holland, Portugal and Spain as well. It's also nice to see a manager with such top credentials have Vancouver connections.

Robson was player manager of the Vancouver Royals for a brief stint before disputes around the team led to him returning to England to manage Fulham. He credited being in Vancouver as giving him the chance to begin his top flight managerial career.

In all his time in the game, I don't think I ever heard anyone bad mouthing the man. That certainly can't be said about some of the top managers of today! He was held in such high respect and this is no more obvious than the fact that players flew in from around the world solely to take part in his charity game last Sunday.

I would gladly have had him, a proud Englishman through and through, as the manager of the Scotland national team but that opportunity never arose. I think he would have done us proud.

It's a sad loss to the game and his presence will certainly be missed.

Sir Bobby's death followed a death in more tragic circumstances the day before when ex East Fife player Paul McGrillen was found hanged in his garage in a suicide.

Although he was only at Bayview for a short spell, he played against us several times and was such a well known player, especially in the lower leagues. The announcement of his death shocked everyone connected with the game in Scotland and was marked by an impeccably observed minute's silence at Bayview on Saturday and at all the games played all around Scotland.

Paul played for East Fife in August 1999. He was a free agent and trying to secure a deal and we gave him the chance to put himself in the shop windown. A deal to keep him permanently at the club unfortunately fell through and he moved on to Stirling Albion, but not before some important performances in a black and gold jersey.

He played 5 games in total, scoring one goal and the all important winning penalty in our shock League Cup win over Airdrie in a shootout.

My last memory of seeing him play was in the playoffs in 2007 down at Stranraer. His team were going out to the Fife and we'd given him pelters all game when he had finally had enough and blootered the ball into our covered stand, causing us all to scatter. Like all good players, we and he knew that we'd only given him that abuse because we knew what a danger he posed to our chances. He was always that kind of player.

Mowgli was probably best known for his time at Motherwell and has now unbelievably become the fourth member of Motherwell's 1991 Scottish Cup winning side to have since died in tragic circumstances.

A prolific goalscorer for whoever he played for, he had currently gone to play in the Juniors with Bathgate Thistle at the time of his death and had won the Scottish Junior Cup with them in 2008, scoring one goal in the final and being named Man of the Match. He had indicated that the forthcoming season was going to be his last as a player before retiring.

We'll probably never know what prompted such a talented player and family man to take his own life at the age of just 37. He was obviously in a very dark place. We just hope that Paul is in a better place now.

RIP Paul and RIP Bobby.

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