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Aug 1, 2009

Gazza mourns loss of ''my second dad'' Robson

Paul Gascoigne, the former England midfielder whose tears became one of the iconic images of the 1990 World Cup, admitted he could not stop crying when he learned his former manager Sir Bobby Robson had finally lost his long fight against cancer.

Robson, who led England, Newcastle, Ipswich and Barcelona among others in an illustrious career, died at his home in County Durham on Friday morning following his fifth bout of cancer in 17 years. His wife Elsie was by his bedside.

Gascoigne broke into the England team while Robson, a fellow Geordie, was in charge and was one of the stars of the 1990 tournament as England reached the semi-finals.

He was booked in the match against West Germany and could not hold back the tears as he realised he would be suspended for the final, although England never made it as they lost out on penalties.

Robson helped console Gascoigne after the match and the 42-year-old former Newcastle, Tottenham and Lazio midfielder was even more emotional after learning of his old mentor's death.

Gascoigne told ITV News: ''I'm speechless. I'm devastated. Bobby was like my second dad. I was like a son to him.

''I can't describe how much he meant to me. I've just been crying for three hours, and I've come to see my mum and my dad. It's just unbelievable.

''He gave me a chance to play in the World Cup. I can't really talk that much because I just want to cry, that's all.

''I love him. And his wife Elsie - I'll always be there for her. I'm sort of numb.''

Robson made a last public appearance at Sunday's charity match between an England XI and a German representative side staged to raise money for the 76-year-old's own cancer charity.

Gascoigne was among the former Italia 90 stars on show and said: ''He kept himself alive for the game and I thought after the game he might pass away... I'm emotionally drained.

''I want to go up and see his wife Elsie but it's a difficult situation for everyone. I'm going to miss him so badly.''

Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister, described him as ''a real Geordie gentleman'', while Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, set the tone for the tributes by saying the world will be a lesser place without his fellow footballing knight.

Ferguson said: ''In my 23 years working in England there is not a person I would put an inch above Bobby Robson. I mourn the passing of a great friend, a wonderful individual, a tremendous football man and somebody with passion and knowledge of the game that was unsurpassed.

''The world, not just the football world, will miss him. Let's hope it won't be long before another like him turns up because we could never get enough of them.''

The son of a Durham coal miner, Robson trained as an apprentice electrician at the colliery before signing for Fulham as a 17-year-old.

He went on to play for West Brom - and England too, 20 times - but it was as a manager that he really left his mark on the game, with Ipswich, Barcelona and Newcastle among others, and of course England.

Fabio Capello, the current England head coach, said: ''To manage the national team for so long was a remarkable achievement, and we all remember how close he came to leading England to the World Cup final in Italy.''

After England, Robson managed abroad, at PSV Eindhoven, Sporting Lisbon and Porto before Barcelona beckoned. At Sporting, he plucked Jose Mourinho to be first his interpreter and then his assistant, and he followed Robson to both Porto and Barcelona before establishing a career of his own.

Mourinho, the former Chelsea manager now at Inter Milan, said: ''It is difficult to accept such a person is no longer with us - but he is immortal because he leaves in everybody who knows him a mark of his personality - a great coach but, more than that, a great person.

''I will always remember the everyday Bobby Robson, a man with an extraordinary passion for life and football, with a great enthusiasm.''

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