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Harry Harris: Memories of a great man

As one of the journalists who was in close proximity to Sir Bobby Robson for many years, going back as far as his days as Ipswich Town manager, and then as England manager, I have travelled the world with him and got to know him extremely well.

• Ten moments from Sir Bobby's life
• Sir Bobby Robson, 1933-2009
• Fergie salutes "inspirational" Robson

At times we had our differences, at times it was not easy operating in a more cut-throat tabloid world than exits today. But throughout good times, and some turbulent times, my respect and affection for Sir Bobby never wavered.

Over many years I discovered first hand, many notable intimate stories about Sir Bobby. Everyone has their favourite, and many were recalled at his memorial service on Monday, but the trouble is that it's tough to pick the best.

For me, it was when I was sitting on a sun-lounger by the outdoor pool in the hotel in the centre of Mexico City where the England side and the media were staying in preparation for the 1986 World Cup Final. I was relaxing after filing my copy to the Daily Mirror (and in those days it was done by telephone, not by laptop), when Bobby led the entire England squad down to the pool area. They all found themselves sun-loungers, as Bobby sat close by with a stopwatch in his hand.

All the players were armed with sun tan cream, which they all applied at the same time. After every 15 minutes he blew a whistle and all the players simultaneously 'turned' from their backs to their sides. After another 15 minutes, Bobby blew the whistle again and the players made one turn.

Apparently Bobby had been told about the damage caused by the "ultra ray violets" (as he used to call them), because of the weak ozone layer in Mexico City and wanted to ensure that on the first few days the players acclimatised rather than getting sunburnt.

As the World Cup grew closer, so the world's media began to descend on each of the major nations participating in the finals in Mexico, and the England camp had also begun to attract large quantities of foreign press, TV, and radio.

Before any media conferences, Robson invited only the English press into the England dressing room for a private briefing. It had just started to rain, so Mike Langley, the then chief football writer for the Sunday People, brought his wife, who was out there for a holiday, into the changing rooms together with about 20 other journalists.

Just as Robson was about to round on the gathered writers about something that had appeared in all the newspapers back home, to which he had taken great exception, he spotted Mike and his missus. He stopped himself before he had hardly got started on one of his tirades against the media.

"Mike, is that your wife in here with you?" inquired Robson knowing full well that she was, indeed, Mike's wife. "Yes, it is Bobby," said Mike.

"Why is she in here, Mike?" continued the then England boss. "Well, Bobby because it's raining outside", explained a clearly flustered intrepid reporter .

"Give her your f****** umbrella and get her out of here, Mike. I've got a few things to say and I don't think a lady should be present - and oh pardon my language!"

•  Harry Harris has twice won the British Sports Journalist of the Year award. His book Down Memory Lane is now available.


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