Bobby Robson - More Than A Manager, behind the scenes

Sir Bobby Robson. Picture: IPSWICH TOWN FC

Sir Bobby Robson. Picture: IPSWICH TOWN FC - Credit: Archant

Bobby Robson - More Than A Manager gets a special stadium screening at Portman Road, home of Ipswich Town Football Club, tonight. We chat to one of the film’s directors, Torquil Jones.

Featuring a question and answer session with Mick Mills, Terry Butcher and John Wark, doors opens at 7pm with the film starting at 8.15pm. Each standard ticket includes a £5 donation to The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.

In select theatres and available for digital download on June 1 and available on Blu-Ray and DVD on June 4, Torquil Jones - one of the film’s directors - hopes audiences will leave with a renewed appreciation of the man hailed the best English manager of all time.

Q: What sets this apart from other looks at his life?

This is the first real definitive story of his life on the big screen. But it is not just a football story. Alongside the wide-ranging challenges Robson overcame during his career, the film also explores his personal battle with cancer, which he fought no less than five times.

With the perspective of time, we were able to celebrate Robson’s legacy beyond the game, notably through the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, set up a year before he died, which he described as “my last and greatest team”. The film also includes revealing interviews with Lady Elsie, the first given by Robson’s wife since his passing; and their son Mark.

Q: Talk me through some of the never before seen archive footage and where you obtained it?

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There was a fantastic documentary shot with Robson at Ipswich during the 1981-82 season called The First Ninety Minutes. After approaching the production company in Scotland behind the film, we restored an extended version that included new behind-the-scenes footage – a real insight into Robson at his peak in Ipswich that we could revisit throughout the film.

Gerry Harrison, who had charted much of Robson’s career for ITV and who was a consulting producer on the film, was a huge help in sourcing unseen archive which extended from Ipswich to shoots he had done with Robson at PSV Eindhoven, FC Barcelona and Newcastle. The Robson family also gave us full access to their memorabilia, which included unseen home movies and photographs.

Q: During the process, did you learn something you never knew or see your appreciation of Sir Bobby Robson as a manager and person deepen?

Researching Robson’s achievements abroad in Europe during the 1990s, winning trophies in Holland, Portugal and Spain, and what he still meant to those clubs was incredibly revealing.

No matter where he went and who he managed, Robson always stayed true to the values instilled upon him as a miner’s son from the Northeast - hard work, honesty, loyalty, passion. Those values, which Sir Alex Ferguson says “never left him” meant he was incredibly successful on the continent. His former players and coaches, including the likes of Guardiola, Mourinho and the great Brazilian Ronaldo, talk passionately about how much he influenced their careers.

Q: How would you sum up his contribution to football - locally, nationally and internationally?

Paul Gascoigne describes Robson in the film as being the Muhammad Ali of football and I would have to agree. At Ipswich, he took over a club that was in free fall and built a team described in 1981 as the best in Europe. Via the Hand of God, Gazza’s tears and Italia 90 he helped unite a nation around football that kick-started the Premier League era.

He was also that rare thing - a successful English manager abroad – before he returned to save his cherished Newcastle, taking them from the bottom of the league into Champions League football. If you reflect on all of these his achievements together, Robson is a one off.

Q: Money from the special stadium screenings will go to The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation?

Yes, each standard ticket includes a £5 donation. The Foundation is also a partner in the film and we hope the project will raise a lot of money for this great cause. The Foundation has played a key role during production and is an integral part of Robson’s story and our narrative.

Q: What do you want people to take away from having watched the film?

Robson described his rollercoaster life as being full of great excitement and thrill and we hope we’ve captured that on the big screen. But it’s the raw emotion of Robson – through his voice as he narrates the film, through the immense archive and through the words of some of the greats of the game who have come together to celebrate his life – that stands above all else. We hope it’s an emotional experience for audiences.

Fundamentally, we hope those watching will have a renewed appreciation of the man who Gary Lineker describes as “the best English manager of all time”.

Q: How did the idea come about?

We first approached the Robson family in late 2016, shortly after José Mourinho and Pep Guardiola had joined Manchester rivals United and City. Both men had worked under Robson during his time as manager of FC Barcelona in 1996-97 and it felt like the perfect opportunity to revisit his extraordinary story.

The definitive film of his life had never been attempted before and we were also aware it was soon to be the 20th anniversary of his UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup victory - the last European trophy won at club level by an English manager. No one has come close since.

Q: How do you begin to pull something like this together?

We began with an initial archive search in the spring of 2017, which included sourcing hundreds of hours of TV and radio interviews, as well as public speeches and recordings of Robson. What became apparent early on was the richness and variety of the archive from across his 50-year football career.

Although we hadn’t planned to start filming until the autumn, an opportunity arose we couldn’t turn down. On Easter Monday, Newcastle United’s visit to play Ipswich Town at Portman Road, named Sir Bobby Robson Day, gave us the perfect chance to film with the Robson family. We also spoke to fans on the day, from both clubs, and it was a great early indicator of Robson’s enduring legacy and how relevant his story was.

Q: How long did the process take?

From being greenlit to the finished edit, just over 12 months in total. Our greatest challenge was securing our A-list interviews, which needed to include Mourinho, Ferguson, Gascoigne, Lineker, Butcher and Shearer. But despite their busy schedules one by one our interview requests came back positive. The greats of the game were compelled and excited to talk about the man who had influenced them as young players and coaches.

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