Newcastle fans mourn Robson

NEWCASTLE: Hundreds of Newcastle United fans shrugged off the rain to pay tribute at St James's Park on Saturday to former club manager and ex-England boss Sir Bobby Robson a day after he lost his long fight against cancer.

Fans left flowers, scarves and banners in memory of Sir Bobby, who managed Newcastle - just relegated to the Championship - from 1999 to 2004 and who died Friday aged 76.

Fans signed a book of remembrance at the stadium as grieving fans paid their final respects to Robson, who hailed from the region and had supported the club as a boy.

One fan, security guard Kevin Gregg, recounted how he saw a frail Sir Bobby at St James's Park attend a charity match only last Sunday.

"I walked beside Sir Bobby as they pushed him round the ground in his wheelchair. He looked so very weak he should not really have been there, but knowing the man there would have been no stopping him," recounted Gregg.

"It is devastating that he's gone - it's like losing your granddad.

"He deserves all of this and more - I think they should rename St James's Park after him. He should at least have a stand named after him. As a fan, I would love to come to the Sir Bobby Robson Stadium on a match day.

"I worked at St James's Park when he was the boss here.

"He always had time for everybody, no matter who you were.

A former neighbour of Sir Bobby, Carol James, recounted: "I grew up on the same street in Langley Park as Sir Bobby, and all the kids loved him.

"We all knew when he was back because he had a special car with special suspension, and all the kids would chase it down the street."

She added that after Robson's Ipswich Town won the FA Cup in 1978 he brought the trophy back for display in the local supermarket window.

Many of football's leading figures, both in Britain and abroad, from Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson to UEFA president Michel Platini, paid tribute to Sir Bobby after he passed away at his family home on Friday morning.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown also offered a warm tribute, praising Robson's "passion, patriotism, dedication and professionalism (which) knew no equal during his time both as a player and a manager."