As the English FA prepare to hold a National Football Day this weekend in honour of the late Sir Bobby Robson, now seems an ideal time to look back on the legacy left behind by the great man during two stupendous spells at the helm of PSV Eindhoven.

Robson psvRobson advised the FA he wouldn’t be looking to renew his contract as manager of the England national side shortly before the 1990 World Cup, due to be held in Italy that summer. For the County Durham native, that tournament would be his last major competition in charge of the team.

An attractive offer to try his luck abroad with top Dutch side PSV came about that year and former Ipswich Town boss Robson decided to grasp the opportunity. He’d suffered terribly at the hands of the press and supporters during an eight-year term with the Three Lions and felt the time was right to finally move on.

Robson admired Dutch football from afar for many years, as illustrated by his signing of Frans Thijssen and Arnold Muhren from FC Twente during a glittering period at Portman Road. Together, they delivered the UEFA Cup in 1981 to the Suffolk town, while producing some of the most scintillating football in Europe.

Meanwhile, the FA didn’t appear too concerned with the unfolding chain of events as the World Cup approached, with Robson obliged to take responsibility for a diabolical performance at the European Championships two years prior; a tournament won by a stylish Holland outfit inspired by Ruud Gullit and Marco Van Basten.

England had been unlucky to drop out of the 1986 World Cup literally at the hands (or should that be hand) of Diego Maradona at the quarter-final stage. However, the failure at Euro ’88 put immense pressure on Robson, forcing him to begin contemplating his future.

Of course, he helped conjure a miraculous assault on the world’s most prestigious trophy in 1990, his England squad missing out on the final in agonising fashion thanks to a penalty shoot-out loss against eventual champions West Germany.

Senior figures within the FA wanted Robson to reconsider his position once the tournament was over, but the deal to join PSV was done. The genial genius resisted the enormous magnetic pull he felt towards his home nation and kept to his word, linking up with the Dutch giants in time for the new campaign.

As if travelling to live and work in a foreign land wasn’t a large enough culture shock for an Englishman who’d never previously undertaken such an adventure, Robson also had the task of getting used to the daily contact with players that simply cannot be replicated at international level.

He’d been away from the intensity of club football for eight years since the hugely successful Ipswich days and it was bound to take time for the latest incumbent of the PSV hot-seat to settle into his new surroundings. Plus, there remained the small matter of replacing a living legend as manager, one Guus Hiddink.

The Dutch master won an incredible four straight Eredivisie titles and a European Cup after stepping up from the assistant manager position in 1987. He felt he’d taken the team as far as he could and that prompted a decision to try out an adventure of his own by signing with Turkish side Fenerbahce, thus opening up a vacancy at the Philips Stadion. It had been a remarkable period of success under Hiddink and the new boss had his work cut out just to retain such high standards.

During two years in Eindhoven, Robson moulded a side featuring superstars Romario, Eric Gerets, Hans Van Breukelen, Jan Heintze and Gerald Vanenburg into a frighteningly effective unit.

Romario was an integral part of the team, but he and Robson rarely saw eye-to-eye due to the Brazilian’s perceived lack of professionalism. The stocky striker refused to train hard, but certainly played hard off the pitch. Despite several run-ins between the pair, Romario struck 24 goals in only 25 league games to help PSV clinch the championship on goal difference from Ajax in Robson’s first season.

His sense of humour, compassion and people skills endeared Sir Bobby to the legions of PSV fans, while commanding the respect of the majority of his players and he further cemented his popularity when holding on to the league trophy in his second campaign by a three-point margin from Ajax once again.

Unfortunately, the board of directors felt the need to make a change due to lack of progress on the European front and informed Robson his services would no longer be required at the end of the 1991-92 season. It was also rumoured Romario’s utter refusal to change his behaviour may have been an aggravating factor in the decision.

After parting ways, the ex-England boss firstly joined Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon for 18 months, before moving on to FC Porto, where he enjoyed massive success. Taking over a club in turmoil, Robson promptly turned around their fortunes and delivered firstly the Portuguese Cup before two consecutive league titles followed. While in Oporto, he also had a significant hand in assisting the fledging coaching careers of Jose Mourinho and Andre Villas-Boas.

He then switched to Barcelona, taking Mourinho with him, where he added a Copa del Rey and Cup Winners’ Cup double to his name in 1997 alongside Ronaldo, whom Robson bought from former club PSV. A move ‘upstairs’ into a director of football role didn’t suit the still enthusiastic Robson and he stuck at it for a season until the itch to get back out on to the training field became too great.

As luck would have it, old friends PSV were in need of a steady hand and so asked their trusted ally to take the reins on a short-term deal for the 1998-99 season. Robson duly agreed, but couldn’t quite repeat the glory of his previous stint. However, he did enough to seal a Champions League qualification spot for the Eindhoven side with a third-place finish behind runaway champions Feyenoord and surprise package Willem II on the last day of the season.

New on the PSV scene at the beginning of that campaign was a youthful Ruud Van Nistelrooy from Heerenveen. He struck up a truly formidable strike partnership with Belgian Luc Nilis which delivered 55 league goals; Van Nistelrooy ended the campaign as Eredivisie top scorer with 31 of them and Nilis stood second in the list.

The man that would go on to make his mark at Manchester United and Real Madrid was yet another in a long line of burgeoning footballers who benefitted hugely from Robson’s influence. That PSV line-up also included rising stars Andre Ooijer, Dennis Rommedahl, Wilfred Bouma, Joonas Kolkka and Kasper Bogelund who were collectively taken under the Robson wing.

The English gentleman can take at least partial credit for the club having gone on to win seven league titles in a nine-year period between 2000-2008 due to the foundations he laid in place during that second stint in control of team affairs.

Alas, the elder statesman of the European game was only expected to keep the seat warm at PSV while former defender Eric Gerets completed his coaching education in order to take over from Robson in 1999. That he did, before accepting a technical role with the FA following the expiration of his contract in the Netherlands.

But, he couldn’t refuse the inviting opportunity to manage beloved local team Newcastle United when they came calling in September 1999, having dispensed with manager and Dutch icon Ruud Gullit.

Robson stayed with the Magpies until August 2004 when unceremoniously dumped at the age of 71 by chairman Freddy Shepherd during the early stages of the new season, despite an impressive sequence of 11th, 4th, 3rd and 5th-placed finishes in the Premier League, while experiencing Champions League football along the way.

Robson took on an advisory role with the FA of Ireland for a time, but never managed again.

Sadly, he passed away on 31st July 2009, but his legacy lives on throughout the world of football and nowhere more so than at PSV; a club that has much to thank Sir Bobby for, but also a club very dear to the heart of the man himself. They handed him a first managerial break in continental Europe and he never forgot it.

Fantastic memories were created in Eindhoven by Robson and his players during those heady times and now, perhaps more than ever before, PSV supporters yearn for a return to the good old days under former player and current boss Phillip Cocu. If he turns out to be even half the manager Bobby Robson was, then future success seems assured.