The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Nice Guys Don’t Always Finish Last, But They Always Suffer Pain …

I recently watched the Netflix documentary on Bobby Robson.

While I had followed his career as a manager – especially during Italia ’90 – I didn’t know many of his life’s details.

He had always come across as a kind, considerate man … maybe too kind and too considerate … but given his achievements in the game, it’s fair to say it worked for him.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the documentary, there were two things that really hit me in it.

The first was the people who went on camera to speak about him.

I’m not talking about his lovely wife and son, but football elite like Sir Alex Ferguson, Mourinho, Shearer, Lineker and even Gazza.

All to a man, talked about his character … integrity … compassion and humility.

For that to happen means you had to be something special.

But it’s the second part that led to the title of this post.

You see Bobby Robson went on to manage Barcelona.

Apparently he had previously turned them down twice due to his loyalty to the teams he was managing before, but on the 3rd ask – he said yes, even though it meant he had to follow in the footsteps of the great Johan Cruyff.

To be honest, this added a huge additional amount of pressure on him and fans were initially very skeptical about his tactics and style of play. But he won them, because he showed he loved the club and the region, he desperately wanted them to win and he conducted himself with nothing but compassion and dignity.

And this all turned into some iconic achievements and actions …

He brought Ronaldo to the club and turned him into the most famous player of his generation.

He won the Copa del Rey, Supercopa de España and European Cup Winners’ Cup all in one season.

He offered to pay part of his salary to cover the cost of his assistant manager, Jose Mourinho as he wanted him there so much.

He turned down approaches from other clubs because he loved Barcelona and wanted to honour his contract.

And then, just as he was ready to use that season as a launchpad to achieve even more, he discovered the Barcelona chairman only ever planned for him to be manager for one season.


Like a buffer manager between Johan leaving and the next dynasty of Barcelona.

Imagine discovering that.

That you’re only seen as a ‘stop gap’.

To make it worse, they weren’t going to get rid of Bobby, they were going to ‘move him upstairs’.

Oh I am sure they thought that was a sign of respect, but it was anything but … especially with how they did it.

You see the manager they brought in was Louis Van Gaal.

Without doubt, an excellent manager … but not only was it a smack in Bobby’s face, they made Bobby attend his unveiling.

Like attending your own funeral.

And while I accept Van Gaal wanted to assert his arrival to the press, the way he did it was both arrogant and disrespectful … especially given the manager he was taking over – a manger who neither failed or was fired – was sitting to his right.

While Bobby was too nice to say anything, his face said it all.

But here’s the thing, Barcelona – or at least the top management – couldn’t care a less.

They got what they wanted.

And by keeping Robson onboard, they had – in essence – bought his complicity.

Or so they thought.

I’ve experienced these kind-of situations in my time.

Albeit a very loose version of these situations.

Being hired because we thought the client valued what we did and how we did it.

Then discovering it was really about PR because their intention was to make us complicit. That they deemed all the experiences and viewpoints we could bring to them, as unnecessary. Because they just wanted to be seen to be doing something without actually doing anything.

And that reveal was horrific.

Initially written-off as ‘teething problems’ before realising it’s fundamental problems.

And while money can make you temporarily complicit, in the hope you can find a way to make it work, if someone is not transparent from the start, it means you can never get to a better place.

And that’s when you discover that regardless of how much money a client – or a job – is paying you, it’s never enough.

Not because you want to be disgustingly rich, but because you determine your value beyond money, but the work you do and the people you do it with and for.

Some out there will never understand that.

They evaluate success with the money they have. Or the groups they are a part of.

But some will.

The ones who remember that what you have isn’t as important as how you got there.

Anyone can win, but only the best want to win well.

35 Comments so far
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Great documentary about a very good football manager. I wonder if his sweet spot was with a particular sort of player? The outsider or disenfranchised? The treatment he received from some of the clubs he managed does prove your point of the headline.

Comment by George

Sounds like Rob, except with less of the nice. ; )

Comment by Pete

There is more than a hint of truth in that statement. When we first met you, we knew Robert would love you for all the reasons you know.

Comment by George

We all know the reasons Rob liked Pete.

Comment by Bazza

Cheeky sods. But yes, I do have a type of strategist I like … but isn’t that the same with everyone?

Comment by Rob

Yes. But the people you like also includes a particular sort of background.

Comment by Bazza

Hahahaha … yes, that’s fair.

It worked for you didn’t it, ha.

Comment by Rob

Unfortunately. 😉

Comment by Bazza

Not a shock. It’s a well known mafia technique to ensure absolute loyalty.

Comment by DH

Didn’t work for me then, did it. Hahaha.

Comment by Rob

The photo of Robson with van Gaal says it all.

Comment by George

It’s not just in football this happens and the displaced rarely get a well paid job “upstairs”.

Comment by Pete

True. And football managers get paid well, but they don’t get asked to do a press conference next to each other in front of the national press.

Comment by George

I really enjoyed this post Rob, especially this –

“You determine your value beyond money, but the work you do and the people you do it with and for.”

A lesson for all management.

Comment by Pete

That’s the sort of attitude some companies could take advantage of. Giving you more responsibility but paying you less.

Comment by Bazza

Ha … that’s so true Baz.

Comment by Rob

Is the client/PR story you mention about a television channel in America?

Comment by Pete

I don’t think so. We didn’t have that account long enough to benefit either party.

Comment by George

That was my first pitch. Memorable for the best and worst of reasons.

Comment by Bazza

That PR guy was such a prick.

Comment by DH

Oh yes he was, not really helped by Andy picking a fight with him every 2 minutes. But it’s not that client I was referring to … one at Wieden.

We thought they wanted to change. They just wanted to look like they were by demanding what they wanted us to do. It didn’t end well for anyone. [But they still weren’t as much of a prick as PR guy]

Comment by Rob

fuck you, i was defending our fucking integrity against a jumped up twat with more chips on his shoulders than a fucking mcdonalds.

Comment by andy@cynic

I cannot fathom why the PR representative took such a dislike to us.

Comment by George

Bobby 💛

Comment by Jemma King

Never took you for a footie fan Jemma.

Comment by Rob

My pa loved newcastle and I loved my pa.

Comment by Jemma King

When companies trot out “our staff are our greatest asset”, what they mean is our staff our are greatest asset till we decide they’re not. Business is needlessly brutal. Everything is one giant clique.

Comment by Wayne Green

Yep …

I’ve heard some terrible examples of how people have been let go due to COVID. I thought that wouldn’t happen, that companies would be too scared to face the wrath of a public who expects companies to take responsibility for the standards of behaviour they hold their staff too. Apparently I was wrong … at least with some.

Comment by Rob

I feel oblgated to point out that Bryan Robson never managed Barcelona.

Comment by John

Bollocks. Typo. Well, not typo … stupido.

Thank god it was only one mistake or I’d have to throw myself off the Nou Camp roof.

Comment by Rob


Comment by Pete

I could look for more.

Comment by John

Oh Rob.

Comment by DH

Because Bobby was a gentleman, he was the perfect manager for a club. He would earn the players respect but would never kick up a fuss when treated badly.

He had a great career, but it could have been better if he had a bit of the Fergie/Clough in him. As usual, a lot of people around him got rich without having to even talk to a footballer.

Comment by DH

suppose it makes a change from fucking cloughy.

Comment by andy@cynic

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