A Who’s Who of football came together today to give thanks for the life of Bobby Robson, one of the game’s best-loved figures.
Alex Ferguson, Fabio Capello and Bobby Charlton were among the 1,000 invited guests who filled Durham’s magnificent Norman cathedral.
Former players including Gary Lineker, Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer and Stuart Pearce were also in attendance at the event, held seven weeks after Robson died aged 76 at his home in nearby Langley Park.
Also attending were Sam Allardyce, Mick McCarthy and showbusiness duo Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly (Ant and Dec).
One of Robson’s other great triumphs away from football – helping to raise around £1.8m (€2m) for his foundation which funds research into the early detection of cancer – was represented by his oncologist, Dr Ruth Plummer, who recruited him to raise money.
The service, broadcast live on television, was being beamed to the grounds of Ipswich Town, where Robson brought incredible European and FA Cup success, and Newcastle United, where he restored belief and Geordie pride when he returned in 1999.
Fans gathered to watch the service on big screens at the grounds, while entry to Durham Cathedral was restricted to guests only.
Locals thronged the winding medieval approach to the cathedral before the event, hoping for a glimpse of some of football’s biggest names.
Pep Guardiola, manager of European champions Barcelona and a player under Robson there in the mid ’90s, was expected to represent the proud Catalan club.
Before the event, Lineker admitted he would be nervous speaking about his mentor’s time as England boss.
He said: “I will be nervous because I won’t want to let him or his family down. I could probably do with one of his famous pep talks beforehand.”
Robson fought cancer five times, and devoted his final years to helping others with the disease.
Such was the affection felt for a genuine football man, his target of raising £500,000 (€553,000) was met in just eight weeks.
In February, he was proud to officially open a cancer trials centre at the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle, and he said then that he wanted that to be his legacy.
England and Newcastle star Peter Beardsley said as he arrived for the service: "Sir Bobby was one of the greatest football men of all time. He was so close in 1990. Lady Elsie would be so proud.”
Other arrivals included current Newcastle United mananger Chris Hughton and players from the first-team squad. Former goalkeeper Shay Given was also among the guests.
Current Ipswich manager Roy Keane walked alone into the cathedral before the service.
Everton manager David Moyes remembered receiving a hand-written letter from Ronson when he was at Barcelona in response to a request by the would-be coach to come to watch training.
Moyes said he still has a copy of the letter at home.
He added: “All the Premier League managers look up to Sir Bobby.”
Olympic silver medallist Steve Cram was also among the arrivals.