On this day (20th Feb 2009), 10 years ago, Sir Bobby Robson proudly opened the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care, Freeman Hospital, Newcastle.
He was very proud that the centre carried his name and was one of the first patients to receive treatment there.
It was an emotional occasion and Sir Bobby and his family were joined by hospital staff and special guests, including Alan Shearer and the then England manager, Fabio Capello.
Sir Bobby had launched his charity, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, the previous March (2008) to raise the £500,000 needed to equip the centre. His Foundation has gone on to raise over £13m to find more effective ways to detect and treat cancer within the NHS.
Now one of the most active cancer clinical trials units in the UK, patients and staff at the Sir Bobby Robson Centre work closely together to improve the treatment and diagnosis of cancer and study the effects of new drugs, for the benefit of this generation and generations to come.
Alan Shearer is now a Patron of Sir Bobby’s Foundation and remembers the opening day in 2009 fondly.
Alan says: “I remember it very well. Sir Bobby gave a wonderful speech that went on and on.
“It was a bit like at half-time when 15 minutes wasn’t long enough for him in the dressing room. Once he started talking, you knew it was going to go on for a while.
“But that was him, that was his passion, his love. Once he started talking about something he was enthusiastic about, then you couldn’t shut him up. His team talks normally started at half one and lasted until just before kick-off!
“The money that’s been raised for Sir Bobby’s Foundation is just staggering. But does it surprise me? No, because that’s who Sir Bobby was.
“And I think that the love for him, not just in this area but the whole country and the world, tells you what he’s left behind and I’m pretty certain he’d have been very proud of that.”
Fabio Capello not only attended the opening of the Sir Bobby Robson Centre, he also brought a £75,000 donation from the Football Association with him.
Sir Bobby was amazed and very humbled by the support.
Adrian Bevington, now Head of Recruitment Operations at Middlesbrough FC was the FA’s Director of Communications in 2009, accompanied Fabio to the opening and remembers a scare before they arrived in Newcastle.
Adrian says: “It was incredible to be in the company of Sir Bobby that day and it will forever live with me.
“We had a bit of a scary start to the day when we had an early flight from Stansted, which was local for me but not local for Fabio Capello.
“And Fabio was late for the flight, which was full and ready to go. So, I was standing at the gate begging them to hold it.
“And I kept saying, ‘It’s for Fabio Capello and it’s for Sir Bobby Robson. Please, he’s got to be there.’ And thankfully they did hold it and it turned out to be a wonderful day.
“We were very fortunate afterwards to go back and spend a bit of time with Sir Bobby and his family privately talking football. It was just wonderful.
“I know it meant a lot to Fabio. He knew Sir Bobby from when he was manager of Real Madrid and Sir Bobby was manager of Barcelona. And he cared deeply for Sir Bobby.”
The Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre offers patients from across the North East and Cumbria access to early drug trials and potential new treatments.
The number of cases of cancer in the region is higher than the national average and the Sir Bobby Robson Centre sees around 300 new patients every year.
As well as equipping it, Sir Bobby’s Foundation funds training posts for a specialist clinical trials doctor and nurse within the centre and there has been an increase in clinical trials open to recruitment, currently over 50.