Robson's health is all that matters
It had been a gorgeous Suffolk day on which to honour Ipswich Town's legendary manager, Sir Bobby Robson, and welcome the latest incumbent, Jim Magilton. When Robson departed in an ambulance after complaining of feeling unwell 10 minutes into the game, Portman Road's priorities suddenly changed.
Robson, 73, underwent tests and was kept in overnight at Ipswich General Hospital. There was relief yesterday when Dr Gerry Rayman, the hospital's clinical director of medicine, though declining to comment on the illness, said: "Sir Bobby is feeling very well. He's had a good night's sleep and once we've completed our investigations we will be letting him home."
It had started out as an official homecoming for Robson, even though he had never truly been away from the club where he built his reputation as one of the country's finest managers during a 13-year reign. A statue of him stands outside the stadium and, even after a career that took him to two World Cups as England manager and involved spells in charge of Porto, Barcelona and Newcastle, the Geordie would say: "I still think of Ipswich as my baby, and always will."
Chairman David Sheepshanks had appointed Robson honorary president last month and he was on the pitch before the match to acknowledge supporters' cheers. Robson, the perfect elder statesman figure who has battled cancer three times in the last 14 years, is also expected to provide quiet support and guidance for the club's rookie manager, Magilton. He already helps Republic of Ireland manager Steve Staunton in an advisory role.
It was, fittingly, Magilton who led the wave of concern. "There was no prouder man in the stadium today than me, walking out with Sir Bobby sitting in the stands. I met him yesterday and had a lovely chat. When a man of his stature has been rushed to hospital, the result here doesn't matter. As long as he's OK, we'll be OK," he said.
Robson would have been lifted by the performance of an Ipswich side who showed many of the characteristics nurtured down the years in this cultured corner of East Anglia. "In the first half, we passed it and moved like a team I want to manage," said Magilton, who finished last season as an Ipswich player and, to something of his own surprise, now finds himself shaping a new era.
Ipswich's defeat was primarily due to an erratic 10-minute spell early in the second half when Crystal Palace enjoyed their one period of ascendancy. Jobi McAnuff drilled home from a tight angle, then James Scowcroft marked his return to Portman Road by scrambling the ball in after Mark Hudson's header had been blocked by Jason De Vos.
"We switched off and we can't do that if we're to win promotion," said Nicky Forster, who had given Ipswich a first-half advantage, outpacing Hudson to dispatch his fifth goal in successive matches.
Ipswich whipped up a storm late on - new signing Alex Bruce was tenacious in midfield - but were unable to retrieve a point. Peter Taylor, who moved from Hull to take charge of Palace in the summer, said: "Ipswich were better than us in the first half and the players said more than me at half-time. They knew it wasn't good enough, they were saying that to themselves."
While Magilton will have time to reinvigorate Ipswich, Taylor must answer the more immediate demands of Palace chairman Simon Jordan. "The chairman expects promotion," Taylor said, "and if I was putting a few million into a football club, I would too."
Ben Findon (telegraph.co.uk)