SMITH ON SPORT: Rampaging Robbo tarnished by backroom sleaze

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IT’s NEVER a pretty sight when a hero falls.

Bryan Robson had tainted his image as a manager with failures at Sheffield United and elsewhere but, until this week, the man stood tall.

It was easy to forgive his off-field failings because on it he had the aggression of a centre-half, the touch and vision of the most gifted playmaker and the engine of an executive class Mercedes.

He played with a heart as big as the mess he is now in after the Channel 4 Dispatches programme on Monday night, with its empty glasses and empty words in the backroom of a Bangkok bar about flogging Sheffield United and Wednesday to, well, anyone.

Hollow, braggard talk about deals that could never happen with people who should never be in the company of such footballing aristocracy.

How long will the memories of past glories outshine today’s transgressions?

Like the night in 1984 when he almost single-handedly beat Barcelona and made Maradona look like a pub-team sub, the goal in 27 seconds against France in the 1982 World Cup, his curly-haired crusading for West Brom at the start of his career.

One abiding memory is of him playing for Manchester United against Wednesday at Hillsborough in the early 90s. He was coming to the end of his career and some of his tackles were about him getting there as soon as he could rather than getting in first.

Then a ball came to him on the touchline in front of the South Stand on the halfway line. There were four or five players scrapping for it when it came to him. He simply dropped his shoulder, half-turned, losing everyone, and flicked the most delicious pass along the chalk of the touchline with the outside of his left foot as he skipped into the air to avoid flailing Wednesday legs.

Simple, brilliant and a stunning example of the abundant gifts of England’s Captain Marvel. Nothing will dim the memories but his reputation is damaged for ever.