Remembering Johnny Bliss; Washington man’s part in Sir Bobby Robson charity success honoured a decade on

A man who fired up Sir Bobby Robson as he launched the specialist centre opened in his name has been remembered a decade on from the centre’s first day of offering cancer care.

Wednesday, 20th February 2019, 5:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 20th February 2019, 8:23 am
Johnny Bliss, from Washington, was 58 when he died of cancer.

Washington man Johnny Bliss and his fundraising efforts became the focus of an opening speech by the former England and Newcastle United manager as he unveiled the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.

It opened 10 years ago today, as Sir Bobby, who died in July of that year, gathered with his family, hospital staff and guests, including Alan Shearer and then England manager Fabio Capello, who presented a £75,000 from the Football Association.

Sir Bobby with Johnny Bliss, centre, as Johnny's family presented cash to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.

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Dad Johnny, who was married to Sheila, died the same year, aged 58, of pancreatic cancer.

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Read more: Man who raised thousands for football legend’s charity to be remember...

After thanking a wealth of people who had helped make the centre a reality, Sir Bobby told the audience: “Now I wasn’t really going to say much more, but there’s a certain guy who should be here today and he’s very unwell and couldn’t make it.

“He’s a guy who first wrote to me when we launched our foundation. 
“His name is Johnny Bliss. And it’s a fantastic name because that’s what he is.

Sir Bobby with Fabio Capello, on behalf of the Football Association, as it donated £75,000 on the day the Sir Bobby Robson Centre opened.

“He’s bliss.

“He wrote to me to tell me that he had cancer and had three months to live.

“That was seven months ago. He had raised some money, £8,500.”

He added: “What a fighter. He can play in my team I tell you.”

Sir Bobby officially opening the centre.

Shearer, who is now a patron of the foundation, today said: “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.”

The trial partnership launched in 2009 and is a collaboration of Cancer Research UK, the North of England Children’s Cancer Research Fund, Newcastle University and Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Lady Elsie and son, Andrew Robson, in the Sir Bobby Robson Centre this week.