His professional playing career as an inside-forward spanned nearly 20 years, during which he played for three clubs: Fulham, West Bromwich Albion, and, briefly, Vancouver Royals. He also made 20 appearances for England, scoring four goals.
After his playing career he found success as both a club and international manager, winning league championships in both the Netherlands and Portugal, earning trophies in England and Spain, and taking England to the semi-final of the 1990 World Cup, which remains the national team's best run in a World Cup since 1966. His last management role was as a mentor to the manager of the Irish national football team.
Robson was created a Knight Bachelor in 2002, was inducted as a member of the English Football Hall of Fame in 2003, and was the honorary president of Ipswich Town. From 1991 onwards he suffered recurrent medical problems with cancer, and in March 2008, put his name and efforts into the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, a cancer research charity. In August 2008, his lung cancer was confirmed to be terminal; he said: "My condition is described as static and has not altered since my last bout of chemotherapy...I am going to die sooner rather than later. But then everyone has to go sometime and I have enjoyed every minute". He died just under a year later.