Kieron Dyer has spoken of the "massive influence" of Sir Bobby Robson on his life as he led the West Ham United tributes for a true legend of the game.
The England midfielder was told of Sir Bobby's death at the age of 76 just before the 2-0 defeat of Beijing Guoan in the Barclays Asia Trophy in China on Friday. Fittingly, Dyer was named man of the match.
A minute of silence was held for the former Newcastle United, Ipswich Town and England manager before the match, while the players and coaching staff wore black armbands to show their respect.
Dyer said: "He was a massive influence on my career - not just on the pitch but off the pitch. I got told five minutes before kick-off so it was quite a shock to the system. He had beaten cancer so many times. He was such a fighter, you thought he would go on until well into his hundreds. It wasn't to be.
"The minute's silence did overwhelm me and now I am just going to look at all the great memories he bought to my life and all the special bits like in team talks when he used to call me Kevin - he used to forget names a lot. Hopefully back home in England when there are games being played instead of a minute's silence there will be a minute's standing ovation with clapping to celebrate his life because what he has brought to the game of football is phenomenal.
"There are so many great memories and football is his life. You just have to go and look where Newcastle United are. He got sacked for taking us fifth in the Premier League and now they are in the Championship. He just loved football and he is going to be missed. My prayers are with his wife Elsie and his family.
"I played my best football under him. Off the pitch, he treated me like a son. We obviously had the Ipswich connection together so as soon as he was Newcastle manager he made a bee-line for me and took it upon himself to make sure I moved out of the notorious Quayside straight away to somewhere quiet. He was everything to me. A father figure to me and I am really going to miss him."
Zola said the game had lost one of its leading lights: "I have wonderful memories of Sir Bobby. He was a man I respected very much. What I liked about him was that he was always positive, always smiling. He has been a great ambassador for football in general. I pay my respects to him. He is a big loss for us."
Former West Ham striker Tony Cottee played under Sir Bobby with England. "This is upsetting news. Sir Bobby gave me my seven England caps but above all else he was a lovely man. I met him at a dinner towards the end of last year and he was in really good form. He was as friendly as ever. It is sad news for his family and also sad for the game of football. He will be much missed.
"Sir Bobby Robson was a worthy title for the man. I have nothing but respect for him. I had many good club managers but I was proud to say I played under him. Sir Alf Ramsey won the World Cup with England but Sir Bobby was right up there with him. He was penalty kicks away from the final in 1990. He was a wonderful manager, a great coach, but above everything else, he was a fantastic person."
West Ham United CEO Scott Duxbury added: "On behalf of everyone at the club, many of whom like myself have fond personal memories of Sir Bobby, I would like to send my sincere condolences to his family and friends. He gave so much to the game and his personality and professionalism should be an inspiration to us all."