It was with much anticipation that I first heard of Mark Sanderson and his upcoming biography of ’76 hero Bobby Stokes.
Aptly titled ‘The man from Portsmouth who scored Southampton’s most famous goal’, there is an air of mysticism about Stokes and how he bridged a gap between two cities so often at each other’s throats.
I asked Mark about whether anyone these days could become a hero in red and white stripes, but also maintain the respect and love of his rival home town?
MS ‘Bobby Stokes is one of several Pompey lads who have gone on to play for Saints – from Steve Mills to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Ward-Prowse. Far fewer have done the opposite. Perhaps the most notable example was Bitterne Park schoolboy Darren Anderton, who was part of the Pompey side that lost to Liverpool on penalties in the 1992 FA Cup semi-final. Although none of these players have had as much impact for either club as Bobby’s winning goal for Southampton in the 1976 FA Cup Final. Bobby remained a Pompey lad, but he had a special relationship with Southampton – his funeral was in Porchester, but his ashes were scattered at The Dell. ‘
If like me you spent your formative years in the early 1990’s you will be familiar with an incredibly funny duo whose collection of comic characters and sketches are fondly remembered by us all.
You will have swung your pants with The Singing Corner, wondered which hapless celebrity was going to enrage barbers Ken and Eddie Kennedy and enjoyed some Pot Fish sponsored rave nights all from the comfort of your living room on a Saturday morning. Though you may have watched them religiously every week like I did, you may, as I was be ignorant to the fact that Trevor Neal of ‘Trevor & Simon’ fame is a Saint just like us.
I read an article Trevor had written for the Huffington Post in which he spoke of meeting Paul Weller in Debenhams in the city during the 70’s and I wondered then if he might be red an white, this was later confirmed when I saw some tweets of his in which he mentioned Saints.
I was lucky enough to catch some time with Trevor and talk about his life as a Saint.
When did you know you were a Saints fan?
TN ‘I grew up in Southampton and lived there until I was 18 – it was the natural way of things to support The Saints (although before I was old enough to know better in 1972, aged 9 years old, I have to confess that I owned a Leeds United kit (sorry!) – but I think that was only because I liked the sock tabs with numbers on!). My dad was a police dog handler in Southampton and he was occasionally on duty at The Dell (ask your grandparents, kids!) so when I was very young he used to bring home team autographs, which was always very exciting. When I was about 12 years old I went to see the Saints play at the Dell with some school mates and we loved it. We started going regularly after that and used to go and stand in what they called “the chocolate boxes” because as I remember, that’s where families and younger supporters would watch the games. Later we joined the Milton Road end terrace where the main singing and chanting happened. I remember it being really good fun – but this was the 1970s – so being quite young and small it was a bit scary at times too. I remember things getting a bit “lively” at times – particularly when Man United visited.’
Who have been your favourite characters involved with the club over the years? Any you’d think would make good comedy performers?
TN ‘I have to admit I had a bit of a break following football from about 1977, when I discovered Punk Rock and girls, until about the year 2000 when a mate encouraged me to join a Fantasy Football league – so it would be dishonest to pretend I was anything but a part-time supporter really! Anyway I won the Fantasy Football League that season with my team – (which was called Treverton – nothing to do with Everton – just a daft pun) and my star striker was Marians Pahars. I also had Wayne Bridge in defence. The prize money for winning the league was £50 – but I never received it – otherwise I would definitely owe it all to those key Saints players! When I was a kid, players like Ron Davies, Terry Paine and Mick Channon were favourites. In 1976, following the FA cup win, I lined the streets of Southampton to congratulate the team with everyone else, holding a banner which I’d made out of an old bed sheet, proudly aloft which read “Laurie’s Miracle Men”. I think some other fans were a bit miffed that I was suggesting the win was a “miracle” and not through sheer skill and determination – which it obviously was as well – but I still think there was a hint of the miracle about the whole occasion! Bobby Stokes will always be a favourite for that reason. During that season I remember me and my mates used to think the substitute Hugh Fisher was a bit of a comedy performer – but we were just cheeky teenagers and I’m sure it was completely unfair!’
Having performed all over the country, has football and supporting Saints got you into any trouble on stage?
TN ‘Football has never really got me into any trouble at all – I’ve never taken it that seriously – but whenever I have performed in and around the Portsmouth area – I know how to wind up the audience!’
Do you get to St. Mary’s much?
TN ‘I’m ashamed to say that I have never visited St Mary’s. I live in Broadstairs now in East Kent, which is nearer to Belgium than Southampton, so I don’t visit my old home often these days. My son is an Arsenal supporter (don’t blame me!) so a friend arranged for me to take him to watch Saints play Arsenal at the Emirates a few seasons ago – it was a difficult day for me. I was surrounded by Gunners cheering and celebrating as they beat Saints 6-1. My son thought it was the best day ever.’
Do you think Saints can achieve European Football this season?
TN ‘Why not? They were more closely in the running a few months back maybe but I’d like to think it could still happen. Doesn’t look like anyone’s going to catch Chelsea but there’s still room for a bit of change below them. It would be fantastic if they can do it – like 1976. If they do I’ll pull the sheet off my bed and make another banner – “Ronald’s Miracle Men”’
I think Simon is a Manchester City fan, not many bragging rights for you at the moment, but both clubs have had some ups and downs over the years, did you console each other trough it or take the mick?
TN ‘We’re both similar in that we’ve come back to football late in life. Simon was a childhood City fan in the days of Mike Summerbee. He’s very passionate about City now but neither of us take it seriously enough to worry about any rivalry. We gently tease each other sometimes and occasionally we even back each other’s side but only when they’re playing against Chelsea or United!’
What would Ken and Eddie have made of Kevin Keegan’s haircut?
TN ‘When Roger Daltrey visited Ken and Eddie’s barber shop they were offended when he asked for a perm in reverse because of course they “don’t do perms” backwards or forwards – but I think a Reverse Perm is what Kevin would need.’
‘Kevin Keegan had the ultimate “footballer’s haircut” – his hair was shaped like a football.’
Trev & Simon, along with Sophie Aldred (Ace in Dr Who), are launching a new comedy sci-fi audio podcast called Strangeness in Space – full details at www.strangenessinspace.com, check it out!
Another ‘Played for Both’ team, another serious lack of defenders (or for that matter a complete team). You will have to excuse some poetic license in this one, with regards peoples positions and err.. questionable playing history. But believe me, no one would want to lineup with one at back, especially if that one was Danny Higginbotham….
Local Southampton boy Harry Moger signed for his hometown club in 1900 but was never first choice at the Dell, Saints loss was Manchester United’s gain when they took him in 1903. He played over 240 times for the Red Devils and was a league winner twice and FA Cup winner once. He was also part of the United team that won the first ever Charity Shield in 1908. Passed away in Manchester in 1927. R.I.P.
Technically a midfielder, Teesider Williams played for local club Middlesbrough as a youth before signing a professional contract with United in 1976, he didn’t kick a ball in anger for the club though and was promptly released a year later. After a couple of seasons in non-league football he was given a second chance by Lawrie McMenemy, he was quickly loaned to Exeter City for experience before coming back to Saints. He made just 6 appearances at the Dell before leaving for Stockport County in 1979. Has the dubious honour of making one of the worst Saints XI’s in our previous feature:- ‘Saints in our Lives’. Now works for the PFA and is a youth coach for Wigan Athletic.
Manc Higginbotham realised his dreams when he signed a professional contract at Old Trafford in 1997 having been a youth player with the club. After being farmed out to Royal Antwerp and being involved in a controversial incident with a referee he returned to Manchester and played four times for the first team. It was clear he was never going to be a regular though and was sold to Derby County for £2 million in 2000. Having impressed with the Rams in both the Premier League and the Championship Saints made their move in January 2003. He was an unused sub in the 2003 cup final, unable to displace the duo of Lundekvam and Svensson, but played more regularly in the subsequent seasons. With Saints dropping to the championship in 2005, Higginbotham let his contract expire and left the club for Stoke City in the summer of 2006. Has since had a spell at Sunderland, a second at Stoke and brief stints with Forest and Ipswich before signing for Sheffield United this month.
Another who isn’t really a defender, glaswegian McCalliog was a youth at Leeds United before signing for Chelsea in 1963. After highly successful periods with Sheffield Wednesday and Wolves, United paid £60,000 to take him to Old Trafford. He was part of the United side that were both relegated to the 2nd division, but also bounced straight back up again at the first attempt, but was sold to Saints for £45,000 in 1975. McCalliog came back to haunt United manager Tommy Docherty, playing a perfectly timed through ball for the onside Bobby Stokes to score the only goal of the ’76 cup final. McCalliog headed to the States in 1977 and had a brief stint as a manager with Halifax Town in 1990.
Errr…. Ok, I was struggling at this point, but he did play for Saints in Matthew Le Tissier’s 2001 testimonial. It counts. It’s my rules.
Seeing as Hughes made the Everton side too, I will keep this brief. Illustrious career as a striker with United, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, United again, Chelsea. Hideous spell as a midfielder for Saints.
Kanchelskis left his Ukranian home to join United in 1991 for the princely sum of £650,000. It was money well spent as he terrorised Premier League full backs for four seasons, but after a rumoured fall out with Sir Alex Ferguson he was moved on to Everton in 1995. Via a spell at Fiorentina he ensured he would be the answer to the most asked football trivia question of all time by signing for Rangers in 1998. After a highly successful period at Ibrox and a brief loan at Manchester City he signed for Saints in 2002. It was an odd signing and a once great Premier League player was a shadow of his former self, making just two brief substitute appearances. Now the manager of FC Ufa in the Russian second division.
Londoner Wallace joined Saints as a youth player in 1977 and turned pro in 1980. Made his debut at Old Trafford aged just 16, coming off the bench to replace Kevin Keegan. This was a record broken since by only Theo Walcott and Gareth Bale. Wallace was a fans favourite at the Dell, his pace and skill complimented with some fantastic goals. He was joined in the Saints team for the 1988/89 season by brothers Ray and Rodney but was attracted to the Ferguson revolution at United and headed for Old Trafford in the summer of 1989. He had played over 300 times for Saints. Although he didn’t quite live up to his reputation at United he did rack up a few medals and played for the club 47 times before moving to Birmingham City. Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1996, Wallace has embarked on many charity ventures including the London Marathon. Makes the small list of players to have played just once for England, but scoring in that appearance.
Welshman Davies is a legend at St. Mary’s, scoring 134 goals in 240 games after joining the club from Norwich City in 1965. He was considered the best striker around by Sir Matt Busby in 1967, a high accolade indeed. Unfortunately injures started to hamper Davies, the result of his physical combatant style and he lost his place in the Saints team. He crossed the South Coast divide in 1973 and signed for Portsmouth before heading to Old Trafford the following season. He made little impact at United and went on loan to Millwall before retiring in 1975.
After establishing himself as part of the fantastic Leeds team of the mid-70’s the Scotsman made the jump to Old Trafford in 1978. Scoring 37 goals in 109 games for United, Jordan was another physical striker and made the move from top English league player to top export when he moved AC Milan in 1981. He stayed at the San Siro for two seasons, and was highly regarded despite the club being relegated to Serie B in his second and last campaign. He moved to Verona that summer but the goals dried up and he headed back to Blighty and Southampton in 1984. Back on form Jordan scored 12 goals in 48 games for Saints before moving to Bristol City in 1987. After some questionable management periods he has become a mainstay of Harry Redknapp’s coaching team with Portsmouth, Spurs and now QPR. Oddly he didn’t follow Redknapp to Saints in 2004/05 and stayed at Portsmouth (perhaps he saw what was coming).
Journeyman MacDougall can name 18 clubs that he represented in his career including both United and Saints. Having started his career with Liverpool, he made a name for himself scoring plenty of goals for both York City and Bournemouth which led United to pay £200,000 for him in 1972. Despite scoring on his debut MacDougall didn’t last the season and was sold to West Ham. After not quite finding his feet at the Hammers either he found his scoring boots again at Norwich City, but soon found himself on the move again joining Saints for £50,000 in 1976. He helped Saints retain their place in the top division but MacDougall favoured staying in the lower leagues and returned to Bournemouth in 1978. Now a coach in the United States.
So there it is, I know I really pushed the acceptable boundaries this time, but amazing how few players there were post-war era. As usual, would love to hear of any other suggestions!
“Whoever it was really shouldn’t have thrown that coin at Mark Dennis.” – Steve Moran talking about his last gasp winner at Fratton Park in 1984. Time had been added on because of treatment to Dennis who had been hit by a coin from the Pompey crowd.
30th January 1951, a hospital in Paulsgrove on the Portsmouth to Southampton Road, a boy is born who would have unwanted fame heaped upon him as the unlikely hero of a famous cup upset.
Robert William Thomas Stokes was a talent at school and county level in Hampshire (he scored fifty three goals in one season for Hillside Junior School and played seven times for England Youth) and it was fully expected that he would sign for his boyhood heroes at Fratton Park. Legend has it though that he failed a trial with Pompey and was forced to look elsewhere, others believe he chose Saints over Pompey because of their youth team (or lack thereof) at the time.
Either way, Stokes would start his career with the arch rivals of his hometown team. He had a modest start to his life at the Dell, but did score on his first team debut against Burnley in 1969. He wouldn’t become a regular until the 1971/72 season and was considered an important member of the team from then on. Despite never being a prolific goalscorer and being relegated with the club in 1974, he will always be regarded as a Southampton hero. @MiltonRoadEnd was a fan “Underrated, probably because he was playing alongside the likes of Davies, Channon, Paine & Osgood. Always gave 100%.”
When he struck gold for Saints in the eighty second minute of the 1976 FA Cup final, it was to be both the highlight of his career and perhaps the beginning of the end of it. Famously a shy man, Stokes would never need buy a drink again, and the spotlight that he was suddenly in was not suited to him. The reward for scoring the first goal in the final was a car, and legend has it, that Bobby who couldn’t drive booked lessons for after the final just in case.
Stokes struggled for form in the subsequent season after cup success and made just eleven appearances for the first team, scoring just one goal.
Upon leaving the Dell Stokes would find himself in familiar surroundings, back in his hometown. Stokes would make twenty nine appearances for Pompey and score three goals (though by now he was playing more in midfield) as the blues ended a shocking season bottom of Division Three.
Stokes Pompey career was over almost as soon as it started with the Fratton crowd not taking to the man who had left their town and performed heroics for “scum”. Pompeydiehard remembers “Bobby was a great shy lad ,we grew up together played in the same school side and at Hants level. He went to Saints instead of Pompey as they never had a youth policy in those distant days. I spoke to him when he joined Pompey in the seventies, he said Dickinson came in for him and his own club didn’t seem to want him to stay. Think he couldn’t really settle at the Park after being at yours for so long. Never really worked out for him here.”
Stokes left Fratton Park the following summer and joined a growing list of European players who headed to the United States and the evolving North American Soccer League. He signed for Washington Diplomats and became a team mate of Johan Cruyff’s. He played four seasons in Washington before heading back to Hampshire and signing for Waterlooville. He would further play for Cheltenham Town and Chichester City before calling it a day in 1981.
Stokes ran a pub in Portsmouth before working in the Harbour View cafe. He was often tracked down by journalists, usually around cup final time, and despite his modest earnings, never charged a penny for his time. A regular in the stands at both the Dell and Fratton Park he was granted a testimonial year with Saints in 1994, but after a lengthy battle with drink Stokes passed away in 1995 of bronchial pneumonia aged just 44.
“I don’t wear my medal around my neck but I’ll happily recall every detail of the match with anyone who has 90 minutes to spare. It was the best day of my life.” – Bobby Stokes February 1995.
R.I.P. Bobby Stokes
Pompey boy, Saints star.
1951 – 1995
Channon, nice touch again, McCalliog, oh look at this, Bobby Stokes, did well, Oh and it’s there…
1st May 1976, Wembley Stadium, The greatest day in the history of Southampton Football Club, when Larie McMenemey’s second division side downed the might of Manchester United’s star laded team with Bobby Stokes 82nd minute goal. The Queen clearly knew she would never see the likes again and hasn’t attended an FA Cup final since!