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24 September 2014
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Nottingham Forest

John Robertson
Forest legend John Robertson

Happy birthday Robbo

Article by Paul Evans
Reds fan Paul Evans pays homage to the Nottingham Forest legend John Robertson, who is 53 today.

Profile : Paul Evans

Paul Evans grew up in Nottingham before moving to London in the mid 1980s. He’s worked in publishing, politics and PR before helping to set up a web development company in 2002. He has twin children – both seven years old – and still follows Nottingham Forest with a mixture of passion and despair.

Like a lot of Forest fans, he spends longer hankering after their glory years than he should and he lives with one abiding nightmare: That his son, Martin, will grow up to support his local team – Tottenham Hotspurs. You can see his ‘Never Trust a Hippy’ weblog by clicking on the link on the right hand side of this page.

Lots of people have the same recurring nightmare. They're back at school, about to sit an exam. They turn over the paper and realise they know none of the answers.

And there are two hours and 59 minutes to go.

Footballers probably have their own version of this. Some right-backs that played in the old First Division, for example, certainly will. Put yourself in the shoes of one such defender for a minute. Picture the scene...

A sunny September afternoon in the mid-70s. You run out for what should be one of your easier away games. This lot only just scraped promotion last season. They’ve had a flukey couple of games and the manager’s a bit of a smart-arse, but even he probably won’t keep them up.

You look around. A few old journeymen. A couple of kids - that young striker looks a handful, but he’s not your problem. You only have to watch this dumpy little Scottish bloke.

The crowd are a bit weird as well. The only stand with seats in it is a bit quiet. It is packed with old blokes who are all looking at you.

They seem to be crouching. One of them even licked his lips. Weird.

If the first five minutes are anything to go by, this is going to be a picnic. Their only ploy is to work the ball out to Mr Useless, the one you have to mark if you can remember to do it. He looks a bit frightened of you - every time the ball goes near him, he gets rid of it.

But then something happens. Something that will still haunt you in your dotage.

The living dead in the seats all stand up at once. Has something happened? You look around - has a fight started off the ball perhaps? Maybe a bit of crowd trouble?

No. That little bloke has got the ball again. And he’s ambling towards you. The zombies in the Main Stand are all on their feet and saying the same thing.

"Skin 'im Robbo! Skin ‘im!"

You look behind you - goal side of you now. There he is! Cheeky little bugger!

John Robertson
JR in Forest's glory days.

Thankfully, he’s slow enough to catch. A few seconds later, you’re back goal side of him again. Turn to face him now. He may need a quick boot in the shins to teach him some manners.

But he’s not there again. You turn left, and you see a red blur over your right shoulder. So you turn right, and he’s behind you to your left.

Next thing you know, you’re sitting on your bum and the ground has erupted. One Nil. And your dugout are giving you daggers. And there are 85 more minutes of this to look forward to.

Congratulations. You just met the unsung hero of 20th century football. The rest is history.

Today is his birthday. Neither I, nor you dear reader, are even fit to wipe his bottom.

The rent-a-gobs that commentate on the modern game may have forgotten him. Those who played against him never will. They’re still sleeping with one eye open.

Happy Birthday John. I hope you have plenty more of them. And may the giving hand never falter.

last updated: 24/01/07
 
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