Bryan 'Pop' Robson.
"The best uncapped player ever", that's what Jimmy Greaves called him.
My boyhood hero, a footballer who I idolised, it didn't matter what club shirt he wore he was my Pop he was, 'the best in the world'.
Well here's an insight into a gentleman who gave his all in his professional career, a forward who played for Newcastle, West Ham, Sunderland, Carlisle and Chelsea. A prolific centre-forward who never earned a full England International cap.
Bryan was born in Sunderland on the 11th November 1945, he moved to Prudhoe and Wesley Street a few houses away from my parents. He played football for Prudhoe West Primary School, and captained the under 11s. He went on to play for Clara Vale Juniors in his youth years, a Jack Clark alerted Sunderland to Bryan's ability, but when the Sunderland scout went to watch play. He reported back that "... Robson shows no potential".
Bryan got his nickname, 'Pop' after he and two mates named themselves after the, 'Rice Krispies characters 'Snap, 'Crackle' and 'Pop'. His moniker was to stick with him for his career.
Well Newcastle stepped in and in 1962 Bryan signed for Newcastle United, despite Bryan been a Mackem he soonest became a fans favourite at Newcastle. He made his debut on 1/9/64 against Charlton Athletic in the 2nd Division game and scored the winning goal in a 1:0 victory at The Valley.
The 64/65 season saw the Magpies finish as deserved champion's having been on top of the table for most of it. Bryan played in 20 of the games and hitting the net 7 times. He was played as a right winger, then he was moved into a more central position.
At 5ft 8" he wasn't the biggest of centre forwards, but that never stopped him in his dreams and ambitions.
Over the next couple seasons Bryan continued in the first team, his style of play was to get in the box and cause mayhem. With his little flick on headers, his cracking volleys and his drop shots that graced past the poor man between the sticks.
The 68/69 season the season that is entrenched in Newcastle supporters heads the last major football trophy to come over the Tyne Bridge. This is the one Bryan unleashed himself and will always have his name in the Newcastle history books. He hit the net 30 times in all competitions and was part of the team that won the Fairs Cup.
Bryan would continue to be top goal scorer until 1971. Having being at the club for 8 years and in contact talks he asked for a testimonial after 10 years to be included. The chairman at the time was William Westwood, who's neck and neck with popularity love as Mr Ashley. Westwood's eye patch probably slipped down with shock for a man of local origin to ask for such a clause in the contract. The request was turned down, and he himself had said that local homegrown talent was not recognised or appreciated as much as purchased players.
It didn't take Bryan long to put a transfer request in, next he's on his way to West Ham United for a record £120,000, in February 1971. He'd been told someone wanted to see him in the office after he scored the winner for Newcastle v Spurs, he was expecting Bill Nicholson the Spurs manager, but it was Ron Greenwood sitting there from West Ham. Bill had let Ron travel up in the Spurs team coach to talk to Bryan.
So Newcastle's top goal scorer was away to London he spent the best part of 9 years in a black and white shirt playing 206 games with 82 goals. I never got to see my boyhood hero in the famous colours of my team, but I'm indebted to my parents for speaking so highly of the man. That once I took notice of the beautiful game he was my first hero.
Bryan recalled saying, "I'd scored twice at the Boleyn Ground early that season and always enjoyed the atmosphere, as the punters were so close and West Ham had a great squad.
The goals kept coming for him down in the capital, 120 appearances and 47 goals in the first of his stints at West Ham between 1971-74. 28 stunning strikes during the 72/73 season. He topped the Football League scoring charts to win the golden boot award, but curiously no England call up.
In July 74, though Bryan returned North this time to his birthplace Sunderland. A £145,000 fee, he had been struggling with a virus and couldn't get his body back to peak fitness,also struggling with been down in London. He returned home but has always said he regrets that decision.
Back 'Up North', Bryan carried on where he left off in scoring goals and the investment paid off in him helping Sunderland be crowned 75/76 Division 2 champion's, and also a unbeaten home record.
Bryan didn't stop long and in October 76, John Lyall brought 'Pop', back to the Boleyn Ground. While he was away West Ham had won the FA Cup in 1975 and also had made the final of the 1976 European Cup Winners Cup. In the 76/77 season his 14 goals kept West Ham in the First Division, but sadly his 11 goals in the 77/78 season were not enough and relegation was the outcome for West Ham.
The 78/79 Division 2 season saw my hero smash the net 26 times, including a hat-trick in a 3:0 demolition of rivals Millwall. Bryan was also voted runner up in the Hammer of the year poll, to to the winner Alan Devonshire, another fantastic player who was a joy to watch.
In his 2nd spell at West Ham he arrived at St James' Park on the 16/04/77 in the claret and blue shirt. My first live professional game what a feeling to finally get to see my 'hero', for real. I've recalled the moment in my own personal blog. What I will say though is to see the likes of Mervyn Day, Billy Bonds, Frank Lampard, Trevor Brooking, Alan Devonshire and Alan Taylor of West Ham, will never be erased from my memory.
Bryan rejoined Sunderland in the summer of 1979, he missed out on another FA Cup Final with West Ham in 1980, poor man he had no luck at all with that trophy.
Bryan's return to Sunderland carried on again with him smashing the net again and inspired once more another return to the 1st Division, this time as runners up in the 1980 season. He only stopped 2 seasons 79-81,making 52 appearances and 23 goals.
Bryan's next adventure was to Carlisle United in 1981. Bob Stokoe was in charge at Carlisle, he went as player coach. Bryan played alongside Peter Beardsley and they achieved promotion in the 82 season.
From 81 to 85 he went from Sunderland to Carlisle, Carlisle to Chelsea, Chelsea to Carlisle (loan). Chelsea to Sunderland and then Sunderland back to Chelsea.
Bryan is remembered by the Sunderland fans most for his contribution to the last match of the season in the 83/84 season. Away to Leicester City, he was recalled to lead the forward attack at the 38 years and 182 days. He scored his last goal for the red and whites in a 2:0 victory, that saved them from relegation.
Bryan finished his football career with figures of 674 football league appearances and 265 goals.
After hanging up his boots he went on to coach at Hartlepool, Manchester United, Leeds United and then Sunderland till May 2004. In July 2011 he joined his old club Sunderland as the new chief scout. In April 2013 the then owner Ellis Short sacked Bryan and his entire scouting network.
When you have a boyhood hero that hero stops with you all your life, regardless of what team he plays for he's still your hero. My parents would talk for hours about the man, I wish I'd asked more about him and wrote it down.
A true professional and a gentleman one day I'll meet you again in person hopefully.