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For Club & Country: Bobby Hope

26 November 2015

No Hope for Scotland

IN one decade, they asked how it was that the great Ray Barlow only collected a solitary England cap. When Bobby Hope finally left us, we were just as dumbfounded that one of the finest players ever to wear the stripes could have been so overlooked that he only won two caps for Scotland. Yes, two.

Bobby Hope was one of the many young Scots unearthed by Albion’s scouting system north of the border, coming down to The Hawthorns in 1959 after turning down the chance to play for Rangers. 

With a similar ability to pass the ball accurately over distance, Bobby took on the Ray Barlow mantle as the great cup team of the 1960s began to emerge, a side in which Hope was an absolute crucial element.

Hope was an absolute master of the football whose deft close control allowed him to manipulate the ball around the field according to his whim. Tony Brown and Jeff Astle owed a huge proportion of their goals to the Scotsman’s vision and his ability to put the ball exactly where they wanted it. 

Capable of unlocking defences with a sublime pass, Hope wasn’t afraid of putting his foot in either, more than willing to go and win the ball as well as use it once he’d got it. 

So why isn’t he surrounded by dozens of Scottish caps these days? Politics. Throughout the 1960s, pressure from the Glasgow media in particular meant that Scottish managers rarely picked many Anglo-Scots beyond the obvious likes of Denis Law and Billy Bremner who could have walked into any national side in Europe at that time. 

Instead, they preferred to pick from those who stayed home to play their football. Because of that, Bobby had to wait until the aftermath of Albion’s 1968 FA Cup win to get his first chance for his country. When it came, his debut ended disastrously as he came off injured early in the first half of a goalless draw against the Dutch in Amsterdam.

A second chance came in Copenhagen in October 1968, when Bobby played the full 90 minutes as the Scots beat Denmark by a single Bobby Lennox goal late in the second half. Despite the fact that Hope remained at the top of his form through that season, and was on the brink of a move to Highbury to join the Arsenal side that went on to claim the double in 1970/71, Bobby never got another opportunity to play for Scotland again, a travesty in an era when there was a national holiday if they won a corner, never mind got near qualifying for anything. 

There again, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. We were daft enough to sell him to Birmingham in May 1972. 

Twelve months later, we were relegated.

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