Club News

BOWLER’S DELIVERY: There’s only one Bryan Robson

Alli has a long way to go…

IT’S been a week – a season – where Tottenham’s Dele Alli has been catching the eye and receiving the plaudits, culminating in England manager Roy Hodgson suggesting that he could even become the new Bryan Robson.

Now, as anyone who remembers watching us in the late 1970s and early 1980s will recognise, that’s fighting talk from the former Albion boss because, for all that Robson’s reputation amongst the Throstletariat was a little tarnished by his defection to Manchester United, those that can still see his Albion career with a clear eye will surely recognise that he was not only one of our greatest ever players, but one of England’s too.

There was simply nothing that Bryan could not do, particularly once he had survived that quite literally shattering year that saw him suffer three leg fractures.

The fact that he overcame such adversity so early in his career speaks volumes for his character, character that he put out on the pitch week after week after week.

Such were his gifts that he played in pretty well every outfield position for the Albion and didn’t simply acquit himself well in each, he made himself the star of the show.

So good was Bryan that in an Albion side dripping with magnificent gifts and enthralling talents – Cunningham, Statham, Regis, Tony Brown – and consistently enduring professionals – Wile, Robertson, Cantello, Batson, Ally Brown, Godden – week upon week, it was Robson who was the man of the match, often head and shoulders above even that stellar company.

Robson was an eight out of ten or more every single game, 50 or more of them a season. Utterly dependable in the mould of Wile and Robertson, he was also genuinely explosive in the way of Regis.

He would win a crunching tackle on the edge of his own penalty area, feed the ball out to Statham or on to Cunningham, pick himself up, go sprinting 80 yards forward and then arrive on the edge of the opposition penalty area with the same exquisite timing of Bomber to crack another effort goalwards.

Some 46 goals in 259 games is a magnificent ratio, all the better when you recall that he played plenty of games at centre-half too, a position many considered to be his best and most natural before it became obvious that he was simply so talented that you were wasting 50% of his ability by requiring him to stay in his own half.

Robson, quite simply, had the lot. He was strong, quick, a good passer over long and short distances, decisive in the tackle, powerful in the air, a consummate reader of the game, a great finisher and a real leader of men. Small wonder that we couldn’t hold on to him forever.

For Bryan suffered from one disadvantage compared with Dele Alli, and it was on the international stage. He played for us, not a London club, nor one of the powers from Manchester and Liverpool.

Look at the 10 men I’ve named above who accompanied him in and around that great 1978/79 season. Between them, their Albion careers saw them amass 11 international caps, a scandal.

birthday when he left West thBryan himself, the best player in the country for three full seasons before he left us for Old Trafford, collected only 13 caps at the Albion and, ludicrously, missed out on the European Championships of 1980. He was three months short of his 25Bromwich, nearly five years older than Alli currently is. The Tottenham man already has six caps. If you want the reason for Robson’s departure, there it is.

Dele Alli is clearly a very gifted young footballer with the potential to go on and have a glittering career. But he has enough to contend with in just playing the game without saddling the poor lad with Robson comparisons.

Alli he might be, but it’s Robson who was the greatest.