Super Bob, man of the century
Albion’s greats keep on posting new milestones and here comes another one. On February 3rd, Bob Taylor will make many of us feel very old indeed by reaching his 50th birthday.
Or if that one is too much to cope with, what about it being 25 years today since he made his Albion debut? No, doesn’t feel any better…
Most of you won’t need too much reminding of Bob’s Albion career, 131 goals across 377 games, many of them scored when the club was at its lowest ebb, the last of them, fittingly enough, struck to return us to our proper place in the top flight, a place that many of us feared we might never see again.
In the early 1990s, Bob, brought to the Albion by Bobby Gould, was the beacon around whom we gathered for hope as we played in the third tier for the first time, enduring two seasons in the wastelands before, under Ossie Ardiles, it was Bob’s ridiculous 37 goal campaign that at least put us back on the road to redemption as we clambered back into the second level of the English game.
For all that Bob was in his prime through the early ‘90s, I’d argue that his claim to Albion greatness rests with his Second Coming, when he returned here in March 2000 after a brief hiatus at Bolton Wanderers. Indeed, I think that you can make a very strong case that even now, Bob is the most significant Albion player of the 21st century.
Think about it. When he returned on March 23rd 2000, the Throstles were hurtling towards the oblivion that is the third tier of English football, back to where we’d spent those two life draining campaigns in the early 1990s. Had Albion made that drop, who knows what kind of club we’d have now, or even if we’d have one at all.
But Gary Megson’s “Famous Five” deadline day signings were his antidote to the relegation blues and while Des little, Tony Butler, Georges Santos and Neil Clement all did their bit that year, it was the return of Super Bob that ignited the revival.
Goals against Barnsley and Bolton helped get us draws, a brace against Grimsby won three points and put our fate in our hands as we went to the last day. A win over Charlton and we were home. And who clinched it? Bob with a second goal five minutes after Richard Sneekes had given us the lead. Five goals in eight games from Taylor were the key to survival. No Bob, no survival.
The arrival of Jason Roberts that summer saw Bob playing second fiddle in a campaign that ended in the play-offs up at Bolton, but the departure of Lee Hughes to Coventry and injuries to Roberts saw Bob back in the forefront as we slowly hunted Wolves down in 2002.
A late, poached goal gave us a win at Forest and the belief that we could do it. An early opportunistic strike saw off Coventry, just hours after Wolves had lost at home to Manchester City and you could hear Molineux splintering from here. A goal against Rotherham kept us on target, then it was Bob, tumbling in the area, who won that penalty at Bradford.
And finally, with the Premier League so close we could smell it, it was Taylor, chasing in a Clement free-kick, who put the ball and the Baggies over the line. A year later, he was gone, but the legacy of his achievements remain in the Albion you see in the top half of the Premier League today.
Super Bob Taylor, top Throstle. Happy birthday Robert.