Book Review: Bobby Stokes: The man from Portsmouth who scored Southampton’s most famous goal by Mark Sanderson

Whenever FA Cup Final day comes around each season, you can be sure that a montage of winning goals from the Final’s down the years will be shown on television.

The games are invariably tight, tense affairs and so often the day is won with just a single strike. Take the last ten Finals from 2006/07 (Chelsea vs. Manchester United) to 2015/16 (Manchester United vs. Crystal Palace) – five of these games finished 1-0. Inevitably the scorer becomes feted as the hero, with their name going down in the history books.

Bobby Stokes is one of those who will be remembered as scoring the winning goal in the FA Cup Final.

On Saturday 01 May 1976, First Division Manchester United played Second Division Southampton. United had finished third that season and Saints in sixth spot and the club from Manchester were red-hot favourites. However, with extra-time looking increasingly likely, on eighty-three minutes, a flicked ball inside from Mike Channon to Jim McCalliog was put through over the top of the United defence, which Bobby Stokes hit first-time low beyond the despairing dive of Alex Stepney in the United goal. The winning goal.

Sadly, just nineteen years later and aged just 44 Bobby Stokes died.

In Bobby Stokes: The man from Portsmouth who scored Southampton’s most famous goal, author Mark Sanderson is clear in stating that, “the book is not an analysis of every game Bobby ever played in, nor is it a blow-by-blow account of his entire life; that would be tricky, as sadly Bobby is no longer with us to re-tell it”, but adds, “he is brought to life in this book through the eyes of those who knew him, it is their voices and memories that tell the story”.

It is a story which takes the reader through from Bobby growing up in the Portsmouth stronghold of Paulsgrove, his playing career in England and in America, his life after football and his untimely death in 1995, through those that knew Bobby Stokes.

He was a Pompey fan growing up and he seemed destined to play for the club, but ironically was taken on by rivals Southampton as an apprentice instead, making his debut for them in 1969. Playing colleagues talk of his industry and goal scoring talent during his Saints career of which 1976 was the pinnacle. Within 12 months he moved on to sign for Portsmouth in what was a brief and difficult period for Pompey. The USA loomed next for Stokes and he played in the summer months in the North American Soccer League (NASL) for the Washington Diplomats, where he lined up with and against such world stars as Pele and Johann Cruyff. Those spells were his last as a professional as when he returned to the UK in the winter months he turned out for non-league teams, Waterlooville, Cheltenham Town and Chichester City.

Once he finished playing Stokes became a pub landlord, as many footballers did then. However, this was not a success and his life became more difficult as he separated from his wife and ended up working in his cousin’s harbour side café in Portsmouth. Then on 30 May 1995 Bobby Stokes died of bronchial pneumonia.

The perception from the book is that Bobby Stokes was a decent guy, nobody has a bad word to say about him, and that he wasn’t one to boast about the Cup Final winning goal. It gives an impression that he wasn’t one for the limelight, and given that this book has to create a picture of the man through others words, he feels perhaps unsurprisingly ethereal.

The author wanted the book to, “serve as a sympathetic, but hopefully objective assessment of Bobby’s life and career”. It is certainly sympathetic, since Sanderson only ever hints at the issues that Bobby Stokes suffered after his playing days ended and which led to his sad death. It could be viewed that it is perhaps too sympathetic in that the problems of Stokes’ later life could have been made more explicit as a lesson for others to heed. However, it serves as a timely reminder of the issues that players face once their playing days are over, then and now.

Bobby Stokes will forever be linked with FA Cup Final history and this book is a fitting tribute to the man who scored the winning goal that day and of football in a very different era.

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Book Review: Hard Case: The Autobiography of Jimmy Case with Andrew Smart

During my teenage years, Liverpool were the dominant team in England winning numerous domestic and European titles. Part of that side was Jimmy Case a Scouser with a reputation as a hard man.

However, it is all too easy to forget that he was also a player with a great deal of skill. If proof was needed then one only needs to checkout his goal in the 1977 FA Cup Final against Manchester United. Early in the second-half a ball is played into the box and Case with his back to goal, controls it on his right thigh, takes a touch with his right foot, turns and smashes it beyond the reach of Alex Stepney the Manchester United keeper. Quite simply a great goal executed with skill.

That game back in May 1977 opens the book, in a first chapter which looks at not only that appearance for Liverpool, but also for Brighton in the 1983 Final, when again Manchester United were the opponents.

The next ten chapters then take the reader through Case’s life in chronological order, from his childhood days growing up in Liverpool to retirement and a brief spell in management.

These chapters cover Case’s schooldays, his early adulthood training to be an electrician and his time playing for The Blue Union and Stevedores Dockers Social Club, before moving into the professional game with spells at Liverpool, Brighton (twice), Southampton, Bournemouth and Halifax Town. Case’s brief time playing for Wrexham, Darlington and Sittingbourne with managerial stints at Brighton and Bashley, is also covered. As you might expect the chapters are liberally sprinkled with tales of the trophy wins and losses, and anecdotes of events on and off the pitch.

Within two of the final three chapters, Case has the chance to look at the modern game and Liverpool in the 2013/14 season, offering his opinion on both. The final chapter provides the reader with tributes to Jimmy Case from those within the game.

This is the story of a player who perhaps never got the credit he deserved for what he brought to teams he was involved in. Certainly the fact that he didn’t earn a single senior cap irks Case and is probably justified as he was as good as anybody around during his pomp.

It is football from a different era and the book has that old fashioned feel and format to it. The conversational and anecdotal style reminds me of the football autobiographies I grew up reading. However, that isn’t a criticism; it’s simply that the game and the books written about it have moved on.


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Leeds United FA Cup 1972 (Part 1)

“On what grounds are you applying to read English at Liverpool of all places?” my mystified English teacher asked me. How could I tell him the grounds were Anfield and Goodison Park?

I was studying at Liverpool University the year Leeds United won the Cup. I had applied there for the sole reason that Leeds played in the city twice a year (London, with five games, had turned me down). I wasn’t able to get back for the Third Round tie against Bristol Rovers but when we were drawn at Liverpool, it made my going there worthwhile.

A group of us went to the match and arrived at the ground as soon as the gates opened at midday. That might seem a little keen for a 3.00 pm kick off but the match was not all ticket and by one o’clock, the Anfield Road Stand was completely full with a majority of Leeds fans separated from a large minority of Scousers by the thin blue line of Bobbies. Sways and surges up and down the terracing meant that we lost one friend, carried off by a particularly high wave. We didn’t see him again until in the pub afterwards. My main memory of a close, tense affair was being sandwiched in the packed terraces of a 56,000 crowd, with no possibility of moving anywhere. Somebody nearby had a pork pie dashed from his hands and I spent an entire 45 minutes sliding around on its gristly lubrication before somehow escaping to dry land. It was not a great match but we survived to take them back to Elland Road.

The replay was an afternoon kick off so because of the ‘Three Day week’. I had to forego the pleasures of Charles Dickens and also of the Metaphysical poets. Lectures had to somehow manage without me as I desperately thumbed a lift home. Since the fair city of Liverpool invented the ‘sickie’, it was only right for me to employ one on this occasion. The match ended in 2-0 win, we were the better team and it was goodbye to our friends from Merseyside.

Success in the Fifth Round gave us a home tie against Tottenham, the last team to beat us in any competition. Much has been said and written about the thumpings Leeds gave Manchester United and Southampton prior to the Cup game. Yes, they were thumpings but for me the win against Spurs was the best that team ever played because Tottenham Hotpsur were a good side and they actually played very well. Leeds were magnificent and stormed back after conceding a fluky goal. Birmingham City were then swept aside in the Semi-Final and that set up an encounter with the previous season’s double winners, Aresenal.


Author: Graeme Garvey

2010/11: The Sack Race

The first International “break” is upon us and a manager who will have time on his hands having felt the weight of expectation of his board is Alan Pardew at Southampton. In a previous posting on this site (titled, “Where’s the Logic?”) I questioned the reasoning of the sacking of Kevin Blackwell and suggested that it may have been a bit harsh.

However, the axing at St. Mary’s seems even more baffling. Last season Southampton overcame a ten point deficit and had a decent league run that saw them just miss out on the play-offs. Pardew also took the Saints to Wembley and the team lifted silverware in the shape of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. This season they suffered an opening day loss at home to Plymouth, but have picked up since them and their last game was a 4-0 away win at Bristol Rovers. The Board then decides to trot out the following statement, “…the club has decided that, to achieve its well known targets, it is essential to make changes to the management…We recognise that frequent changes to the football long term stability and progress for our football operations management are unlikely to assist in the winning of trophies and promotions…However, we are taking these steps to achieve our aims, which we share with all supporters, to get promoted this season…”. Perhaps it’s me, but I find the comments rather contradictory. It maybe that there are some other underlying problem at the club than wouldn’t be made public. However, how many managers have been sacked after such a convincing away win?

More madness will ensue today with the closure of the transfer window. Rumours will abound as to who is going where with “confirmed” sightings of players in airports, training grounds, the local Tesco et all, passed off as concrete evidence of a players new destination. 

Just to finish I’d like to give a mention to the Non League day campaign (site below).

With the break due to the International fixtures, its aim is to encourage supporters to get to a non-league game this Saturday. There is a map (from the Find a Club tab), which is useful in that you can put in your postal address and it shows details of fixtures local to you. For me this Saturday I’ll be off to see the Evo-Stik First Division North fixture between Garforth Town and Lancaster City. Enjoy!