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A-Z of West Midlands Football

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: March 12, 2014

By Tony Matthews

Bruce and Neil Rioch on signing for Villa

Bruce and Neil Rioch on signing for Villa

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BRUCE RIOCH was born in Aldershot, Hampshire in September 1947. After moving to Bedfordshire with his parents at the age of 14, he joined his then local team, Luton Town, turning professional at Kenilworth Road in September 1964. He took a couple of years to establish himself in the Hatters' first team and was outstanding, scoring 24 goals, when the Hatters won the Fourth Division title in 1968.

He moved to Aston Villa in July 1969 for a fee of £100,000, then a record fee paid by a Second Division side, and two years later picked up a League Cup runner's-up medal when Villa lost 2–0 to Tottenham Hotspur.

After netting 37 goals in 176 first-class games for Villa, Bruce moved to Derby County in February 1974, winning a League Championship medal virtually straightaway.

He joined Everton in December 1976, only to return to Derby in September 1977. After a dispute with Rams' manager, Tommy Docherty, Bruce had loan spells with Birmingham City in December 1978 (three games) and with Sheffield United in March 1979. He then left the Baseball Ground to play for NASL side Seattle Sounders. While in the States, he was named to the NASL First Team All-Stars in 1980.

He returned to England in October 1980 when he joined Torquay United as player-coach, working at first under Mike Green and then under Frank O'Farrell. Thereafter he managed, in turn, FC Seattle/USA, Middlesbrough, Millwall, Bolton Wanderers, Arsenal, Norwich City, Wigan Athletic and two clubs in Denmark, Odense Boldklub and Aalborg BK.

Capped 24 times by Scotland, Bruce netted 133 goals in 608 club games and was in charge of 825 matches as a manager. Since March 2010, he has run training sessions at the ground of Cornish non-League club Falmouth Town, near to his home.

NEIL RIOCH, brother of Bruce (above), was at Villa Park between September 1969 and May 1975, during which time he scored three goals in just 25 first team appearances.

Born in Paddington, London in April 1951, he was also an apprentice at Luton Town and moved to Villa Park in the same deal involving his brother. Unable to secure a regular place in the first XI he went on loan to Portland Timbers/NASL, York City and Northampton Town before transferring to Plymouth Argyle in May 1975.

Further spells in the NASL followed, first with Atlanta Chiefs and then with Toronto Blizzard, preceded a brief stint with Southend United.

Later manager of Aston Villa Old Stars, Neil was also a fine cricketer and could well have made the grade with the small red ball rather than the larger one!

JACK RIX was a very useful and, indeed, reliable and dedicated left-half who made 68 first class appearances for Albion whom he served for twelve years.

Born in the North-East of England, at Lintz, Bursopfield in July 1908, he represented Durham Schools and played for Lintz Colliery before joining Albion as a professional in November 1927.

Mainly a reserve at The Hawthorns, he eventually left the Baggies for Lincoln City in a £500 plus player deal involving Ernie Hoyland in May 1939. Forced to retire in May 1942, he returned to live and work in West Bromwich until his death.

Unspectacular but a worthy performer, he won a junior international cap for England in 1928, gained three successive Central League championship medals (1932–35 inclusive) and played in 198 second-team games for Albion (three goals scored), and he never grumbled about being a reserve! Jack died in May 1979.

BILLY ROBB kept goal for Birmingham in 45 competitive games. Born near Glasgow in March 1895, he joined Blues from Kirkintillock Rob Roy in January 1914, leaving at the end of the following season to sign for Scottish non-League club Armadale.

After playing as a guest for Third Lanark during the Great War, he was signed by Glasgow Rangers in April 1920 and in June 1926 moved to Hibernian. Surprisingly, in June 1930, he returned to the Football League with Aldershot and actually played his first League game for the Shots in August 1932, seventeen years after his last with Blues – a record for the longest gap between appearances.

Billy, who ended his career with Guildford City, retired from football in 1939, having won two full caps for Scotland, twice represented the Scottish League, collected four League championship winner's medals with Rangers and won the Southern League title with Guildford. Billy died in Aldershot in February 1876.

WALTER ROBBINS was an inside or outside left, strong running with tree-trunk legs and a bullet shot who made 91 appearances and scored 31 goals for Albion during the 1930s. Born in Cardiff in 1910, he played schoolboy football before joining Ely Brewery FC in 1926, switching to Ely United a year later.

In September 1928 he was recruited as a professional by Cardiff City, transferring to Albion for £3,000 in April 1932.

He switched to Newport County in 1939 and after retiring he returned to Cardiff as first-team trainer in1945, while also acting as sponge man to the Welsh national team.

Swansea Town appointed him as their chief scout in 1958, and two years later he became trainer, later serving the Welsh club as assistant manager, seasons 1968–71.

Thereafter, he acted as chief scout before retiring due to poor health in 1978.

During the 1950s he was appointed trainer to the Welsh National side.

He joined Albion as deputy to Stanley Wood, but found he had to contest the left-wing position with Wally Boyes as well. He also had two games at centre-half for Albion in 1938 and he helped the Baggies win the Central League title three seasons running in the mid-1930s.

Before moving to The Hawthorns, Walter scored 68 goals for Ely United in 1927–28, netted five times for Cardiff against Thames in 1932 (a League record) and collected a Welsh Cup winners' medal with Cardiff.

He played in three different Divisions of the Football League with Cardiff and won 11 full caps for Wales.

In 1971, he was granted a testimonia by Swansea and Albion were the visitors. He died in Swansea in 1979.

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