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A-Z of West Midlands Football

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: March 15, 2014

  • Darren Roberts

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BOB ROBERTS was Albion's first 'great' goalkeeper, who made 84 senior appearances for the club, most before League football was introduced in 1888.

Born in West Bromwich in March 1864, he attended and played for Christ Church School and worked at and played for George Salter's Spring Works before joining Albion (then known as the Strollers) in September 1879, turning professional in August 1885.

Surprisingly, he moved to Sunderland Albion on a free transfer in May 1890 but came back to Albion in May 1891, staying with the club for another season before rounding off his career with Aston Villa (May 1892-June 1893).

At that point he returned to Newcastle to work as a plasterer (his early employment) married a girl from the North-East of England and stayed there until his death.

Also Albion's first international footballer, 'Big Bob' was a giant of a man, just the right size for a goalkeeper of that time. He was so well built he could deal comfortably with high crosses and with any robust forward that cared to barge into him! He had a tremendous reach, possessed a huge and safe pair of hands, wore size 13 boots (which assisted him in kicking vast distances) and above all, he had a wonderful temperament.

Bob started off as an outfield-player, occupying many different positions, before finally settling down between the posts. He won three England caps, his first against Scotland in March 1887, and he also played for the Football Alliance, the Birmingham FA and Staffordshire FA and participated in three international trials (between 1883 and 1894). He was Albion's 'last line of defence' in three FA Cup finals in 1886, 1887 and 1888, gaining a winners' medal in the latter against Preston North End when he played exceptionally well against a terrific forward line.

During his full 12 years with the club he amassed some 400 appearances, all but 84 coming in local Cup competitions and friendlies. A quite magnificent player, he was very popular and, without doubt, an Albion great. He died in Byker, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in October 1929.

NB: He is one of the only two players (the other being Ezra Horton) to have featured in Albion's first FA Cup tie against Wednesbury Town in November 1883 and in the club's first Football League game away at Stoke in September 1888.

DARREN ROBERTS made a tremendous start to his League career … scoring a hat-trick for Wolves on his debut against Birmingham City at St Andrew's in a televised Sunday game in September 1992 in front of 14,391 fans.

Born in Birmingham in October 1969, the six-foot tall striker had joined Wolves six months earlier from Burton Albion and in his first season at Molineux, helped the second XI win the Pontins League Division Two title. Unfortunately he failed to carry on his initial good work and after adding just two more goals to his tally in 23 appearances, and a loan spell with Hereford United, he left Molineux for Doncaster Rovers in March 1994, later switching to Chesterfield before doing the rounds with Telford United, Darlington, Peterborough United, Scarborough, Exeter City and Barrow.

DAVE ROBERTS scored twice in 19 first-class games for Aston Villa, whom he served as a professional from December 1963 until his transfer to Shrewsbury Town for £5,000 in March 1965. Later with Swansea Town (City), Worcester City, Shrewsbury Town (again) and Hughton United (as player-coach), Dave netted 21 goals in 230 League appearances in his two spells at Gay Meadow. He was born in Erdington, Birmingham in December 1946.

DICK ROBERTS was a speedy dual-purpose winger who scored ten goals in 52 appearances for Albion, who he served from April 1899 to May 1901.

Born in Redditch in January 1878, he represented Studley and District Schools and played Redditch Excelsior before joining Albion. He left The Hawthorns for Newcastle United for £150 and later assisted Middlesbrough (£450, April 1904), Crystal Palace (£100, August 1905–08) and Worcester City (from August 1908) retiring through injury in April 1909. He worked on munitions during World War One and died in Birmingham in March 1931 after a short illness.

FRED ROBERTS was an inside-left who netted ten goals in 32 appearances for Birmingham during his 15-month stay at St Andrew's from September 1933 to December 1934.

Born in West Bromwich in October 1909, he played for Smethwick Highfield and Thomas Piggot's Works team before joining Blues, who transferred him to Luton Town. Thereafter he played for Kettering Town, retiring through injury in May 1948. His brother Bill Roberts played for Cardiff City. Fred himself died in Luton in January 1979.

GRAHAM ROBERTS scored six goals in 41 appearances for Albion. A defender-cum-midfielder, born in Southampton in July 1959, he played schoolboy football for town and county before joining Scholing Sports FC in 1975. He then signed for AFC Bournemouth as an apprentice in August 1975 and assisted Dorchester Town prior to joining Portsmouth in February 1977, turning professional in March 1977.

In August 1979 he dropped into non-League football with Weymouth but was persuaded to return with Tottenham Hotspur, for £35,000 in May 1990 – after turning down a move to The Hawthorns! Glasgow Rangers then paid £450,000 for his services in December 1986; he switched to Chelsea in May 1988, later becoming player-coach and in November 1990, joined Albion on a free transfer.

He left the Baggies to become player-manager of Enfield in March 1992 and after that assisted Chesham United (briefly), Slough Town (season 1994–95), Stevenage Borough (1995), Yeovil Town (player-manager, January 1995–February 1998), Hertford Town (manager, August 1998), Boreham Wood (manager, February 2001), Carshalton (manager, season 2002–03) before becoming a soccer coach in Marbella/Spain (seasons 2003–05), returning to the UK to manage Clyde (season 2005-06).

A former shop-fitter's mate, Graham started out as a forward before becoming a rugged, no-nonsense, hard-tackling midfielder or central defender. He made 287 appearances for Spurs (36 goals scored), picked up two FA Cup winners' medals (in 1981 and 1982) and also played in the 1982 League Cup final defeat by Liverpool.

He won six England caps and as captain lifted the UEFA Cup after Spurs had beaten RSC Anderlecht in the two leg final of 1984. Always stern and aggressive, he never gave an inch, never shirked a tackle and simply loved to be involved in a tough contest.

He took over from another hard man, Graeme Souness, also a former Spurs player, at Ibrox Park. And after helping the 'Gers win both the Scottish Premier League and Skol Cup, he moved back to London to join Chelsea. He struggled with injuries during the latter stages of his Baggies' career.

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