Not being original with the title of the post, using the same one as the book, but it is an excellent description of today’s subject and it can’t be bettered.
This is the first in a mini-series looking at great players that you never saw – and I’m starting from the top with a name that everybody will have heard of, even without witnessing him play.
Before I get into all of that though I want to tip my hat to JC – aka The Vinyl Villain who went above and beyond after I emailed him with a casual enquiry. I’ve been using that “above and beyond” phrase a few times this week, but it is very appropriate for JC because he really didn’t have to, but he did.
Football and Music is still hanging around the old Third Division and The Vinyl Villain is in the Premier League. One day we hope to be up there with him. Make sure that you are a regular visitor.
Ok that’s enough ass kissing, on with the show.
Edit & Update:
This is turning out to be a long post so I've created subsections.
If you want to read further click on the subjects below.
If you are viewing this via the RSS Feed then you’ll just see the whole thing.
– Starting with the
Paul – or if we use his nickname Guigsy
[pictured left]was an original and founding member of that Status Quo tribute band from Burnage. When touring in America he read an article in Goal magazine about Robin Friday and this inspired him to find out more.
He contacted a journalist who does something I wish I could do – get paid for writing about football and music. Paolo
[pictured right] is a noted writer, with a few music biographies published and was a perfect choice for this endeavour.
Together they went to his first league club. They dug through the archives of the Reading Evening Post and talked to the manager and some players who played with and against him. They also chatted to his parents and his brother.
Eventually they put all of this in the aforementioned book: The Greatest Footballer You Never Saw. Which is a very recommended read. Buy it.
– Talking about that man
” Robin Friday was an exceptional footballer who should have played for England. He never did.
Robin Friday was a brilliant player who could have played in the top flight. He never did. Why? Because Robin Friday was a man who would not bow down to anyone, who refused to take life seriously and who lived every moment as if it were his last. For anyone lucky enough to have seen him play, Robin Friday was up there with the greats. Take it from one who knows: ‘There is no doubt in my mind that if someone had taken a chance on him he would have set the top division alight,’ says the legendary Stan Bowles. ‘He could have gone right to the top, but he just went off the rails a bit.’ Loved and admired by everyone who saw him, Friday also had a dark side: troubled, strong-minded, reckless, he would end up destroying himself. Tragically, after years of alcohol and drug abuse, he died at the age of 38 without ever having fulfilled his potential.”
– Talking about his exploits at
signed for Reading:
Hayes played Reading in the FA Cup and they managed to get a replay (which they eventually lost 1-0). Charlie Hurley – who was the manager spotted young Friday and signed him. Reading at that time were in the old Fourth Division side and lower league football in the early-to-mid 70’s was less of the skill and more of the grunt, with hard crunching possible leg breaking tackles going in all the time.
Robin wasn’t one for training and slinked off to the pub sometimes when the players were on long runs. He never moved from his house in Acton, preferring to catch a train to Reading – most of the time without buying a ticket.
On the pitch it became obvious that he was a natural talent, with his movement and passing off the ball and his stunning strikes in front of the goal. Opposition players didn’t like it when he made fun of them with a jinking pass and Robin was constantly on the receiving end of a kick on the legs. He didn’t help himself much by not wearing any shinpads. Robin didn’t take these hard tackles with good grace either and gave as good as he got, resulting him appearing before an FA disciplinary committee on regular occasions.
Then there was one match…
Reading Evening Post, 11th April 1975: Reading 2 Rochdale 1
…Dull it was last night for PC Brian Miller until the unlikely lumbering shape of Robin Friday stepped into his life… Man Friday, overjoyed by his last-minute goal against Rochdale, was ready to kiss anyone… ‘The policeman looked so cold and fed up standing there that I decided to cheer him up a bit’… ‘You can tell Robin Friday that I didn’t know he cared,’ Miller said…
The next day in the paper there was a cartoon showing a queue of policemen waiting for Robin to give them a kiss.
Then there was that other match…
Reading Evening Post, 1st April 1976: Reading 5 Tranmere 0
‘ Top referee Clive Thomas takes charge of matches all over the world – European Cup, World Cup, he’s seen the best football. For Mr Thomas last night it was not a big occasion, Reading versus Tranmere in the Fourth Division – just another match…
.. but last night Thomas saw something he couldn’t believe in the feet of Robin Friday, the 23 year old striker who had been playing non-league football just two seasons ago.
In one brilliant move Friday tugged down a loose ball, sprung around and slotted the ball into the top corner of the net. Ten thousand fans were still and Thomas held his head in his hand in frank disbelief.’
Clive Thomas talked about it later: “I’ll never forget it. It was the sheer ferocity of the shot on the volley from the halfway line over his shoulder. I just could not believe it at the time…. Even up against the likes of Pele and Cryuff, it still rates as the best goal I have ever seen. After the game I went up to him and told him that and he said, ‘Really ? You should come down here more often. I do that every week’ “
– Watch a video clip about
– A personal
When I was there I heard his name being mentioned often and in the pubs I also heard the stories.
There was one pub in Friar Street which Robin Friday used to frequent – The Boar’s Head. I can’t find any pictures of it online but I can tell you that it is a very old place – locals only. Pint and a packet of peanuts no food served here pal.
But again the stories that the Reading fans told me about Friday. None of them had actually seen him play, but they heard of the tales and passed them on. There was wonderment when they talked about him.
– Talking about his move to
There were scouts from the higher divisions looking at him, but many didn’t like his disciplinary record and heard of the stories of his boozing and err… other stuff… But there was the Division Two team Cardiff who were still interested and eventually paid a knockdown price for him. The Cardiff manager Jimmy Andrews asked why and Reading’s boss Charlie Hurley said, “You’ll see…”
“I saw him several times at Reading and he was absolutely outstanding. He looked all wrong, his feet pointed the wrong way, he slouched, his hair was long and unkempt – but boy could he play. I couldn’t believe we got him at that price, it was an absolute steal. I knew there had to be something wrong with him but I didn’t care. I’d seen what he could do on the pitch.”
Robin’s time there was very troubled, coupled with the fact the he still didn’t move house and had to catch the train from London all the time. In fact on the very day he joined he travelled to Wales with just a platform ticket. He was promptly arrested by the British Transport Police. Cardiff City knew that he could be elusive and presumed that he’d decided not to turn up until they got a call from the police asking them if they would like to come and collect their new star signing from the station.
Then there was that one match… [pictured above]
South Wales Echo, 18th April 1977: Cardiff City 4 Luton 2
…Friday was forced to retire with a knee injury after 70 mins which he claimed was caused by an (Milija) Aleksic foul… ‘The goalkeeper came out with his foot up,’ he alleged… Friday had been penalised for a high tackle on Aleksic in the 36th minute but when he held an outstretched hand in apology the goalkeeper reacted angrily… Seconds later Friday robbed a ponderous defender and gained ten yards to rifle a shot (his second goal) past Aleksic… After acknowledging the cheers of the crowd Friday turned towards the keeper and made the V sign.
About that song:
The song was first released as a single in December 1996 and was dedicated to the memory of the footballer Robin Friday “and his stand against the ‘Man’.” Friday also features on the sleeve of the single in a famous picture of him showing a V sign to Luton Town goalkeeper Milija Aleksic while playing for Cardiff City.
The track was originally intended to be released as a B-side on the band’s previous single release “If You Don’t Want Me to Destroy You”, however Steely Dan frontman Donald Fagen refused to clear a sample of the track “Show Biz Kids” which features prominently on “The Man Don’t Give a Fcuk” and it was replaced by “Guacamole”. Asked about the “perverse” decision to release a single containing the word ‘fcuk’ * over 50 times singer Gruff Rhys claimed that it was former label Creation Records’ idea and that that was the one time the band have allowed themselves to be manipulated.
Unsurprisingly, the song received little airplay in the UK due to the continuous use of the word.
– – – – –
The inside notes read: “This record is dedicated to the memory of Robin Friday, 1952 to 1990, and his stand against the ‘Man’.” “Robin Friday was a nonconformist and lived every second of his life with an intensity that burned for all to see. Friday not only flicked V signs at goalies who stood no chance against his prowess but he flicked V signs at anyone who tried to tame him. He was the superstar of the suburbs, the one who made George Best look like a lightweight. – Paolo Hewitt & Paul ‘Guigsy’ McGuigan.”
*Usually I don’t self censor, but some people subscribe to and read these posts sent to them via email by Feedburner.
I changed that word slightly just in case they have a swear filter on their email client.
So now then at last:
Paul “Guigsy” McGuigan.. Paolo Hewitt.. Robin Friday.. Super Furry Animals… This is the very epitome of Football and Music & one of the reasons why I started this site.
Finally once again to JC… I raise a glass to you sir. Cheers.
I only covered a small amount of Robin Friday’s full but brief life.
Please do yourself a favour and buy the book.
These tracks will only be here for a limited time.