London Saints

LSSC legends: Bobby Stokes

March the 28th sees Southampton FC return to Wembley for the first time in 18 years so it’s highly appropriate that ‘Waterloo Sunset’ features the hero of their greatest day at the old stadium – Bobby Stokes.

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LSSC legends: Bobby Stokes-Body-2

March 2010 – Bobby Stokes
Cup finals come and go for the the big boys. So they don’t have heroes like Roger Osborne (Ipswich), Ian Porterfield (Sunderland), Keith Houchen (Coventry) and Bobby Stokes – these are the guys that provided once in a lifetime moments for supporters of clubs that can go a lifetime without winning anything.

I don’t wear my medal around my neck but I’ll happily recall every detail of the match with anyone who has 90 minutes to spare. It was the best day of my life.”
“I don’t wear my medal around my neck but I’ll happily recall every detail of the match with anyone who has 90 minutes to spare. It was the best day of my life.” Bobby Stokes (February 1995)

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LSSC legends: Bobby Stokes-Body-3

Within three months of uttering the quote at the start of this piece, he was dead. He was 44. Officially his demise was due to bronchial pneumonia. Few people doubt it was alcohol that killed him. Many believe the FA Cup played its part.

Little Bobby Stokes, aged 25, could not cope with the adulation. Before his moment in the sun he had played more than 200 times for Southampton, the club he had joined as a boy. After scoring that fateful goal, he made just 11 more appearances. He spent the summer of 1977 in America with the Washington Diplomats and then played 23 times for Portsmouth. His heart was not in it and he went back to the States.

By 1981, when he should have been at his peak, he was running a pub in Portsmouth with his wife, Jan. It was not a success and they gave it up after three years. Jan, ambitious, urged Bobby to find a new career. He said he would look for a job. In the meantime his cousin, Maria, said he could help out at her greasy-spoon diner, the Harbour View Café in Portsmouth. He never left. He worked from 7am to 4pm serving fry-ups and mugs of tea. He gave freely of his time and his memories to anyone who wanted to listen.

He split from his wife his 1994 and this hit him hard. From then to his untimely death, he struggled against the temptation of alcohol.

His, and Saints, finest moment came at 4.38pm on May 1, 1976. Jim McCalliog looked up, shouted ‘go Bobby’, and threaded a pass beyond the Manchester United defence. Stokes timed his run perfectly and then, with an immortal sweep of his left foot, directed the ball past Alex Stepney.

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LSSC legends: Bobby Stokes-Body

Born in Portsmouth in 1951, Stokes was bought up in the Paulsgrove area of the city and following a succesful period of boyhood football at schoolboy and county level his dreams of playing for Pompey were dashed when he failed a trial at Fratton Park. However, in 1966, Tom Parker invited him to The Dell and he signed as an apprentice, turning professional in 1968. He struggled to get into the first team as a young player but made his debut on 7 April 1969, scoring against Burnley. However, that was one of only two goals he scored that season and next season (1970-71), ravaged by injury, he only played one game. During the 1971-72 season he played 41 times and scored 7 times. He continued to impress in the next few years, despite suffering relegation in 1974 with the team.

Stokes was extremely popular with his team mates, his work rate on the field and character off it made it so.

However, he nearly left The Dell before that cup final. Stokes had not had a great season and Lawrie McMenemy had agreed an exchange deal with Portsmouth that would have seen Paul Went come to Saints. Bobby had a late change of mind about the deal – thank goodness for that!

Bobby Stokes factfile
Born: 30th January 1951, Portsmouth

Appearances and goals
1968-77: Southampton 216 (40)
1977-78: Portsmouth 24 (2)
1978-80: Washington Diplomats 98 (17)

Previous legends
February ’10: John Sydenham
January ’10: Jimmy Case
December ’09: Alan Ball
November ’09: George O’Brien
October ’09: Francis Benali
September ’09: Steve Williams
August ’09: Terry Paine
July ’09: Charlie Wayman
June ’09: Jimmy Steele
May ’09: Matt Le Tissier
April ’09: Antti Niemi
March ’09: Steve Moran
February ’09: Ted Bates
January ’09: Marian Pahars
December ’08: Mick Channon
November ’08: Ivan Golac
October ’08: Ron Davies
September ’08: Chris Marsden
August ’08: Danny Wallace
July ’08: John McGrath

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