Bob Stokoe sent me a “Pressie” for braking my Collar Bone

A lot of you may not be aware that Bob Stokoe was manager of Charlton Athletic. I know this because when I was with Palace we played against them home and away, it would be 1967, season not long after I joined Crystal Palace.

We played Charlton away and were doing very well one up at half time, unfortunately for me I was up against the old type of centre half a Mr King who what we call in the game “made a back” for me. I crashed straight down head first I felt the bone breaking in my shoulder come chest, it was a funny old feeling, grating, grinding, jaggy and crumpling.

George Petchy was our trainer, his son is Mark Petchy the English Tennis player who is commentating at this year 2012 Wimbledon, he was Andy Murray’s coach when Murray was starting. There was about ten minutes to go to half-time and after George had tidied me up with a few words in my ear, whatever it was that he had said and with me being nothing but a trier I took the field. Stokoe was bellowing things like I was play-acting and that there was nothing wrong with him.

Half-time came along and passed whilst being severely incapacitated. I trooped out. What I had to do was to hold on to my shirt on the side that I had broken my collar bone, I played the full ninety minutes with my broken bones jingling and jangling most of the time. We won the match much to Bob’s annoyance, at full-time I was trying to take my shirt off when George came over to give me a helping hand. He noticed that I was suffering a bit more than I should be “in his eyes” he put his hand across my collar bone and came to the immediate conclusion that I had played some fifty odd minutes with this broken collar bone, he mentioned it to our manager Bert Head, who in turn must have told Bob Stokoe.

Sunday morning a large bouquet of flowers and a basket of fruit arrived at our club flat in Croydon, with a note from Bob Stokoe apologising for his suggestions and innuendo’s. I was strapped up for some six weeks and made my return to the side which unfortunately for Bob was to be his last match for Charlton, it was at Selhurst Park the home of Crystal Palace. We again beat them and I remember scoring a goal from the edge of the eighteen yard line, when I stooped to head the ball past the Charlton goal-keeper. I didn’t need to jump I just stooped and in it went.

I know that Bob is no longer with us but it was the touch of a gentleman. A few years later when he was manager of Carlisle I played against his team for Blackpool at Bloomfield Road, he singled me out as being the difference between the two teams. I often wondered if he had remembered the Charlton v Crystal Palace match.

I played golf with Bob at North Shore Golf Club a couple of times when I was a Director of the Blackpool Football Club, he was a true professional a legend at Sunderland and a fine golfer too.

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