Bob Wilson (footballer born 1941)
Bob Wilson in Hatfield, Herts. Feb 2009
|Full name||Robert Primrose Wilson|
|Date of birth||30 October 1941|
|Place of birth||Chesterfield, England|
|Height||6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).
Robert "Bob" Primrose Wilson OBE (born 30 October 1941 in Chesterfield, England) is a former Scotland international football goalkeeper and later broadcaster and is noted for creating the charity the Willow Foundation
As a player, Wilson is most noted for his career at Arsenal between 1963 and 1974. He made over 300 appearances for Arsenal and two appearances for Scotland, the first Englishman since 1873 to do so, having previously played for the England schoolboys under 15 team. After retiring as a player, he turned to coaching and broadcasting, presenting football programmes on television for 28 years, until 2002, and his opinion is still sought by radio and television to this day.
His unusual middle name has often been a source of amusement; it stems from a Scottish tradition of giving children their mother's maiden name as a middle name.
Early life and education
Wilson was born on Ashgate Road, in Chesterfield, where his father was the Borough Engineer and his mother was a magistrate. He was the youngest child of six and had much older brothers (and an elder sister); two of his brothers were killed in the Second World War, one as a Spitfire pilot and the other as a rear-gunner in a Lancaster.
He attended Old Hall Primary School (now Old Hall Junior School) on Old Road, then Tapton House Grammar School, where he first met his future wife, Margaret Miles ("Megs"). At the age of 13 he transferred to Chesterfield Grammar School which his four elder brothers also attended. He captained the Derbyshire Juniors Cricket Team. He went to Loughborough College of Education where he studied History and Physical Education on a teacher training course.
Wilson started late as a professional player, as his father would not let him sign papers with Manchester United as he thought it wasn't a reasonable job whilst he was a youth. Wilson then went on to Loughborough College for training as a teacher before signing for Arsenal in 1963. He had been playing reserve games for Wolves as an amateur and made his debut for Arsenal as an amateur, and was the first amateur to have a transfer fee paid (around £6,500).
Wilson made his debut against Nottingham Forest on 26 October 1963 in a 4–2 win. However, being forced to play understudy to Jim Furnell, it was to be over four years until Wilson became first-choice keeper in 1968, after Furnell made a mistake in an FA Cup tie against Birmingham City in March 1968. Wilson took over and remained in goal for Arsenal for the remainder of the 1967–68 season.
Now firmly ensconced in the Arsenal side, Wilson was an ever-present in the 1968–69 season, which included Arsenal's loss to Swindon Town in the 1969 League Cup Final. Despite sustaining a broken arm the following season, 1969–70, Wilson recovered and won his first trophy with Arsenal, the 1969–70 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. In 1971, he was Arsenal's player of the year in their famous Double-winning season, in which he played every single first-team match in League and Cup, culminating in the 1971 FA Cup Final win over Liverpool.
He became eligible to play for Scotland when the rules were changed in 1970 to allow players to play for their parent's country of origin, if they had not already played for their own country. Wilson was selected by Tommy Docherty for his two games in charge, making his debut against Portugal on 13 October 1971. After Wilson's second game, against the Netherlands on 1 December 1971, Docherty left the position and his successor Willie Ormond reverted to a Scottish-born number one, in Bobby Clark of Aberdeen.
Wilson continued to play as Arsenal's keeper through the early 1970s, although an injury late on in the 1972 FA Cup semi-final against Stoke City meant he missed Arsenal's 1972 FA Cup Final loss to Leeds United and much of the 1972–73 season. Understudy Geoff Barnett took his place, but Wilson regained the number one shirt once fully recovered, and was Arsenal's first-choice goalkeeper up until his surprisingly early retirement from playing in May 1974, at the age of 32.
As a student and teacher of goalkeeping, Wilson has identified his own signature technique as diving at his opponents' feet to save goals. This caused him a number of injuries throughout his career.
|Club||Season||League||FA Cup||League Cup||Europe1||Total |
Cl.S. – Clean sheets.
After retiring, Wilson was goalkeeping coach for Arsenal for 28 years during the period Pat Jennings, John Lukic, and David Seaman were goalkeepers. He retired at the end of the 2002–03 season, having helped Arsenal win two more doubles in 1997–98 and 2001–02, one of only two people to have been involved with all three (the other being Pat Rice).
Wilson had already appeared as pundit for the BBC during the 1970 World Cup. After his football career, he became a football television presenter working firstly for the BBC from 1974 to 1994 as host of Football Focus. He then presented for ITV until his retirement in 2002, fronting ITV's UEFA Champions League coverage until the arrival of Des Lynam in 1999. He also fronted ITV's coverage of Euro 96 and the 1998 World Cup. He still makes occasional appearances on television, on the BBC's Football Focus and Match of the Day 2. Half Man Half Biscuit made reference to Bob Wilson as a broadcaster in the song "Bob Wilson, Anchorman".
Roy of the Rovers
In the mid-1980s he was also immortalised in comic strip form when he spent a season playing for the fictional Melchester Rovers team in the "Roy of the Rovers" strip, in a team containing another former professional player turned TV presenter, Emlyn Hughes, and Spandau Ballet members Martin Kemp and Steve Norman. The quartet helped lead Rovers to Milk Cup glory and a record-breaking successive number of clean sheets – a somewhat unrealistic achievement considering Wilson's age and the fact he hadn't played for more than 10 years.
Wilson married Megs on 25 July 1964 at Holy Trinity church, and they had three children: John (born 1965), Anna (1966–1998) and Robert (born 1968). His son John Wilson is a presenter on Front Row, the BBC Radio 4 arts programme. Robert Wilson is a commercial photographer. It was announced in April 2014 that Wilson was fighting prostate cancer.
In February 1994, his daughter Anna was diagnosed with malignant schwannoma, a cancer of the nerve sheath. After a long fight, she died on 1 December 1998, six days before her 32nd birthday. The "Willow Foundation" was set up in her memory in 1999 and operated locally, mainly in Hertfordshire. Wilson relaunched the charity on 4 October 2005 with a national remit. The organisation was established in Anna's memory and now helps some of the estimated 12,500 people in the UK, aged 16–40, who are diagnosed every year with a life-threatening illness. In 2007, Wilson received an Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his charity work.
Wilson suffered a further tragedy in August 2010 when Anna's widower, Mitchell Carey, died suddenly at the age of 44. An inquest later revealed that Carey, who had since re-married and had two children, died as a result of food poisoning – his death had originally been believed to have been the result of stepping on a sea urchin while on holiday in Greece shortly before his death in Stevenage.
- "Ex-Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson to get cancer treatment". The Guardian (London). 13 April 2014.
- "Sports presenter's daughter dies". BBC News. 2 December 1998. Retrieved 1 January 2010.
- "Popular Broadcaster Bob Wilson Launches National Charity in Memory of His Daughter". Willow Foundation.
- "New Year Honours for sports stars". BBC News. 29 December 2007. Retrieved 1 January 2010.
- "Bob Wilson's son-in-law dies after being poisoned by sea urchin in freak tragedy". Daily Mail (London). 30 August 2010.
- Foskett, Ewan (4 February 2011). "Famous footballer's son-in-law dies after eating corned beef sandwich – News – The Comet". thecomet.net. Retrieved 18 April 2011.
- Harris, Jeff & Hogg, Tony (ed.) (1995). Arsenal Who's Who. Independent UK Sports. ISBN 1-899429-03-4.