An overly-gushing article about a man known to many simply as 'Captain Marvel'.
My hero Bryan Robson
Originally published in Sabotage Times
‘Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there.’
The above statement may be part of the opening monologue from the Big Lebowski, but when writing this article, the line kept coming back to me. Bryan Robson encapsulated a time and a place; an era of United mediocrity, but a level of personal performance that rarely slipped below the sublime.
His all-action style was truly breathtaking. Ferocious tackling, outstanding in the air, endless energy, plus that innate instinct to ghost into the box unannounced and bundle the ball into the back of the net.
He was like a superhero during the Eighties, certainly to me. He was the main reason I supported United. The relentless drive that Robson had was unlike any other player on the planet. He dragged his United team kicking and screaming over the finishing line almost singlehandedly.
My first opportunity to watch Captain Marvel in the flesh was in 1986, as United produced their worst-ever start to a season under Ron Atkinson. It was my first trip to Old Trafford, Robson had been injured and the dire results were proof of a rudderless ship. This was his first game back after his shoulder collapsed at the Mexico World Cup and everyone at Old Trafford was nervous about his return.
Only 5 minutes into the game and a loose ball in the middle of the park saw Robson plough through two Saints players like they weren’t even there. Nothing had changed. He simply couldn’t play any other way.
On my own personal Old Trafford debut, the skipper drove the team to a magnificent 5-1 victory over Southampton. The captain was back and you could sense his teammates performed better when their talisman leading from the front.
Robson celebrated 10 years at the United with a testimonial against Celtic in November 1990. I managed to sneak out of school early to get the mini-bus up to Manchester from Northampton; my Chipie jumper hanging loose over 25-inch bell bottom jeans. It was a glorious time to be a 16 year old. What wasn’t quite as glorious was my haircut (pictured right)! Interestingly, the 1990/91 away shirt my younger brother is wearing has just been used in the design for the new 2017/18 away shirt.
As we arrived at the ground, the walk up to Old Trafford made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. I may not have been a local (though I certainly tried to dressed like one), but United were my team and celebrating 10 years of watching Robson play filled me with pride.
Though the match was a 3-1 loss to Celtic, the night itself turned out to be one I would never forget. As Robson finished his lap of honour to Tina Turner ‘Simply the Best’, a few fans ran onto the pitch. Then a few more, then a huge tidal wave of the Stretford End rushed through the gates, including me!
We went down to the away fans and exchanging scarves and songs, though things went a slightly downhill when they made the mistake of singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’! Aside from that, it was a joyous night for the fans and a fitting tribute to a true icon of the club.
I returned to Northampton with a decent lump of Old Trafford turf and the warm feeling inside that sometimes only football can provide. The horticulturist in me managed to grow the grass on my own little slice of heaven to an unusually long length. That was until I forget to take it with me on a two week family caravan holiday to Cromer and I returned home heartbroken to a perished piece of turf. Life quickly moved on.
Through my travels over the years I’ve seen United play as far afield as Australia and America, but nothing beats the thrill of walking up the stairs at Old Trafford to gaze down onto the Theatre of Dreams. I’ve even had the luxury of playing a game against a Man United Veterans XI which featured the likes of Denis Irwin, Frank Stapleton, Sammy Mcilroy and the late, great Ray Wilkins (pictured right).
I’ve even named my new Golden Doodle puppy after Captain Marvel. ‘Robson the Doodle’ has his own Instagram page where we’ll be adding pictures of his life growing up as a United-supporting pup in Venice Beach, California. I’ll be adding my own Mourinho-esque rants and views on the latest club news, so give us a follow if you like cute dogs, bad photoshop and moaning about Phil Jones.
They say don’t meet your heroes and seeing as Robbo never made the Veterans game, I probably never will. I do now have my very own Robson tearing around making a nuisance of himself. I’m not sure whether he’ll grow up to be hero or inspirational leader, but if he could please stop shitting all over the living room floor, that would be a good start.