Tina And Bobby And Oxford City

When Rivelino introduced himself to me, before a CD Tenerife home game, I was staggered at how deeply he had drunk from the fountain of youth. Of course it wasn’t the 70 year old wizard from Brazil’s football giants of the 1970’s but Joe Roscoe who is playing the footballer in Tina and Bobby, the new three part ITV drama about Bobby Moore. It was enough to rouse memories of a surreal spell in the 1980-81 season when my non league team Oxford City were managed by Bobby Moore with Harry Redknapp as his assistant.

Let’s start in the present, Joe, a fashion and management student in Manchester works part time as a film extra and recently had a walk on part in Coronation Street. I was more impressed by his role in Tina And Bobby, and not just because Corrie cutie Michelle Keegan plays Tina. Lorne MacFadyen (ex Grantchester) plays the great man and filming for the football action has taken place at Leeds Rhinos Headingley Stadium. When we met there was still a fair bit of filming to go so keep an eye out for the programme over the next few months. Sadly they wont be covering the Oxford spell but it was quite a drama in itself.

How the hell did Bobby end up at Oxford City? A local businessman Tony Rosser had left the board of Oxford United, disgruntled that his plans were not being well received. Looking for a way to upstage the county’s senior team he ploughed money into my beloved City and made big promises of a major managerial appointment, even better than his word he unveiled Bobby Moore and my gob had never been so smacked. It was Bobby’s first move into coaching and City were a struggling side in the Isthmian League Division One .

Suddenly City were national media stars, everything became polished and professional, the team got their own luxury coach, left early, and had a light brunch stop at a posh hotel on away jaunts. Unlike the supporters rust bucket, they didn’t have a human chain to dish out coffee from an urn, or the pre ordered greasy chip supper for the trip home. It should have been a springboard to greatness but there were a few built in flaws. Bobby was a soccer god trying to teach mere mortals, and sadly some of his”friends” in the game took liberties by offloading misfit players on him. One of the first new boys was ex Tottenham defender Phil Beal, a legend in his time but now way past it, 1975 FA Cup Final left back John Fraser arrived from Fulham and tried to squeeze a few last drops out of his game, Stuart Haigh from Bradford City, and a clutch of Bournemouth players rolled in headed by goalie Kieran Baker, but he was soon replaced by Martin Le Blanc – who flew in from Jersey for games. How can I put it kindly, Martin wasn’t the safest pair of hands and soon became known to the fans as Martin Ker Plunk. Martin Chivers turned up to watch one away game, maybe to see his old Spurs team mate Phil Beal standing still.

Home crowds swelled a bit to over 1,000 and we delighted the rest of the league by boosting their attendances when City came to town. Bobby was always the focus of adoring fans and he was a true gent, taking time to sign autographs and talk to all his new best mates. Strangely the spotlight shifted slightly when City played at Clapton’s Old Spotted Dog ground, a short sprint from his old West Ham home. Harry Rednapp got more hero worship than his boss, his autograph flowed that day like signing a cheque book. Sadly it was all a bit of a mess, the constant changes made it impossible to create a winning team and Bobby’s role turned out to be part time as Mr Rosser used him more as a marketing and promotional attraction for his business interests.

It all came to a sorry end with relegation for City and a dreadful 5-1 defeat to Thame United in the Oxfordshire Senior Cup final. In those last few days Bobby was making the worst football film ever, Escape To Victory, with Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone. Not surprisingly in the close season Bobby left the club, being at City was not really a fitting stage for such a great man but his dignity, enthusiasm, and all round decency impressed everyone who had the pleasure to come into contact with him.

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