Meeting the Latch

Bob remembers his 30

Meeting Bob Latchford

Bob Latchford was the complete centre-forward: good in the air and on the ground. Even though his clubs, in particular Everton, were relatively unsuccessful, he scored prolifically. Despite his size (over 6 feet tall) he was very fast over short distances, making him a great ‘poacher’ of goals and he also scored with some great diving headers.

He was transferred from Birmingham City to Everton for £350,000, a British transfer record at the time. (Howard Kendall was transferred to Birmingham City as part of the same deal.) At Everton, Latchford was the top scorer for six successive seasons scoring 30 goals in the 1977-78 season. The closest he came to a winner’s medal at Everton was a finalist in the League Cup in 1977. Latchford made 268 appearances (3 as substitute) for Everton scoring 138 goals. He left Everton for top-flight Swansea in 1981, scoring a hat-trick on his debut for the swans.

So, when we were offered the chance to chat with “Big Bad Bob” we jumped at the chance, and sent along our seasoned reporter Watty and his side-kick, Moog along to meet their hero.

As an innocent, wide-eyed 11 year old attending my first ever Everton game, there was only one player I was watching. He was the huge no 9, the man with the hairy beard, Big Bad Bob, our centre forward, he scared the shít out of the opposition, always scored and even walked on water. Mr Robert (Bob) Latchford – my hero!

After Everton’s win on Saturday I had the chance to meet the legend. I didn’t really know what I was letting myself in for, a book launch for his 30 goals? I could just hide in the background and listen to the great man speak, or maybe not, there were only seven of us there and that included Bob and his agent (You are his agent aren’t you Martin?)

So it was almost a personal audience with the great man. And what a lovely fella he turned out to be, witty, amusing, knowledgeable, patiently listening to and answering our questions with no sign at all of an ego. It was an absolute pleasure to sit in Bob’s company for an hour an a half, asking him all sorts of questions and listening like the wide-eyed 11 year to his answers.

These are the questions and answers – some questions were mine, some came from the other people there. (We’re sorry if we don’t credit each individual question, but feel free to contact us and we’ll add your name to your questions)

That perm – what was that all about ?

It was the 70s, the decade that fashion forgot, some of the other lads were getting them as well and I just followed suit (Bob looked very embarrassed)

The best player you’ve ever played with ?

Ever– Kevin Keegan

For Everton – Dave Thomas

Which other players stood out ?

Ronnie Goodlass, Gordon Taylor, Glenn Hoddle and Martin Dobson

What about Gordon Lee as a manager ?

Duncan McKenzie was never his cup of tea, he prefered the Geoff Nulty’s of this world – functional and hardworking.

Gordon Lee’s teams were very expansive – nothing like his dour image as a person – no ex-player would say anything bad about Gordon

Best Manager ?

Alf Ramsey for England U-21s, Ron Greenwood, Gordon Lee

But top was Freddie Goodwin at Birmingham – he made me the player I was.

What was your favourite goal ?

Not really got one favourite as such, first for Everton, scoring at Bolton in the League cup semi final in 1977, The semi-final equaliser against West Ham when I just ‘lost it’ and jumped onto the fence to celebrate and the 30th League goal of the season against Chelsea.

Who was the dirtiest player you’ve played against ?

Physically tough – Norman Hunter, Alan Hunter, Alistair Robertson and Duncan Forbes from Norwich.

There were other players like Johnny Giles, Johnny Morrisey and Bobby Collins who were just niggly. The whole Leeds team of that era were very physical – good players, but they tried every trick in the book to win.

Money ?

The money for the 30 goals – £192 each for everyone at the club – everyone who received some also had to pay tax on it – unlike Liverpool who won something similar a year or two later and got it tax free (nothing ever changes)

Of the £10,000 I received for those 30 goals, £5k went to the PFA, I gave £4k to the others at the club, and I kept a thousand. However, I was taxed on all £10,000 – so in the end I actually lost out due to trying to persuade the Inland Revenue that I shouldn’t pay tax on the full amount.

Bob Latchford GalleryWhat were the bonus’s like as a player ?

Not much compared to todays, I got £50 -£100 win bonus maximum. My highest wages were in 77-78 when I received £51,000 for the YEAR.

Work now ?

Don’t have a job as such, but work for BlueBlood, the Former Players’ Foundation.

Howard Kendall ?

I made the decision to leave just before Howard took over – maybe if I’d stayed I’d have won something. He’s a lovely fella, very hospitable.

Were there any games when the support gave you a lift ?

None in particular, but always aware of the lift that you got from the Evertonians. Also saw the negative side, especially when the cushions used to come raining down from the Top Balcony.

Most intimidating away grounds ?

Somewhere in Turkey at an England U-21 game, Elland Road and the San Siro.

What did you think of derby games ?

I’d never played in one until I joined Everton – the first one I played in, I didn’t touch the ball for the first 20 minutes. The pressure and the build up were unbelievable – I also felt more and more pressure the longer it went on without me scoring in a derby game. (Bob never scored in a Merseyside derby – neither did Kevin Keegan)

Has football gone downhill with the emphasis on less physical contact ?

It probably has to the purist, too many players are quick to go down at the slightest touch. Not sure if the FIFA changes are making things better, maybe the introduction of a sin bin would improve things.

Did you get many red cards ?

One for Birmingham when it was a case of mistaken identity !

One for Everton in a pre-season friendly at Schalke – the centre half came in from behind and clattered me, I stood up and put a foot on his chest – I saw the ref heading towards me and just walked.

For Everton away to Birmingham last game of the season, Malcom Page was winding me up and I just saw red and lashed out at him.

Did Bob Hatton help you as a player ?

He did my running for me at Birmingham – Bingham should have signed him when he signed me. He also said he’d sign Peter Shilton but didn’t.

What did you think of Emlyn Hughes ?

I got on well with him, he was very enthusiastic about everything.

The Liverpool are Magic Everton are tragic comment upset a number of Liverpool players as much as it upset most EVertonians.

Did Everton and Liverpool players socialise in your day ?

Not really, I did see Tommy Smith in a restaurant and he sent a bottle of champagne over for me (he did say he sent it flying through the air, but we thought it was a joke !)

Bob with Watty and the NSNO logo
Bob makes Watty’s day

You live in Germany now, why did you move there ?

My girlfriend’s from there.

What was it like playing abroad ?

Breda was great – there was lots of nice people and it was just party time all the time I was there.

Will you stay in Germany for the forth coming world cup finals?

Yes

How do you rate Beattie ?

He’s improved a lot this season and his work-rate is very good

Favourite moment as a footballer ?

My first professional game for Birmingham – PNE at St Andrews, we won 3-2 and I scored two.

Everton vs Chelsea 1977-78

What do you think of the current game ?

I’d like the money !

I’m not sure about playing now though, it’s much more intensive, faster, more professional, diets are much better

Did you get any advice on diet when you were playing ?

None, you were basically left to your own devices

Drinking was part of parcel of the culture – I’d drink after the game and early on in the week, but not after Wednesday. The foreign players coming in have changed the drinking culture.

Foreign imports – good or bad ?

More positives than negatives. Improved technical abilities have lifted the other players.

There just isn’t the same number of players coming through today- 30 years ago lots of players came from Scotland, today, there’s very few. Social changes mean there aren’t as many players coming through.

Did you have any role in developing kids when you were playing ?

Not really, I was more interested in my own playing.

One word on Clive Thomas ?

Bealzebub !

What was Swansea like ?

Difficult – a lot of good players, we almost won the league, we were top with six games to play, but blew it. Was tough after we’d gone down, everyone was sold.

Do you watch much English football ?

Not really, only see what they show on Germany telly (Bob, if you read this, try this link http://www.bavaria-satellite.de/ )

Tel: +49 (0)89 905 39 376

What do you think of the Current Everton players

I like Arteta, lovely footballer and very hardworking. Cahill and Carsley are very good and Valente reminds me of Mike Pejic !

And so the interview ended, we took some photos, got some signatures and I even gave Bob an NSNO flyer to take with him.

Bob was off to have some food, then off to meet Gordon Lee and then Dave Thomas before heading back to Germany early next week.

The great man was everything I hoped he’d be and more – Bob Latchford, still my hero.

Everyone at NSNO would like to thank Bob for his time, and also Martin for organising the meeting with one of the greatest Everton players to grace Goodison Park.

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