I don’t think anyone who supports Arsenal – no matter how recent their conversion to the cause – can not know about our goal keeping legend Bob Wilson. And today I’m knocked out beyond belief to say that Bob has written an article for Untold Arsenal.
Bob started out by training as a teacher at Loughborough, and playing reserve matches as an amateur with Wolverhampton Wanderers. He then, in July 1963, became the first amateur player to be signed by another club for a transfer fee – in this case £7500. He turned pro with Arsenal in March 1964.
At Highbury Bob started out as understudy to Jim Furnell, and made his debut in a league match against Nottingham Forest on 26 October 1963, in a 4–2 win. By 1968 however he was the first choice keeper, and became an ever present in the 1968/9 season, playing in the League Cup final.
The following season he was the goal keeper in our Fairs Cup win – Arsenal’s first European trophy, and in 1971 was the player of the year in the Double winning side, playing in every single League and FA Cup match.
He was selected to play for Scotland, and continued to play for Arsenal in the following seasons until, to everyone’s surprise Bob announced his retirement from playing in May 1974, aged just 32. His decision caused a lot of comment, but perhaps we can understand it best by remembering that a significant part of his success as a keeper came from his ability to dive at the feet of on-rushing forwards and pluck the ball into his hands before the shot could be made. A brilliant, but dangerous, tactic.
Bob then became goalkeeping coach for Arsenal – a post he held for 28 years – during which time he added two more Doubles (1998 and 2002) to his CV.
Also during this time he worked for the BBC on Football Focus and Grandstand, and was a major player in the BBC’s world cup presentations, before moving on to ITV where he presented Champions League, League Cup and FA Cup games, as well as being part of the Euro and world cup coverage. Bob even turned up in the Roy of the Rovers comic strip as their keeper for a season.
We all also know of Bob’s enormous dedication to the Willow Foundation set up in memory of his daughter Anna, which has moved from being a local to a major national charity, and it was in recognition of this work that Bob was awarded the OBE in 2007.
What has brought Bob to Untold is the fact that we are today publishing the book, Arsenal: The Long Sleep 1953-1970 by John Sowman for which Bob has written the introduction.
This book, which is the definitive review of 1953 to 1970, covers every match from the era and reflects on all the issues of that time. It is available direct as a printed volume from Untold Arsenal and as a Kindle book via Amazon. There are more details of the contents of the book, some sample pages, and details of how to obtain a copy on the Arsenal Books page of Untold Arsenal.
To be able to publish a book of this quality and magnitude, and to have Bob Wilson write the introduction, and now to have Bob write article for Untold Arsenal is for me, personally, an enormous pleasure, and I must say a great privilege.
I have in the past mentioned how, when I started this site eight years ago, I wondered if anyone would ever read it. What I never imagined was that one of my all-time heroes would actually write an article for us, and an introduction for a book that we are publishing.
Bob Wilson’s article will appear next on Untold – at around 5pm UK time (6pm European time), today. I do hope you will join with me in thanking Bob for his engagement with Untold on this project, and I do hope you will also be interested in buying John Sowman’s superb book.