The day Robbo signed on the pitch
On the anniversary of the day Bryan Robson famously signed on the dotted line on the Old Trafford turf to seal his move to the Reds in 1981, Carryduff MUSC branch secretary John White shares his memories of the man he considered to be "the complete midfielder"…
“Bryan Robson was a big hero of mine because he gave everything for our cause. I literally prayed every Friday night that he would play for us the next day because without him in the side we struggled in games. He was such an influential player for United, and a great leader on the pitch.
"Ron Atkinson had bought Remi Moses from West Bromwich Albion for £600,000 in September 1981. Before he signed Robbo later that year, Big Ron sought the advice of Bill Shankly, asking the Liverpool legend how much he should pay for him.
"The £1.5million transfer fee was deemed a very good price for a young player – Robbo was 24 – who had already broken his left leg twice and his right ankle once. Shankly’s advice was brilliant: ‘Whatever it takes son, whatever it takes.’
"It proved to be the best money Big Ron ever spent as United boss, and I can still see Robbo and Big Ron sitting behind a table on the pitch in front of the South Stand before our First Division game against Wolverhampton Wanderers on 3 October 1981, two days after the transfer had been announced.
"Robson could tackle, he could pass short or long, he could play centre-half, he read the game brilliantly, he could control the pace of a game, he scored wonderful goals, he was as brave as a lion, he intimidated the opposition and he was an incredible athlete with his box-to-box runs. Is it any wonder the United fans nicknamed him ‘Captain Marvel’?
"I recall one game in particular. On 7 March 1984, United lost 2-0 at Camp Nou to Barcelona in the quarter-finals [of the Cup Winners’ Cup] and no one really gave us hope of overturning the deficit in the home leg against a team which boasted the world’s greatest player at the time, Diego Maradona.
"My good mate Joe McGouran (may he rest in peace) and I decided to go to the second leg at Old Trafford on 21 March 1984. Joe supported Leeds but he had an uncle in Manchester who wasn’t well and Joe’s mum asked us to check on him before the game.
"So we travelled on the Belfast-Liverpool ferry and got the train from Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Piccadilly, then we caught a bus out to Joe’s uncle’s house in Moss Side to pay him a visit before heading over to Old Trafford for the match.
"And what a game we saw! Two goals from Captain Marvel, and a third from Frank Stapleton, gave us a 3-0 win and passage to the semi-finals. I cannot recall how far away our hotel was from Old Trafford but we walked to it after the game, as we couldn’t get a taxi for love nor money.
"It was a lovely evening and I was caught up in the general wave of euphoria that existed all around us. To be honest, and Joe might not want me saying this, but I think he too was a Red that night. Great memories.”
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