Just finished reading the Bryan Robson autobiography entitled Robbo which apparently was the nickname ascribed to him by his father who was also referred by the same name. I get the impression it’s not the first time I’ve read this book, but when I came across it in the library, I thought I’d give it another read and I don’t regret it. It was not a waste of my time and I got to read about and know the guy who was arguably one of the greatest English players of the 1980’s. My memories of the man were of him being injury-prone. I’m sure he was as inspirational and sensational as his peers and observers make out, but I don’t have any experience of that from the brief time in the 1980’s when I began to take football seriously.
In reading his life story I get the impression that the brother really did have a good career in the game. He may not have fulfilled his potential in terms of attaining the personal accolades as well as game’s top trophies when he hit his peak, but he still ended up with three FA Cup winners medals and two Premier League champions medals which is not bad. He had a good run at Middlesbrough that didn’t end as he desired before briefly leading West Brom to the ‘Great Escape’ before the club inevitably got relegated the next season and he got sacked not too long after that.
As a read it’s not that remarkable. Robbo doesn’t come out with anything particularly contentious. He certainly has an opinion on how things have gone for him in his playing and managerial career. The insights often more than not have him emerging looking good, so there are a number of encounters in which he’s put in his point and turned out to be the winner. He isn’t slow to own up to one or two areas where he could have done better or went slightly awry, but he comes across as genuinely believing he was more good than any bad at all.
Sometimes you need a hook to keep you engaged with a book. That could be something you already bring to the reading of the book like a fascination with the subject matter or an appreciation of the writer. This helps if the book gets dry and boring in the hope that something might turn up to change things. Robbo’s book is not compelling reading and is definitely suited to an audience that wants to know about him. He doesn’t offer anything insightful about the state of football in the time he played it. It is on only incidentally that you would pick up anything about what it was like from the 1970’s to the 1990’s. For all that it’s not compelling it is not a bore either, Robbo, thankfully, is not yet of the Tommy Smith/Norman Hunter/Lou Macari generation of players who have much to gripe about in terms of the ‘things ain’t what they used to be’ aspect of the modern game. He obviously ain’t thrilled with all the diving and understandably comes from the ‘men are men and always should be manly men’ school of thought, but that doesn’t detract from reading the brother.
There are also insights from his mum and wife, which are nice flavouring, but if you were going to do that in a football book it would have been of even more interest to have comments and views from his managers, peers in the game and the like. As it is the book that’s obsessed with football having a sprinkling of input from the non-football fraternity almost seems out of place. Nevertheless there it is.
If you’re an avid Man United fan or have an interest in football of that era and getting insight from key players in it, reading this book will be up your street. Other than that there’s little to commend it to someone outside those interest groups.