The success of Liverpool in the 1970s cast a long, dark, shadow across Stanley Park which enveloped Goodison Park. Blue beacons of light were few and far between but, perhaps, Martin Dobson shone brightest.

The thoroughbred midfielder’s arrival from Burnley in August 1974 signalled the departure of Colin Harvey — the last member of the Holy Trinity. Christened “Sir Dobbo” by Andy King, in humorous deference to the class he exuded on and off the pitch, Martin was cultured and powerful with an eye for goal — there is no greater compliment than to state that he would not have looked out of place in the squad of 1969-70. In a five-year stay which yielded 40 goals in 230 appearances, he upheld the values of Nil Satis Nisi Optimum.

Now Martin is back at Goodison as a matchday host and cheering the Blues. I was privileged to spend on hour in conversation with the East-Lancastrian discussing Burnley, England, Everton, saxophones and singing in the shower:

My Dad was a Blackburn Rovers supporter in the Ronnie Clayton days and he’d take us to Ewood, so when I was coming through at school I was hoping that Rovers would come in for me – however, they never did. Bolton Wanderers, in the old Second Division, wanted me to sign as an apprentice but I decided to complete my A levels – so I just played for Bolton when I wasn’t playing for the school or county team. During that time, a lot of other clubs like Burnley, Manchester City and Arsenal showed interest but my dad said “No, he’s going to Bolton”. They’d then ask “What has Martin signed with Bolton?” and Dad said “Nothing. We just shook hands”!

When Bolton released me after one season as a pro, they didn’t tell me to my face – they just sent me a recorded delivery letter. So my dad said “I think you deserve another chance, son; let’s try Burnley as they have a good reputation.”

Burnley’s boss, Harry Potts, invited me down for a couple of weeks and that was all the incentive I needed. I grafted and got fit. It was brilliant there; the coaching under Jimmy Adamson was excellent. It was all on the deck – two-touch football: control, pass and move. All of a sudden, my confidence came back and I loved it. Coming from Bolton, it was like chalk and cheese. Burnley were ahead of their time – in the top division for over 20 years battling bigger clubs – and they gave young players a chance: Dave Thomas was a brilliant kid who could have gone to any club yet he chose Burnley.

So I signed – £20 a week, Magic! There were no agents around in those days... or I may have got another fiver!

Harry was the enthusiast, very positive whilst Jimmy was the ultimate technical coach who taught us how to play the right way – they were the perfect combo. I was a striker but they realised that I liked the ball at my feet and was confident in possession. Jimmy had been converted from a striker to a wing-half so he might have seen something that he could identify with in my play. So I tried midfield and I loved it as I was fully involved in the game and, as an ex-striker, could still get in the box and score.

I played in the England Under-23 team after I became a regular at Turf Moor – my first cap was in the 1969-70 season against Bulgaria but the following pre-season I broke my leg and dislocated my ankle at Middlesbrough’s Ayresome Park. When I came off the field, my foot was pointing in the wrong direction but I was very lucky that the England team doctor was also the ‘Boro doctor. He got it back in place – then I went to hospital for an X-ray. The leg was broken; it was a straight fracture which healed in 6 weeks but the ligaments took three months and Burnley were bottom of the division by that time. Jimmy said we’d be “team of the ’70s” but we promptly got relegated in 1971.

We were promoted back to the top level within two seasons; by the time I left Burnley I had broken through to the England squad. Alf Ramsey was under pressure and had changed the team around – my first cap was a friendly game against Portugal in 1973. When I played for England, it was alongside Colin Bell and Trevor Brooking and when Joe Mercer took over as caretaker manager it worked well. But then Don Revie came in and introduced other players. Dave Thomas should have had more caps – but it’s all about opinions.

At the start of the 1974-75 season, Burnley had to sell a player to finance the building of a new stand. At that time, Leighton James and I could command a £250,000-300,000 fee. It did come as a bit of a shock to me. I was captain of the club but, after playing against Ipswich on the Saturday, the deal was done on the Monday: I met Billy Bingham at Turf Moor and it was all sorted in 10 minutes. I was delighted to join such a fantastic club.

I knew about the history of the great Everton midfield of Harvey, Kendall and Ball. By then, Howard – a wonderful player – had left for Birmingham whilst Bally had gone and Colin was struggling with a hip problem. Dave Clements was in centre-midfield, with Gary Jones and John Connelly on the flanks, so I slotted into midfield. Roger Kenyon was captain and Dave Lawson was vying with Dai Davies for the goalkeeper slot. We almost won the league that season. I remember scoring against Coventry on Easter Monday to put us top of the division but we couldn’t see it through.

Everton is a massive club and the atmosphere at Goodison was great but I was coming away sometimes thinking that the fans wouldn’t have enjoyed watching us play at that time – we were getting the right results but the entertainment factor was missing. I came from a team, Burnley, where we were always on the front foot: get it wide, be creative, lots of crosses and shots on target. Training sessions were hard under Billy, everything was timed like 200-m and 400-m runs. Long-term it did give me the core strength to extend my career.

Coming to Everton was a huge change for me. I’d joined Burnley on a ‘free’ where nothing was expected of me. Now at Everton, I’d cost £300,000 and the expectation levels were completely different. I was trying hard to adjust to the move but it was tough and my confidence was a little down. One day, I thought “I want to stay at Everton. I’m going to go out and give it my best shot, be more aggressive and put myself about. I want to be part of a successful Everton team and get on the coat-tails of the club across the road.” It worked. Driving myself forward like that became the turning point. You had to do this yourself – there were no sports psychologists in those days.

I really enjoyed my last three years at Everton. Gordon Lee had taken over and we played a more expansive game: ball on the deck, create chances, score goals and win games. In 1977-78 we went 23 games without defeat; we had a good team with Lyonsey, Pejiy, Kingy, Rossco, Tiger Thomas and Big Latch whilst Dunc McKenzie was a real crowd favourite. We also had a good work ethic and honest players, willing to graft. However, in the end we again finished third; we did have a few injuries in the last six or seven games but it was so disappointing. We wanted it so badly and so did the fans.

I feel that the League Cup Final against Villa was a big chance to win a trophy; if we had, I’m sure it would have led to other triumphs. It wasn’t to be in the FA Cup either, was it? We felt gutted by the decision of ref Clive Thomas to disallow Bryan Hamilton’s legitimate winner in the Maine Road semi-final derby game.

I left Everton in 1979 and it was a bad decision – Gordon had offered me a contract but I wanted a longer one after having had a successful season. Harry Potts had gone back to Burnley after a period at Blackpool. I met him in Southport and he asked me to come back to Burnley. I felt I needed to repay his faith he had in me for giving me the chance all those years ago. I had a special relationship with Harry, himself a former Evertonian, and wanted to pay him back. It was my heart ruling my head.

But, when I got back to Burnley, it wasn’t the club I’d left – the discipline had gone and Jimmy Adamson wasn’t there anymore. I realised I’d made a mistake but you make your decisions and sometimes they work out and sometimes they don’t. I should have stayed at Goodison; I felt I could have moved to central defence. We could have played it out from the back and kept possession... but you can’t turn the clock back.

Towards the end of my second spell at Burnley, when I was 35, we were in the Second Division and good players were coming through the youth system like Brian Laws, Trevor Steven and Mike Phelan. It was clear that Trevor would be a top talent even as a 17-year-old. He was brilliant – and what a nice lad. I saw him the other week and he said “Hey Dobbo, do you remember when you came into the gym in pre-season and I had my socks rolled down? You said, ‘Hey, Tricky, look smart, play smart!’ – so I pulled them up!” Howard came to see one of our games at Burnley and afterwards gave me a bell. I thought “Hey – Howard wants me back at Everton, great!” but Howard put me straight. “No Dobbo – it’s about Trevor Steven, what’s he like?”I said “Howey, just sign him, whatever it costs”.

Then John Bond came in as manager of Burnley and made it clear that he wanted me away. Bury were looking for a player-manager so I thought I’d give it a go. I enjoyed it but it was tough. There were only four people on the coaching staff and 16 players. In the close-season I went round looking at a lot of reserve games and then released nine of our players. I was lucky that I was able to draft in Andy Hill from Manchester United, Jamie Hoyland from Manchester City, David Lee, Leighton James and Trevor Ross – all on frees. We had a mixture of experience and good young talent. It came together the following season when we got promoted; I was there five years and we maintained our position.

The likes of Lee Dixon, who I picked up on a free from Chester, also came through the ranks and then I signed Mark Higgins. Mark had retired at Everton but the injury settled down and he gained a contract at Manchester United. I saw him play in a reserve game and thought: “Wow – he’d do a great job for us”. We could only offer around £10,000 so Alex Ferguson agreed a 50% sell-on if we sold Mark on for a bigger fee.

Higgy did a brilliant job – a real leader; he organised the defence, took responsibility and was a great pro. He was also very popular in the dressing room. A lot of other clubs came in for him but at that time I couldn’t replace him. In the end, something had to give. So I went to see Sir Alex and he said that Man Utd would take 50% of anything under £100,000. In the end we sold Mark to Stoke City for £150,000. So everybody was happy: Higgy was playing higher level football and Bury made around £100,000. What’s more Alex helped a young manager and a small club like Bury. Mark is now hosting one of the suites at Goodison Park on match days so it is great to see him again.

After Bury, I ended up at Bristol Rovers for a few months but it just didn’t work out. Since then, I’ve been involved in youth football. I was the Academy Director at Bolton Wanderers when, former Evertonian, Colin Todd was manager and then I held a similar position at Burnley FC. I left that position 2 years ago and took up a scouting position with Leicester City which is ongoing.

Around that time, Harry Ross from the Everton Former Players Foundation got in touch and said they were looking for a former player to host the Dixie Dean Lounge on match days. “Would I fancy it?”. My answer: “Absolutely, Harry, without question.” I’m still a footie fan and I didn’t hesitate because during those other years I hadn’t been able to see games at Goodison because of other commitments. I love it – just walking through the doors for that first game felt like I was coming home. It has brought back so many happy memories and the people are fantastic.

Everton is so special – a proper football club run the right way all way from Chairman Bill right throughout all the departments. My wife shouts at me when I’m in the shower and I’m doing my own rendition of “It’s a Grand Old Team to play for...” – she comes in and starts throwing squashed tomatoes at me! I’ve just started playing the saxophone; not too good at the moment but I’d love to get some sheet music to that song. They say you need to do about 10,000 hours practice to do anything to a good standard; I’ve just worked it out so I’ll be around 125 when I’ll be any good!

Since watching the lads regularly I feel they’ve been excellent; they couldn’t have given any more. That’s continued at the start of this season; for me, every player is playing to their maximum every week. We’ve got some absolutely top notch bunch of players. To have only lost one Premier League game so far is fantastic. And the wins against Chelsea and Newcastle have set a real bench-mark for the season. It’s been a great start for Roberto and his staff.

People have asked me if there are players in the present squad who were similar to myself. I feel everyone is an individual. We all have strengths and weaknesses but one thing’s for sure – the game has moved onto another level in all areas: the pitch condition, fitness levels, conditioning, sports science, nutrition... everything. Just look at the physique of Ross Barkley, he’s formidable: only 19 years of age but 6’-2” with fantastic strength and ability – in fact, all the assets to be a top player. Romelu is the same. So it’s all looking good, we’ve now got a great balance of experience and youth with Gerard, Stonesy, Ross and Romelu.

Whatever happens will happen but one thing’s for sure: the fans love Everton Football Club and they lift the players on match days. What an atmosphere they produce – I know that for a fact. It still gives me a real tingle, even now as a fan, when the lads run out to the first beat of the Z-Cars theme. Bring it on!

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Reader Comments (34)

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David Pearl
1 Posted 20/11/2013 at 15:32:08
Pleasure the read that, thanks Rob
Tony McNulty
2 Posted 20/11/2013 at 15:57:30
He was classy and cultured and very comfortable on the ball.

I saw a game in London years ago – I think it was QPR. We had someone sent off early on – it might have been Pejic. In any event, Dobbo slotted in at left back. He played absolutely superbly, and if memory serves me right, we won 4-0.

Was anyone else there and can they fill in the gaps?

Barry Rathbone
3 Posted 20/11/2013 at 17:10:55
Kept us away from relegation bother virtually single handed one year.

He was living proof stats in isolation are complete bollocks he never won a bean but would be worth 50m these days - what a player he was.

Norman Merrill
4 Posted 20/11/2013 at 17:35:32
Martin Dobson was a class act, I first saw him playing for Burnley at Chelsea, in a midweek fixture.
After he joined the Blues we played United at Old Trafford, & won 0-3, & he stood out.
It brought back memories, some good & some bad when he mentioned the cup games versus the RS, or more commonly known as the Clive Thomas cock up, & Villa in the league cup final, which went to 3 games.
Welcome back Martin, to Goodison, & EVERTON.
Frank Duffy
5 Posted 20/11/2013 at 19:11:04
Met him through my job. What a nice guy. One of Everton's best,
Peter Warren
6 Posted 20/11/2013 at 19:16:15
Never heard of him but what a fantastic read. Sounds like he was a fab player and proper old school so humble. Lovely to hear his comments about the club.
Brian Garside
7 Posted 20/11/2013 at 19:27:04
Dobbo makes Stevie Me look like a shire horse.

Kenny Jones
8 Posted 20/11/2013 at 20:55:49
Had the pleasure to meet Sir Dobbo on a couple of occasions this season through his capacity as matchday host - and one of my favourite players, post holy trinity era. Some may say it's his job but he is genuinely an extremely friendly fella who remains enthusiastic about all things blue and is a credit to the club.

First time post after an age of lurking and delighted it's about Dobbo!

Mike Hughes
9 Posted 20/11/2013 at 21:11:14
Martin Dobson was one of my favourite players in the 70s. He was definitely a class act and captured the imagination when I was a kid. I'm glad he'd back with us.

That was a great read. We came so close to success in the 70s. History may have been so different if we could have gone that extra mile (and qualified for the European Cup instead of other great teams around that time like Forest and Villa).

Reading that it also seemed that Billy Bingham was more of a disciplinarian than Gordon Lee.

Ian McDowell
10 Posted 20/11/2013 at 21:24:24
Clive there is a TWAT!!!!!!
Trevor Lynes
11 Posted 20/11/2013 at 22:26:57
Dobson would have been a Martinez-type player as he had great ball control and passing range. The passing style would suit him down to the ground. He would be in my top ten EFC wing halves I have ever seen since 1948!!!

Like the lads we have in central defence, he was hardly ever booked and absolutely never panicked. The perfect old head who always stayed in shape. I admired him lots and it's nice to read about his genuine love for the club even though he was a Lancashire lad.

When he mentioned Ronnie Clayton as a player he admired, I could understand it as his play was of a similar type.

David Booth
12 Posted 21/11/2013 at 00:58:53
Hello, hello, Martin Dobbo, Martin Dobbo!

One of my favourite Evertonians: cultured, dynamic, elegant, an eye for goal and a sportsman & gentleman to boot. Always seemed to play with a smile.

The team at that time was a truly fabulous one, powerful, exciting and great players in every position. One of the few times the the sum of the parts is equalled by the whole.

As a youngster and after several fallow seasons, I really thought we could and would (and SHOULD) have won something.

If my memory serves me right, our line-up was something like this:

Georgie Wood

Dave Jones, Mike Lyons, Ken McNaught, Mike Pejic

Andy King, Bruce Rioch/Trevor Ross, Martin Dobson, Dave Thomas

Bob Latchford, Duncan McKenzie

Spot the weakness? There isn't one. Perfect in every position.

Up there right alongside 69/70 and 84/87 for me.

Dobbo, if you read this, you are remembered with great affection

Timothy Sebastian
13 Posted 21/11/2013 at 03:52:57
What a wonderful footballer was Martin Dobson. I think only him, Bobby Moore and Trevor Brooking left the field of play after 90 mins looking immaculate, with every piece of hair in place. Like Moore and Brooking, he was the epitome of cool and class on the pitch. I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with him on match day at the Goodison lounge last year. What an absolute gentleman. Happy that he's still involved with Everton.
Eric Myles
14 Posted 21/11/2013 at 05:25:32
"That's continued at the start of this season; for me, every player is playing to their maximum every week"

We're in more trouble than we realised then.

John Keating
15 Posted 21/11/2013 at 12:56:17
Made me wonder when he said that Burnley needed a new stand so they sold him...
Rooney?? Fellaini??
Michael Kenrick
16 Posted 21/11/2013 at 13:21:07

There's needing money....

Then there's needing money to build a stand.

I'm not quite sure what point you're making but I don't think it was the second for Rooney.... nor Fellaini.

Anto Byrne
17 Posted 21/11/2013 at 13:07:17
Yes, he was a very elegant footballer. I was at the game when he made his debut. 1974 against the Arsenal I think. 2-1 with sir Bob scoring both of them. That 74-75 team was pretty good and we had a chance to win the league but blew it in the last few games.
Eugene Ruane
18 Posted 21/11/2013 at 14:05:38
Younger TWers should know it was actually the law back then that if a player was under 5 foot 6 and played in midfield, TV pundits had to describe the player as a 'midfield dynamo'. Those, like Dobson, who were over this height, had to be referred to as 'midfield generals'. Occasionally some commentator might try to flout this law and call someone like Johnny Giles a midfield general, but they would be severely beaten by other commentators if they did.
Gary Reeves
19 Posted 21/11/2013 at 16:07:11
Good to see Martin "throwing Gordon Lee’s name in the hat" about playing some good football. It’s often overlooked but there were times under Lee when we weren’t far off, and we often played some really good stuff. He definitely wasn’t as dour as popular mythology would have you believe.

Towards the end, some senior players (Latchford, Pejic, Todd, Thomas) undermined him a little, and they needed moving on, but he did try to bring through a new generation, and correct me if I’m wrong but I seem to remember him introducing, Sharp, Ratcliffe, McMahon, Hodge, Megson, McBride. He’d probably ran his course at the end but he was never as bad as some people remember.

I always remember Malcolm Allison predicting the title would be won by the winners of that afternoon’s game,Everton v Coventry (2nd v. 3rd). We stuffed them 6-0 with some terrific football, and it’s one of my all-time favourite GP memories.

Paul McGinty
20 Posted 21/11/2013 at 16:36:21
That Latchford, King, Dobson side was still one of my favorites.
The Man U league cup win in 1976 was a great one ...I remember Dai Davies having a corker.....sang all the way back home .
Highlights are available on You tube..Dobbo got the first.

Chris Jones [Burton]
21 Posted 21/11/2013 at 19:02:39
Martin Dobson was the epitome of what some commentators call a 'cultured footballer'. A real class act, an aristocrat in fact! To those who don't remember the 70s, perhaps a cross between Kevin Sheedy and Mikel Arteta might be as close as you'd get.

I recall one New Year's Day (1985 I think) Everton were away so my brothers and I, rather than our usual trip to Goodison from me mam's in North Manchester, popped-along the road to see Bury play Port Vale at Gigg Lane.

Dobbo, player manager was in midfield with Trevor Ross; and Eamonn O'Keefe was playing for the Vale. It was like an EFC reunion.

Happy days.

Neil Quinn
22 Posted 21/11/2013 at 23:24:04
Tony #134 - it was Dave Jones who was sent off during the 4-0 win over QPR.
Neil Quinn
23 Posted 21/11/2013 at 23:39:00
Anybody remember the League Cup game against Wimbledon when we won 8-0? Latchford scored five that night & Dobbo scored three. I can't remember any of the goals apart from one of Dobson's which was a screamer from about 30 yards out. He had a hell of a shot on him.

I remember we all used to moan about him being a "sideways passer". In our defence, we were only young & didn't appreciate the finer points of the game.

Tony McNulty
24 Posted 22/11/2013 at 09:59:21
Thanks Neil.

Despite the win that day, I stiill hate games in which people get sent off. It often ruins the game: the ref might want to even things up; it often inspires the opposition (although it doesn't usually work that way when we have someone sent off).

It is one of my fears for Saturday. Several of the foul Cretans from Mars in Saturday's opposition are proven cheats, notably Gerrard and, to give him his Latin name, Rattibus Mr Ed Teethibus

Bill Griffiths
25 Posted 22/11/2013 at 11:52:10
A truly marvellous footballer and a gentleman too. His times at the club were probably the best times in the 70s. Didn't realise he's back at the club in ambassador's role.

Another great favourite of mine was Andy King, does anyone know what he's doing these days?

John Keating
26 Posted 23/11/2013 at 02:50:23

The Fellaini money has gone nowhere so far and I wouldn't be surprised if we never see it. If Martinez was told "he had money to spend" before Fellaini went then why not use this "so-called" surplus cash to improve the ground?

Ok the Rooney money went. But could not a few quid have been spent on ground improvements?? Lots of clubs have spent transfer money on refurbishing their grounds.

Hibs up in Edinburgh knocked down and rebuilt their last stand a couple of years ago when labour and materials were at a low using money they received on, amongst other things, the Steven Fletcher money they used when I think Burnley signed him. OK not the greatest most plush stand in the world but good enough.

£20 odd million from Fellaini would go a long way in improving things at Goodison – a second tier on the Park End??

Eric Myles
27 Posted 23/11/2013 at 05:17:03
John #563, the other day someone posted that our transfer activity in the summer amounted to around £31 million.

If "the Fellaini money has gone nowhere" where did we get that transfer fund from?

Michael Kenrick
28 Posted 23/11/2013 at 05:51:07
Fair enough, John.... nice ideas, obviously.

Never gonna happen, tho. The current regime... heck, even the one before it, has been convinced that Everton must move to a new stadium, not stay at Goodison and do any improvements or upgrades beyond the barely cosmetic. The last time this was mentioned, they were still holding out for an "enabling partner" who would do for them what they thought Tesco were doing (they were not) to bring forth Desperation Kirkby.

Meanwhile... [cue tumbleweed] we... stay at Goodison.

Andy Amey
29 Posted 23/11/2013 at 09:09:48
Great footballer.....lovely chap

On derby day does anybody else remember the screamer Dobson scored at anfield?

John Keating
30 Posted 23/11/2013 at 11:27:07
where have we spent £31 million in the summer ?
I think the figure you're quoting might be nearer "transfer activity" i.e. both in and out which would include the Fellaini money.
Up until the final minute of the transfer deadline both the Club and Martinez were adamant that we didn't have to sell Fellaini.
If that's the case then surely the Fellaini money is "spare" and if so why can't it be used on the Ground ??
Harvey Miller
31 Posted 23/11/2013 at 18:47:07
A really nice article. I really liked Dobson in the 90's even if my hero was Latchford. Didn't get much chance to see any games at those times but it always seemed that he had lots of time because he read the game so well. We could use a player like him today but those kind of players come only with big money.Barry is close but not quite as good as Dobson used to be in his prime.
Richard Tarleton
32 Posted 23/11/2013 at 19:09:27
A lovely man, I met him through a friend from the Burnley area and a very underrated player, he'd walk into the present team.
Karl Masters
33 Posted 24/11/2013 at 23:52:38
One of my favourites as a kid in the '70s. Consistent, scored goals and looked the part in every way. I never understood why he left the way he did. Now I know. What a mistaka-da-maka!
David Price
34 Posted 01/12/2013 at 22:05:14
Yes Andy, I remember the screamer at Anfield in 76. 3-0 down at half time, he got the consolation from 30 yards out, right in front of me as I stood on the Kop with my blue scarf on. Saw his screamer versus Coventry at Goodision as well. Marvellous player. Great article, Thank You.

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