Bobby Hope was a highly talented Scottish footballer who enjoyed a very successful career in England, mostly with West Bromwich Albion where he spent 13 seasons playing 403 games in the old First Division and with whom he won the League Cup and the FA Cup. He also represented Scotland 11 times at schoolboy, under 23 and full international level when he attained the unusual distinction of never having lost in a Scotland shirt, ten wins and one draw.
After West Brom Bobby played for Birmingham City and Sheffield Wednesday while spending summers playing in the USA for Philadelphia Atoms and Dallas Tornados, in total recording nearly 600 top class games. Subsequently he became player/coach with Southern League side Bromsgrove Rovers, later managing them and Burton Albion before returning to West Brom where he became Chief Scout.
Bobby was the epitome of the old-fashioned Scottish inside forward, a scheming, intelligent playmaker with excellent ball skills, vision and pinpoint accurate passing. While not a prolific scorer despite having a powerful shot, he compensated by providing countless invaluable “assists”. Standing about 5ft 8in tall he was not the biggest but was very competitive and liked to win.
Born in Bridge of Allan, Bobby was brought up in Clydebank with sister Eleanor by parents Bill and Jessie. His football skills were first noted at Linnvale Primary and later at Clydebank High School, leading to selection for Dunbartonshire West Schools at Primary and under-15 levels, teams run by local headmaster Archie Galbraith. Selection for Scottish Schoolboys soon followed in season 1958/9, when Bobby’s team completed a clean sweep, defeating the other home nations to claim the Victory Shield. By now he was also playing for Drumchapel Amateurs with a host of senior clubs vying for his signature, including Rangers, Sunderland and West Brom, with the latter persuading him to join in the summer of 1959 aged 15.
At the same time three other Scottish Schoolboys’ teammates were also signed by the “Baggies”, including lifelong friend Campbell Crawford. Bobby recalled being well treated by the club, with all four being allowed to return home each month for a four-day break. He also relished being able to train alongside established names such as Bobby Robson, Don Howe and Ronnie Allen.
His progress was such that he made his first team debut aged 16 on 30 April 1960 against Arsenal in front of 27,000 fans at home at The Hawthorns in a 1-0 win, becoming the second-youngest player ever to represent the club and the last amateur to do so, being unable to sign professional forms before his 17th birthday. After the match he was delighted to be congratulated on his performance by Scottish international opponent Tommy Docherty, later the renowned manager.
Bobby’s name began featuring regularly on the team sheet as his stylish play won widespread plaudits. In 1966 he helped West Brom win the League Cup against West Ham 5-3 on aggregate, the Final then being played over two legs on a home and away basis. That qualified the team to play in Europe in the Fairs Cup the next season when Bobby scored their first goal in European competition, against Dutch side Utrecht. The same season they again reached the League Cup Final, at Wembley this time against Queens Park Rangers, but lost 3-2, although Bobby had memorably scored a hat trick en route against rivals Aston Villa.
Their next visit to Wembley, in 1968, had a much happier outcome as the Baggies claimed the FA Cup in an extra time victory over Everton in front of 100,000 fans. In a later interview Bobby, with customary modesty, stated: “The FA Cup was the highlight, there were better players than me never got a sniff of a medal.” Countering that innate modesty, Bill Shankly, the iconic Liverpool manager whose team was defeated earlier by West Brom, had declared prior to the tie,”Stop Bobby Hope playing and you stop Albion.”
Meantime his senior international career had launched with an under-23 cap in a win against Wales followed by his taking part in 1967 in Scotland’s “World Tour” when he played in eight of the nine matches, including games against Israel, three against Australia and one against Canada, for which full caps were retrospectively awarded. Manager Bobby Brown considered him one of the successes of the Tour, leading to selection for games against Holland and Denmark in 1968. He was unfortunate not to win more caps but competition for places then was fierce with the likes of Billy Bremner, John Greig and Jim Baxter around.
At club level other highlights included an FA Cup semi-final in 1969 and another Wembley appearance in the League Cup Final in 1970, an extra time defeat to Manchester City.
As manager he took Bromsgrove to 2nd in the Conference League and the 3rd round of the FA Cup, the club’s best ever performances, and given his fine eye for a player it was no surprise that he returned to The Hawthorns as scout and Chief Scout till retirement in 2014. A supporter of the Ex-Players’ Association, he also played in many charity games for the “Albion All Stars”.
In 1966 at the Old Church, West Bromwich, he wed Carol Deeley, with whom he enjoyed a long and happy marriage, during which they had sons Adam and Jamie. In retirement he ran post offices in the Birmingham area and enjoyed golfing and spending time with his family.
He was universally well thought of, with friend Campbell Crawford commenting: “He was a first class bloke and such a classy player.” Bobby is survived by his wife,sister,children and grandchildren David, Matilda and Madeleine.
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