Me Owd Duck remembers Bobby

by , January 25, 2009

Now then,

For Christmas, a very kind lady bought me a book to read. It was called ‘Nottingham Forest Cult Heroes’. Now I love looking back over the years and thinking of all the games I have been to that have sent me from one ground or another, in great happiness or in deep misery. Reading about players that we have had that played for their country, which excited the fans, which set the City Ground alight: this is something I love to do.

Think about the talent we have seen come out of the tunnel at the City Ground over the years; Duncan McKenzie, John Robertson, Stuart Pearce. There have been times when we have been blessed and seen football as it is truly meant to be played: the beautiful game. I read about billion pound takeovers, of offers made to Kaka to play for Manchester City for over a hundred million pounds and I despair that we will never get the beauty back into this game. I worry that today’s football can be bought and sold as a commodity. I wonder how long in this age of mass communication when America dominates the world we will be allowed to even call our sport football, rather than soccer, which the Americans prefer; or how many Premiership teams will be without a Chinese player, as they are becoming the dominant economy.

After Friday’s game, I had said that I planned to write a history of the rivalry between Forest and Derby. There is a perfectly good Wikipedia entry about that. It also does not really stretch back further than the Clough era and I have said enough about that recently. I learned some interesting things whilst reading about it. Forest started out as a Bandy team. Bandy is a cross between football and Ice hockey, played by teams of 11, on Ice, with a ball, not a puck. It is still played in Russia and Scandinavian countries. Once we converted to football, our first real rivals were of course, Notts County. They were formed to play football, not some other game. The Derby rivalry came about in the 1970’s because Clough left them and came to us. And we all thank the Lord for that.

So, I thought about Cult Heroes and I thought about what it was to truly be a loyal servant to a football club. Nigel Clough is our second highest scorer of all time and the son of our greatest ever manager, yet he can openly declare his support for our arch-rivals and go on to manage them. Kris Commons spent all his time at this club telling us that we were the club that he had supported as a boy, and he too left to join our greatest rivals. Footballers can be so fickle.

So, I thought about which was our most loyal ever player. Which player had the most all-time leading appearances in competitive games for Forest? What do you think? Stuart Pearce? Nigel Clough? Des Walker?

My cult hero for today is not mentioned in the book I was bought. He was an unglamorous player playing for an unglamorous team in an unglamorous division. The player that has made the most competitive appearances for Forest for all time is Scottish Centre-half, Bobby McKinlay.

Bobby was born in 1932 in Lochgelly, Fife. He was the son of a semi-professional football player who played for Cowdenbeath. His junior club was Bowhill Rovers and in 1949, his uncle recommended him to Billy Walker’s Forest. At the time he was an inside right. He joined the club and made his debut on the 5th of October 1951 against Coventry City, aged 19 years and 17 days. He took over from the injured Alan Orr. Up front for us that day, was our leading goal scorer of all time, Wally Ardron. Within three seasons, Wally had retired and Bob had established himself at Centre-back. He played in the game against the Busby babe’s team after the Munich disaster in front of 66 thousand fans. He was a member of the team that won the 1959 cup final and he survived Walker’s cull of the following season. In 1962 he was made club captain and he remained in this role until 1966.

On 22nd April, 1959, Bob McKinlay missed Nottingham Forest’s game against Leeds United at the City Ground. It was 23 October, 1965, before his name was off the team-sheet again for a League match. This run in the side took in 265 consecutive appearances and six full seasons. In total, McKinlay played 614 times in the League for Forest, to this day, a club record. During all that time, twenty years of professional football, Bobby never earned more than seventeen pounds a week. He was a solid centre half.

Look at any team photo from the 1950s and 60s and there is Bobby smiling back at you. Forest have always had strong Scottish connections and our longest serving player was a Scot. Bobby was our most loyal ever player; a true unsung hero. The word ‘stalwart’ seems made for him and his contribution to the history of our football club.

Bobby made his last League appearance for Forest in 1969, at the age of 37. He went on to play for Albion Rovers back in Scottish lower-league football before retiring. Although he was often nominated for the Scottish national side, he never made an International appearance.

After retiring from the game, McKinlay worked as a prison officer at Lowdham Grange Detention Centre, near Nottingham. He died in 2002, leaving two children and five grandchildren.

He’s not a cult hero at all but this is a real Forest hero; a model of professionalism and consistency. We will never see his like again.

Kaka = Caca. Give me Bobby McKinlay.

I’ll see thee.