Robert Thorpe, the ‘Rolls Royce’ of football (as recently nicknamed by former Derby County player Shane Nicholson) sat down with the team at Football Aid to share his stories/experiences and reflect on his achievements in the game so far.
Let’s begin …
Firstly, just to give the readers some background on your “football” career, can you tell us a bit about yourself and an overview of the clubs you have played for?
“I think I was six years old when I had my first pair of football boots and used to go and play on the green across the road where I lived. From around the age of 10, four or five of us played in the street using a gas lamp and a tree that was just wide enough for the goals. We used to play attack and defence (not many cars came past in those days). We also played in Longley park using coats as goals and during school holidays we took jam sandwiches and a bottle of tap water so we could play all day.
From 11 years old I played football for the school football team. There were no junior teams in my day so at the age of 16 I played for my Dad’s work team called Jubilee Sports.
From 16-22 years of age I played for Jubilee Sports and we won the Sports and Athletic Premier League for three consecutive seasons; 1968–1969, 1969-1970 and 1970-1971. We were then promoted to the Hatched League and we won the division in 1972-1973.
I then began playing for Forward Sports which was my work’s team and where we once again won the league in 1973-1974. Success followed when we also won the league and cup in 1975-1976. I also represented the Sheffield league and we beat Huddersfield 3-1 and I scored a goal.
Forward changed its name to Kings Head and in 1978-1979 I was awarded player of the year.
In 1982-1983 I started playing for Frecheville Football Club and I was awarded the County Senior and Northern Counties Teams Player of the Year for 1984-1985 and Clubman player of the year for 1986-1987.
I moved to Derbyshire’s Holmesfield Football Club over 35s team in 1990-1991 we won Division 1, and I Scored the winner to help us get promotion in the last match of the season.
In 1994-1995 I moved to Sheffield’s Davy Sports over 35`s team.
From 1995 I played in the over 35`s team for Sheffield Aurora, then as we were getting older, we moved to the over 45`s league and we were runners up in 2016-2017.
To the present day I continue to play 90 minutes most Saturdays and train every Tuesday night”.
Sunday football – list of honours:
“When I was aged 17 a couple of friends and I formed Hamilton Sports to play in the Sunday under 21`s league.
In 1971 we moved to the Sunday Alliance League where we were runners up in 1975-1976.
I was player of the year in 1974-1975,1975-1976 and 1976-1977.
I then moved to Forum / Attercliffe`s Lib`s where I was player of the year in 1979-1980, we were the League and Cup Double winners in 1980-1981.
I made another move to Fox Lane and further success when we won the Sheffield Tax League for 1983-1984 and a further bonus when I was awarded Player of the year.
I moved to Centre Spot in 1984-1985 and in 1986-1987 we won Division 2.
From 1991 to 1995 I coached A.F.C Dronfield`s under 12`s to under 16`s. We won the Sporting Award in 1993-1994. I retired from coaching in 1995.
In 1998 I played for the Black Bull Taverners in the over 45`s Umbro National where we won the final at the home of Rushden and Diamonds Football Club.
We won the competition once again in 1999 but this time, we played at the Old Wembley Stadium. We preceded Kingstonians and Forest Green Rovers before the Umbro Cup final, with about 30,000 people watching. Jimmy Greaves presented the cup and our winners medals. My team colleagues voted me Man of the Match which I consider to be a huge honour.
In 2000 we won the cup again, but this time we played at The City Ground, home of Nottingham Forest FC”.
Can you tell us which footballers you loved to watch when you were growing up? Also, are there any players in the modern game that you particularly like to watch?
“My favourite players growing up were Duncan Edwards even though I was only eight when he tragically died in the Munich Air Disaster. Sir Bobby Charlton was another huge favourite of mine and Dean, my eldest son’s middle name is called Charlton after the great man himself.
Peter Swan, Vic Mobley, Ron Springett, John Fantham, Gerry Young, Mark Smith, John Sheridan, Chris Waddle all from Sheffield Wednesday which was my boyhood team.
Other players are Bobby Moore, Jack Charlton, Gordon Banks, Roy McFarland, and Norman Hunter.
Another one of my favourite players was Pelé who I saw play for Santos against Sheffield Wednesday in 1962 scoring a penalty against the then England goalkeeper Ron Springett, Pelé went to take it with his right foot and used his left and Springett never moved it was so good.
George Best who was in my opinion the most complete footballer as he could dribble, tackle, use both feet and head a ball which not too many players can do.
I loved to watch the England team that won the World Cup in 1966, and also the side that reached the World Cup Semi-Final in 1990.
The players I love to watch in the modern game are Harry McGuire and Harry Kane. You will notice that I have listed quite a few defenders in all of these, probably that is why I play in defence”.
Moving on to your experiences with Football Aid, you have played in 85 matches and rank second in the all-time hall of fame for appearances, a remarkable and truly outstanding achievement. How did you first hear about Football Aid and what are your early memories?
“I first played in a Football Aid game back in 2004 when a friend told me about the charity. I was both interested in supporting the charity which raises funds for children with Type 1 Diabetes and for the opportunity to play football at some amazing football grounds. The first game I played in was at Sheffield Wednesday and the legend on my side was Mark Smith, a player I had admired when he was playing for The Owls and he was very good at encouraging all of us on the day”.