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Martin Dobson in Burnley kit
Burnley FC :- 1967 - 1974

Everton FC :- 1974 - 1979

POSITION :- Midfielder
DATE OF BIRTH :- Saturday 14th February 1948
PLACE OF BIRTH :- Rishton, Lancashire
DEBUT :- (Everton) Saturday, 31st August 1974 in a 2-1 win at home to Arsenal (Aged: 26)
CLUB CAREER :- (Aug 1974-Aug 1979) 190 League apps, 29 goals

Martin started at Clitheroe Royal Grammar School (C. R. G. S.) in 1959, following in the footsteps of his elder brother Philip, who'd be around six years older.

Incidentally, Philip was a terrific footballer too, played centre-forward for C. R. G. S. and his University side.

CRGS Bantams 1959 - 60.

From day one at C. R. G. S., it was obvious that Martin was an exceptional player - by 13, he was the best player in the school, at 14 he was playing for the 1st XI regularly. He made the rest look very ordinary players!

Whilst at C. R. G. S., he played for England Grammar Schools, and the rest as they, is history.

The picture here, Not only does it figure Martin, but Michael Hindley M. E. P. for Hyndburn for many years during the 1990's, who hails from Great Harwood, and who was a gifted left-winger.

Martin Dobson, together with his brother and sister lived in one of the houses on the block before the War Memorial on Blackburn Road. His Sister went to Accrington High.

Martin left school and was signed by Bolton Wanderers, but more about that later.

Turf Moor, Home of Burnley FC and home of Martin Dobson for most of his career.

Martin Dobson, had a long wait to even reach the fringe of the England team. He gained only a single Under-23 cap and it wasn't until November 1973 that he was called up for the full squad. That was for the Wembley match with Italy which followed immediately after England's elimination from the World Cup by Poland. And though selection acknowledged his international potential, Dobson was simply a spectator that night - he wasn't named for the team or among the five substitutes.

But the best midfield players mature with age, and Martin had the talent and the experience to become the stylist the rebuilt England side needed in the dual bid for the European Nations Cup in 1976 and the World Cup in Argentina two years later. He had underlined that much as the mastermind of the Burnley side which has re-established itself in the First Division over the past year or so. Any doubts which lingered about Dobson's ability to raise his performance at the highest League level - and, to be honest, they did exist beyond Turf Moor when Burnley were hitting the Second Division high spots in 1972/73 - have long since been banished.

Burnley FC club badge

Martin has not only underlined that he can compete with the best midfield players in the business, he also proved that - unlike many of his rivals for an England place - he had a genuine goal-flair. A versatile soccer apprenticeship, in his early days he operated first as a striker and then as a defender, helped Dobson shine in his present role. His timing in a tackle enabled him to win the ball cleanly: he had quick control which aided his accuracy when it came to passing or shooting. It has been said that his fault was a tendency to be over-adventurous in putting the emphasis on attack and occasionally neglecting the defensive part of his duties. But even to label that as a ‘fault’ could be questionable when English football suffered during those years from an overdose of safety-first tactics.

There must be a few red faces at Burnden Park, home of Burnley's county rivals Bolton Wanderers, when Dobson emerged as a First Division star. Bolton gave Martin a free transfer when he was seventeen, an error of similar proportion to the earlier decision by the same club to release Alan Ball.

Dobson had been a prolific scorer of goals as a schoolboy in his native Clitheroe, so perhaps Bolton expected too much too soon after signing him as a professional. Whatever the reason, they showed him the door after a single season in which he failed to develop into the kind of tearaway striker they had anticipated.

Burnley promptly offered Martin terms, and within four months he was in their League side. And at Turf Moor they were more patient in finding Dobson's true position. He operated for a spell in defence, winning that solitary England Under-23 honour as a centre-half, but it was only a short-term measure in a club crisis. And, in due course, Martin was given the freedom and scope of a midfield role. Dobson was an elegant footballer, beautifully balanced and with the bonus of finishing power which paid a particularly valuable dividend of eleven goals in Burnley's promotion season.

THE only classical wing-half left in the country. That's how one respected football expert waxed lyrical when describing the immense talents of Burnley skipper, Martin Dobson. Certainly, this tall, strongly built, yet remarkably delicate player, can look back on two eventful - and highly successful - seasons while anticipating, with some justification, a more rewarding future. For at 26 Dobson had already proved himself a dominating, constructive leader, whose inspiration had led Burnley back into the top ten.

Martin Dobson with Sir Alf Ramsey training with England

He also seemed to have quite an important part to play for England. Sir Alf Ramsey, taking a pointer from Burnley manager Jimmy Adamson, had made it evident that Dobson could be a hit on the international scene. A schoolboy apprentice with Bolton, Martin signed for the Turf Moor Club in 1967 on a free transfer. After trial runs at centre-forward and centre-half, in which position he gained his first under-23 cap, Dobson finally settled down in midfield. That under-23 game took place in April, 1970, but hopes of quick progress were shattered when he suffered a broken leg during the summer and missed Burnley's vain struggle to avoid relegation.

Within two years, however, with Dobson as captain, Burnley marched back into the First Division they dumbfounded their critics with some outstanding football, backed by new-found steel.

"We proved we were no flash in the pan," says Martin. "We took on, and beat, some of the so-called best teams in the land. And we beat them on skill, not clogging. We were more consistent than anyone gave us credit for.

"The team spirit at Burnley was tremendous. That's what helped us all the way. There's no place for fits of temperament. Everyone worked for each other." For all that, Burnley proved there was still plenty of room for individual ability. Dobson's own contribution grew game by game and fine runs in both League and F. A. Cup were in no small way due to his tremendous leadership. He controlled midfield, scored vital goals and was a wonderful example of the forgotten wing-half style.

It didn't go unnoticed. He was in the squad for England's clash with the Italians in November and then represented the Football League in their 5-0 win over the Scottish League in March. Two weeks later, Martin made his full international debut as one of six new players called up by Sir Alf for the visit to Portugal. Though the game ended in a goal-less draw, Dobson was impressive enough to keep his place for the Home International series.

Dobson with Everton

There was no stopping Burnley that season  (1972) as they surged gloriously to the Second Division title. They turned in a season of determined and consistent performances. And one of the main architects of that title triumph was their midfield star Martin Dobson. Dobson's inspired performances had a lot to do with Burnley's emphatic success. But it was not so long ago that Dobson was far from happy with his progress in the tough, competitive world of top-class soccer.

In 1967, Dobson had been put on Bolton's free transfer list without ever getting a chance to establish a first-team spot. But Burnley, who were then a First Division outfit, spotted the potential of this near six-footer and signed him up. He was a striker in his early professional days after a successful schoolboy career. He was then switched into the back four but was also a great success when he moved into midfield. Obviously Burnley had another young star-in-the-making on their hands. There can be no other club that have turned out so many top class players on such limited resources. Dobson is just another in their long line of successes.

He is tremendously good in the air and possesses a fine shot. His prowess is unquestioned. He has stepped up to the captaincy at Burnley and the extra responsibility has done his performances the world of good. Dobson has almost 200 League games under his belt and he, has scored nearly 50 goals. And all that despite breaking a leg in a pre-season game at Middlesbrough in August 1970. That, and his release by Bolton, have been the saddest moments in this Blackburn-born star’s career.

But one of the happiest was in 1970 when he picked up an England Under-23 cap against Bulgaria. Now Martin is hoping for a full England place. He's 25, but still has time to impress England team boss Sir Alf Ramsey. And now that Burnley have regained their spot in the First Division, Dobson's superb talents will be given even more chance to shine.

Dobson with Everton

For Dobson is not just a maker of goals. He can score them as well, as Second Division defences found out to their cost last season. Even from a midfield position, Dobson finished the season as Burnley's second leading goal-scorer behind Paul Fletcher. He found the target 12 times altogether and a lot of those goals clinched vital points in Burnley's title chase. He grabbed all-important winners against Bristol City, Brighton and Swindon - winners that made that Burnley promotion dream come true. After that free-transfer upset and that broken leg nightmare, life looks just great again for Martin Dobson.

He’s been called "the only classical wing-half left in English football." That’s Martin Dobson. And when he moved on from the talent-spotting academy of Burnley to Everton, the Merseyside club forked out 300,000 in hard cash for his classical skills.

Yet, if certain soccer coaches had had their way, Dobbo would have become a hustling, bustling, battering-ram of a centre forward. A human bulldozer encouraged, indeed instructed, to push the ball on immediately rather than use his obvious classical skills to beat an opponent or two.

That was in Martin's spell with Bolton Wanderers. He admits now that he rebelled against the coaching. He says: "They were great to me at Burnden Park when I was a nipper. I made pretty fair progress as a striker who liked to hold the ball. But when I became a full professional they tried to completely change my style. Suddenly I was one of a gang of forwards chasing big boots out of defence." And what happened is that today's 300,000 superstar was sent packing from Bolton . . . on a free transfer!

At Burnley, they let his skills develop. At Burnley, they either find new talent. Or encourage so called "no-hopers". He wasn't the only ‘free’ man given a new lease of life at Turf Moor. There was the one-time England World Cup defender Keith Newton, and the polished midfielder Geoff Nulty (now Newcastle). He got used to the comings and goings at Burnley, as stars like Steve Kindon, Dave Thomas, Ralph Coates and Willie Morgan moved on. And Martin was to prove the most costly buy of all.

He says now: "Coaching, if it’s done sensibly, is vital to the game. But there’s no point forcing a youngster to do things which just don’t suit his style. You can imagine how I felt when Bolton, in effect, said that I had no value. After all, the club itself wasn’t doing so hot. You’d have thought that anyone with even a little bit of talent could make it there. But not me. Anyone who knows me must know that I simply live for the game. So I must have been really down when I got that ‘free’, because I honestly thought seriously about giving it all up as a bad job.

"It was my dad who talked some sense into me. He knew the Bolton coaching had got me going all the wrong way. He talked me into giving it one more go with another club. But if all that was happening to me, how many other promising youngsters miss out the chance of making the grade because of the misguided belief of some coach?"

There was just a chance that Martin might have made the grade at cricket if he had given up soccer - he played for the England Grammar Schools XI. He says: "In the old days, there were several all-rounders who were internationals at both soccer and cricket, but it's not really possible now, what with close-season tours for both games.

In fact, Dobbo went on to win his first Under-23 cap as a centre half, later going into midfield. He says: "But even when you feel on top of the world, as I did when I got my first Under-23 game, you never know when everything is going to collapse on top of you again. For instance, just a couple of months after that highlight international, I broke a leg and to cap it all while I was still getting fit Burnley got the chop and were relegated."

Again he fought back, got fit and was a key figure as Burnley fought their way back into the First Division. With Dobbo as skipper. No wonder he talks with pride of the team spirit that ran through the club. "People said we were an unfashionable mob, playing in a sort of English equivalent of Siberia...but we got results and we got ‘em by playing good football."

The fact is that Martin Dobson is a born leader. When he moved on to Everton, the shock waves ran through the game at the amount of money involved, but manager Billy Bingham was sure he’d got a cool, calm, collected player of high pedigree. And Dobbo says: "I’ll not knock Burnley. Never. They were good to me and they let me play. But maybe we WERE unfashionable. I felt a terrific difference when I got to Goodison Park. We had team spirit at Turf Moor, but it’s encouraged every inch of the way at Goodison. They keep the players together as much as possible all the time...like giving us lunch together after training so we can really get to know each other.

As with Burnley, Dobbo still showed his goal-scoring flair at moments when it really matters. He had 12 out of 72 in the Burnley Championship season, popping up alone to clinch one point and sometimes two. In terms of hard statistics, this tough six-footer shot more than 40 goals for Burnley in a little over 130 matches, which is a fair percentage. Yet as Burnley fans still say: "There’s no way of measuring his value to the club as an inspiring leader who just didn’t flap." He says: "I’m honestly not the nervy type. I’ve learned not to rush things: to take things as they come, on the park and off it."

But he wouldn’t mind rushing ahead to the World Cup of 1978. He desperately wants that to happen. But with one reservation. "Some players love the limelight, love acting out the big star thing. But I like to get around the pressures we all feel sometimes by sliding home to my family. I'm just not one for the bright lights. Maybe I could be skipper on the park and let someone else make all the speeches." Sir Alf Ramsey introduced Dobbo to the international scene. Don Revie shares his predecessor's enthusiasm for the one-time give-away star. And yet it could have all been so different if Martin Dobson had been coached out of the game as a youngster.


Members of the Great Harwood Appreciation Society

Clarets Profiles - Part 1, http://www.geocities.com/Colosseum/Track/6698/profiles/dobson.html (now defunct)

Clarets Profiles - Part 2, http://www.geocities.com/Colosseum/Track/6698/profiles/dobson1.html (Now Defunct)

Clarets Profiles - Part 3, http://www.geocities.com/Colosseum/Track/6698/profiles/dobson3.html (Now Defunct)

Clarets Profiles - Part 4, http://www.geocities.com/Colosseum/Track/6698/profiles/dobson.html (Now Defunct)

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