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David Johnstone

A lot has been written on Robin Friday, and still is despite him having passed away some 20 years ago at such a young age. He was voted Reading and Cardiff’s cult figure of the twentieth century, despite barely playing four seasons for these two clubs.

He had so much talent, but a difficult personality that was exceptionally hard to guide – he was a free spirit. Many have said that if he were ‘normal’, he’d have surely gone on to play for England – a popular quote was ‘Better than Best’ in reference to that other enigma, George Best.

Friday’s most famous sporting moment was probably the ‘wonder’ goal in the 5-0 demolition of Tranmere on the last day of March, 1976. 

We had been up with the pace-makers for the entire season, but Lincoln and Northampton were pulling away at the top. We had Tranmere alongside us, and Huddersfield were sneaking up too – but only two of this three could get promotion, as it was a straight four up then, with no play-offs. 

Each person in the crowd – I was so fortunate to be there – has their own interpretation on his effort. 

But from my perspective, I’d mention that Robin Friday received the ball at chest height (halfway between penalty area and halfway line), brought the power of the ball under control with his chest then swerved/swivelled around (like a ballet dancer!). Then, without the ball yet having touched the ground, he let such a thundershot into the net that Tranmere’s goalie stood without having moved an inch. 

The world cup referee, Clive Thomas, claimed it was the best goal he had ever seen, and even the Tranmere players – fierce promotion rivals that year – were clapping him. It was that good! 

In fact, when Clive Thomas asked him after the game how he could have scored a goal like that, Friday replied, tongue-in-cheek, something like “You should come here more often, I do that every week!”.

If ever a talent lay wasted and failed to come to fruition, it was Robin Friday.

Some rare footage of Robin Friday

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