Tommy Robson On The Wing
In the summer of 2019, following the devastating news that Posh Legend, Tommy Robson had been diagnosed with MND (Motor Neurone Disease), myself and fellow Posh fan Ray Cole, approached Tommy to ask him if he would be interested in writing a book, in which he could tell the many stories and anecdotes, for which he was well-known. Whenever Tommy was in front of an audience, he had a never-ending supply of hilarious tales of the things he and his team-mates got up to during his time at Posh and at the other clubs he played for, during his illustrious career. We also wanted to tell Tommy’s life story from childhood, through his football career and his life after he hung up his boots.
We decided that proceeds from the book would be used to help Tommy, with specialist equipment that he would need to make his life easier, as this horrible illness progressed and made Tommy’s day-to-day life more difficult and frustrating for him.
Tommy was enthusiastic about the project from day one. It was something he had wanted to do for several years. So, in October 2019, it was decided that we would all get together once a week, to work on the book. The method for putting the book together, was to just sit and chat, recording everything on the voice recorders on our phones. From there we would produce the transcript. As everyone who knew Tommy will tell you, he loved to talk to people and although the intention was to do sessions of just a couple of hours at a time, on the first night, we arrived at 7pm and it was approaching midnight when we finally managed to stop Tommy talking! From then on we agreed, with Tommy’s wife Helen, that we must try our hardest to keep the sessions shorter, so as not to tire Tommy too much. But it is safe to say, Tommy loved working on the book just as much as we did.
The method of recording our conversations means that whenever Tommy is directly quoted in the book, they are his exact words. Therefore, hopefully Tommy’s stories come across to readers of the book as funny as they were to us when told first-hand. Some of the anecdotes, Tommy told regularly at functions and events, but one never tired of hearing them. When we were working on the book, Tommy would say, “Stop me if I’ve told you this before”, but we never did, because we loved hearing them again, as Tommy was such a natural storyteller. We were also fortunate enough to be able to look at and use some of the photos from Tommy’s personal photo albums for the book.
After about five months of our weekly get- togethers, we thought we might have enough material and by coincidence our meetings would have been stopped a week or so later anyway, by the first lockdown. We had also been working on a fundraising evening, which was to be a reunion night of Tommy and his championship-winning team-mates from the 1973/74 season, but Covid also put paid to that night as well. We rang Tommy regularly during lockdown, to check he was ok and clarify a few facts as we progressed with writing the book.
When we came out of that first lockdown, we managed to see Tommy again and share with him the first draft of Tommy Robson On The Wing. He absolutely loved it and was enthusiastically making plans of who we needed to contact to advertise and market the book. It was also at around this time that, The Posh Supporters Trust, (who both myself and Ray are part of and who also kindly agreed to give the book their backing, by helping with the funding to get the book published), nominated Tommy for the ‘Freedom of the City’ the highest honour that can be awarded to citizens of Peterborough. Tommy was delighted with this accolade, but again Covid restrictions meant the award ceremony would have to be deferred until later. However, Tommy was able to join a Zoom meeting where the honour was conferred by the city council. The presenting of the honour in person would be scheduled as soon as COVID rules allowed. Work on getting the book published was progressing well, when we received the heart-breaking news, on 8th October 2020, that Tommy had passed away.
We all knew Tommy’s illness would take him from us, but it was not expected to be so soon. On a personal note, I still have the recordings on my phone, but I can still not bring myself to listen to them, as although it was only in the last year or so of his life that I got to know Tommy really well, I miss him greatly and feel a great sadness whenever I think of him, but at the same time I am happy that I did know him, simply because he was one of the nicest people to could ever wish meet, as everyone who also knew him will tell you.
Following the sad passing of Tommy, it quickly emerged that a such a ‘legend’, deserved a lasting memorial, in the form of a life-size bronze statue, to stand alongside that of his great friend Chris Turner, at London Road or the new stadium. So, with the support of the Trust it was decided to go ahead with publishing the book and donate all the proceeds to the Tommy Robson Statue Fund and the MND Association.
Thanks to Peterborough United Football Club, who agreed to stock and sell the book for us, for free. It is available to purchase at £9.99, from the Posh Club Shop or online at www.theposhonlinestore.com. It is also available on eBay or you can email to order a copy.
WORDS: DENE BUTLER