Bob Wilson (footballer, born 1941)

Bob Wilson OBE
Bob Wilson in Hatfield, Herts. Feb 2009
Personal information
Full name Robert Primrose Wilson
Date of birth (1941-10-30) 30 October 1941
Place of birth Chesterfield, England
Height 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Playing position Goalkeeper
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1961–1963 Wolverhampton Wanderers[1] 0 (0)
1963–1974 Arsenal 234 (0)
National team
1971 Scotland 2 (0)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Robert Primrose Wilson, OBE (born 30 October 1941) is a former Scotland international football goalkeeper and later broadcaster.[2]

As a player, Wilson is most noted for his 11-year playing career at Arsenal where he made over 300 appearances. Wilson as well featured as a youth and senior international for Scotland. After retiring as a player, he turned to coaching and broadcasting, presenting football programmes on television for 28 years until 2002. Wilson has also gone on to create a charity organization known as the Willow Foundation.[2]

Early life and education

Wilson was born on Ashgate Road, in Chesterfield, where his father was the Borough Engineer and his mother was a magistrate. He was the youngest child of six and had much older brothers and an elder sister. Two of his brothers were killed in the Second World War, one as a Spitfire pilot and the other as a rear-gunner in a Lancaster.[3][4]

He attended Old Hall Primary School which is now known as the Old Hall Junior School on Old Road, then Tapton House Grammar School, where he first met his future wife, Margaret Miles, whom he nicknamed "Megs". At the age of 13 he transferred to Chesterfield Grammar School which his four elder brothers also attended. He captained the Derbyshire Juniors Cricket Team. He went to Loughborough College of Education where he studied History and Physical Education on a teacher training course.

Club career

Wilson started late as a professional player, as his father would not let him sign papers with Manchester United as he thought it wasn't a reasonable job whilst he was a youth. Wilson then went on to Loughborough College for training as a teacher. He had been playing reserve games for Wolverhampton Wanderers as an amateur between 1961 and 1963 and was the first amateur to have a transfer fee paid (£7,500).[1] He remained an amateur for eight months when he signed for Arsenal in July 1963 until he signed professional forms in March 1964.[5]

Wilson made his debut against Nottingham Forest on 26 October 1963 in a 4–2 win. However, being forced to play understudy to Jim Furnell, it was to be over four years until Wilson became first-choice keeper in 1968, after Furnell made a mistake in an FA Cup tie against Birmingham City in March 1968. Wilson took over and remained in goal for Arsenal for the remainder of the 1967–68 season.[6]

Later, firmly ensconced in the Arsenal side, Wilson was an ever-present in the 1968–69 season, which included Arsenal's loss to Swindon Town in the 1969 League Cup Final. Despite sustaining a broken arm the following season, 1969–70, Wilson recovered and won his first trophy with Arsenal, the 1969–70 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. In 1971, he was Arsenal's player of the year in their famous Double-winning season, in which he played every single first-team match in League and Cup, culminating in the 1971 FA Cup Final win over Liverpool.

Wilson continued to play as Arsenal's keeper through the early 1970s, although an injury late on in the 1972 FA Cup semi-final against Stoke City meant he missed Arsenal's 1972 FA Cup Final loss to Leeds United and much of the 1972–73 season. Understudy Geoff Barnett took his place, but Wilson regained the number one shirt once fully recovered, and was Arsenal's first-choice goalkeeper up until his surprisingly early retirement from playing in May 1974, at the age of 32.

As a student and teacher of goalkeeping, Wilson has identified his own signature technique as diving at his opponents' feet to save goals. This caused him a number of injuries throughout his career.

International career

He became eligible to play for Scotland when the rules were changed in 1970 to allow players to play for their parents' countries of origin, if they had not already played for their own country. Wilson was selected by Scotland manager Tommy Docherty for his first match in charge, against Portugal on 13 October 1971.[7] Wilson was also selected for the match against the Netherlands on 1 December 1971, but Bobby Clark of Aberdeen was preferred after this.

Coaching career

After retiring, Wilson was goalkeeping coach for Arsenal for 28 years during the period Pat Jennings, John Lukic, and David Seaman were goalkeepers. He retired at the end of the 2002–03 season, having helped Arsenal win two more doubles in 1997–98 and 2001–02, as only one of two people to have been involved with all three, with the other being Pat Rice.[2]

Broadcasting career

Wilson had already appeared as a pundit for the BBC during the 1970 World Cup. He became a television presenter after retiring from football, working for the BBC from 1974 to 1994 as host of Football Focus. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, he also presented Grandstand on a fairly regular basis, Match of the Day alongside Jimmy Hill, and also worked extensively on the BBC's World Cup coverage for many years. During Des Lynam's time as main BBC anchorman, Wilson often covered large chunks of the World Cup while Lynam was concentrating on the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. Wilson also read the sports bulletins on Breakfast News during the early-mid 1990s, and also occasionally presented Sportsnight.

In the autumn of 1994, he moved to ITV, where he presented the station's UEFA Champions League, League Cup and FA Cup coverage. In addition, he presented Carlton Television's midweek highlights programme Carlton Sport and read the sports bulletins on GMTV. He also fronted ITV's coverage of Euro 96 and the 1998 World Cup, including England's loss to Argentina on penalties in the last 16 stage, which was watched by more than 23 million viewers. Following the arrival of Des Lynam at ITV in 1999, Wilson's role was diminished and he was mostly seen presenting late night highlights programmes as well as work on On Digital's sports channels and he remained with them as it evolved into the ill-fated ITV Sport Channel by presenting the service's coverage of Premier League matches. By the early 2000s, Gabby Logan had assumed some of Wilson's work, especially on the main ITV channel, and Wilson had a much smaller role with the station at the 2002 World Cup, which was to be his last work for ITV, although he remained on GMTV until its demise in September 2010.

Apart from his stints on GMTV, he still makes occasional appearances on television, on the BBC's Football Focus and Match of the Day 2, as well as occasional work on documentary programmes for Sky Sports. Half Man Half Biscuit made reference to Bob Wilson as a broadcaster in the song "Bob Wilson, Anchorman".

Roy of the Rovers

In the mid-1980s he was also immortalised in comic strip form when he spent a season playing for the fictional Melchester Rovers team in the "Roy of the Rovers" strip, in a team containing another former professional player turned TV presenter, Emlyn Hughes, and Spandau Ballet members Martin Kemp and Steve Norman. The quartet helped lead Rovers to League Cup glory and a record-breaking successive number of clean sheets – a somewhat unrealistic achievement considering Wilson's age and the fact he hadn't played for more than 10 years.[8]

Personal life

Wilson married Megs on 25 July 1964 at Holy Trinity church, and they had three children: John (born 1965), Anna (1966–1998) and Robert (born 1968). His son John Wilson is a presenter on Front Row, the BBC Radio 4 arts programme. Robert Wilson is a commercial photographer.

It was announced in April 2014 that Wilson was fighting prostate cancer.[9] His unusual middle name, Primrose, stems from a Scottish tradition of giving children their mother's maiden name as a middle name.[10]

Charity work

In February 1994, his daughter Anna was diagnosed with malignant schwannoma, a cancer of the nerve sheath. After a long fight, she died on 1 December 1998, six days before her 32nd birthday.[11] The "Willow Foundation" was set up in her memory in 1999 and operated locally, mainly in Hertfordshire. Wilson relaunched the charity on 4 October 2005 with a national remit. The organisation was established in Anna's memory and now helps some of the estimated 12,500 people in the UK, aged 16–40, who are diagnosed every year with a life-threatening illness.[12] In 2007, Wilson was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his charity work.[13]

Wilson suffered a further tragedy in August 2010 when Anna's widower, Mitchell Carey, died suddenly at the age of 44.[14] An inquest later revealed that Carey, who had since remarried and had two children, died as a result of food poisoning – his death had originally been believed to have been the result of stepping on a sea urchin while on holiday in Greece shortly before his death in Stevenage.[15]

Career statistics


Club Season League FA Cup League Cup Europe1 Total [16]
Apps Goals Cl.S. Apps Goals Cl.S. Apps Goals Cl.S. Apps Goals Cl.S. Apps Goals Cl.S.
1963–64 500000000100600
1964–65 000000000000000
1965–66 400000000000400
1966–67 000000000000000
1967–68 13011000000001401
1968–69 4202040370200053025
1969–70 280820020190641015
1970–71 4202590450480464037
1971–72 3701770430260353026
1972–73 22076010000002808
1973–74 4101230110000045013
Career total 234090320131809240133080125
1Including the Fairs Cup and European Cup.

Cl.S. – Clean sheets.





  • Arsenal Player of the Year: 1971[6]


  1. 1 2 "Bob Wilson OBE And His Molineux Years".
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Foundation Ambassador - Bob Wilson".
  3. "Casualty Details: Wilson, John Primrose". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  4. "Casualty Details: Wilson, William Primrose". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  5. "Bob Wilson".
  6. 1 2 "Greatest 50 Players - 39. Bob Wilson".
  7. "NOW YOU KNOW: Legend Eusebio played at Hampden in Scots win". Evening Times. Herald & Times Group. 23 January 2014. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
  8. "Quirky Facts".
  9. "Ex-Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson to get cancer treatment". The Guardian. London. 13 April 2014.
  10. Turner, Georgina; Smyth, Rob (2 June 2004). "How many smoking managers are there?". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
  11. "Sports presenter's daughter dies". BBC News. 2 December 1998. Retrieved 1 January 2010.
  12. "Popular Broadcaster Bob Wilson Launches National Charity in Memory of His Daughter" (PDF). Willow Foundation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 September 2007.
  13. "New Year Honours for sports stars". BBC News. 29 December 2007. Retrieved 1 January 2010.
  14. "Bob Wilson's son-in-law dies after being poisoned by sea urchin in freak tragedy". Daily Mail. London. 30 August 2010.
  15. Foskett, Ewan (4 February 2011). "Famous footballer's son-in-law dies after eating corned beef sandwich – News – The Comet". Retrieved 18 April 2011.
  • Harris, Jeff (1995). Hogg, Tony, ed. Arsenal Who's Who. Independent UK Sports. ISBN 1-899429-03-4. 
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