Torquay United AFC would today like to wish a true Plainmoor legend a Happy Birthday, as Robin Stubbs turns 80.
In an exclusive interview with Official TUFC TV, we take the opportunity to catch up with Robin, along with his son Ben, as he reflects on his time with the Club.
The Prince of Plainmoor
In two separate spells in Torquay’s colours, Stubbs scored an remarkable 133 goals in 263 appearances, to rightly earn him the title ‘The Prince of Plainmoor’.
What is perhaps even more surprising though, is that by the time he had arrived in South Devon to sign for Eric Webber’s side in 1963, the player had already made a name for himself as one of First Division Birmingham City’s most exciting prospects.
Having established himself as a promising youngster in a number of sports, including Athletics and Cricket, a particularly notable bowling performance at Warwickshire’s Edgbaston ground nearly paved the way for an alternative sporting career.
Thankfully for The Gulls, football was eventually selected as his sport of choice.
With Birmingham boss Gil Merrick apparently cautious of one of his young players to come back and haunt him, it wasn’t until Torquay United boss Webber made his move that he felt sufficiently comfortable to grant Robin his wish for first-team football away from St Andrews.
Although it can be argued that players of that era didn’t possess the level of influence that they do today, Stubbs looked upon the move to Devon with excitement.
Robin wasted little time making an impact on the field, as he relished the opportunity to play on a weekly basis. After netting in his second game for The Gulls – a 4-1 win at Hartlepools United – he went on to establish himself as one of the most feared strikers in the division, with his 24 league goals helping United finish in 6th position.
Unfortunately the following campaign was an ultimately disappointing one for the side – despite the forward’s 39 league and cup goals – with an 11th-placed finish eventually costing Webber his job.
It was January 1965 that produced one of the proudest moments in the club’s history though, as Torquay went toe-to-toe with one of the country’s finest sides of the 1960s – Tottenham Hotspur.
Stubbs, of course, would play a starring role in the historic cup-tie at Plainmoor, as well as the subsequent replay at White Hart Lane. As most Torquay fans will already know, an official attendance of 20,000 packed into Plainmoor to watch Bill Nicholson’s Tottenham side look set for a place in the FA Cup 4th Round, leading 3-1 with only minutes remaining.
That was though, discounting the actions of Robin, who bagged a brace in the dying stages to secure his side a replay at White Hart Lane. Had the game gone on any longer though, the likes of Jimmy Greaves, Alan Gilzean and Cyril Knowles may not have had their second opportunity to put things right.
Nicholson’s men, who just three years earlier had become the first 20th century side to achieve the league & cup ‘double’, may have won the replay 5-1, however Stubbs again looked right at home on the big stage, netting the goal of the game to temporarily draw Torquay level.
Although those exploits never generated a return to the higher echelons of the game for United’s star striker, success was to follow under the guidance of a new manager, Frank O’Farrell, a year later.
Aided by a number of new arrivals, O’Farrell’s side strode towards the top of the division, and as they headed towards their final fixture at Darlington, they knew one more victory would secure them a place in the third tier.
Once again it looked like Robin would provide the finishing touch, however this time a linesman’s flag put the party on hold, with his brilliant 25-yard volley ruled out. As it happened, results elsewhere the following week secured promotion for United, and Stubbs proving equally lethal in the higher division.
After battling it out at the top end of Division 3 for the next three seasons, there was sizeable disappointment amongst the club’s supporters, when at the end of the 1968/69 season, new boss Allan Brown accepted the advances of Westcountry rivals Bristol Rovers, paving the way for his Plainmoor departure.
32 goals in 93 league games represented good value for the Eastville side, however by early 1972, injuries were beginning to take their toll, and although no longer at the peak of his powers, the lure of a return to Plainmoor in proved too much for Robin to refuse, prior to his eventual retirement the following season.
Stubbs soon made it clear that a career in management wasn’t for him, although a spell in coaching did provide local youngsters with opportunity to benefit from the great man’s experience.
He remained a hugely popular figure with the Yellow Army – particularly amongst those who were privileged enough to see him play – and in January 2020 Torquay United AFC provided him with the ultimate recognition of his contribution, as he was appointed as an Honorary Life President of the club.
Happy 80th Birthday, Robin – The Prince Of Plainmoor!