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Loyal Royals raise a glass for Robin Friday
Robin Friday's legacy off the field is just as prevalent as that on it – so it comes as no surprise that Hollywood film companies are ready to give the green light to a £10million film.
Despite playing just 135 games for Reading and scoring 53 goals – Friday (pictured below) has become an iconic figure outside of Royals circles due to his partying lifestyle and a love of drink and drugs.
With the help of the Reading Evening Post, journalist and author Paolo Hewitt as well as ex-Oasis bassist Paul McGuigan penned their book The Greatest Footballer You Never Saw: The Robin Friday Story in 1997.
Friday’s legend grew off the back of the book and Hewitt confirmed to fans that work is ongoing on the script for the autobiographical film.
Around 100 lucky supporters were treated to the magical evening looking back at the striker’s life to raise a glass for Friday at the Town Hall, on, you’ve guessed it, Friday night.
Football historian and Reading fan Roger Titford spoke of his memories of hell-raiser Friday who died from a heart attack in 1990 aged just 38-years-old.
“Because I am the age I am I have been able to follow this legend emerge quite closely,” explained Titford.
“How Robin has gone to quite short obituaries in the local paper and club programme – with no minute’s silence as I can recall at Elm Park – to an iconic figure, recognisable to fans all over the country born years after playing is what interests me.
“He may be gone, but he has never wholly been forgotten.”
At 21, the former amateur player and asphalter fell on to an iron spike in a freak accident.
“Perhaps he treated life after that as a bonus,” quizzed Titford.
“Perhaps he was playing well for Reading and he was already in heaven? I know I would have been.”
Team-mates Tommy Youlden and Gordon Cumming were also present to give first hand evidence of the player who was voted the club’s ‘Player of the Millennium’ in 1999 and scored a legendary volley against Tranmere on March 1976, which even World Cup referee Clive Thomas turned and clapped at.
“He had this carefree attitude of whatever and it was like that ever since his first night. You couldn't coach him,” recalled midfielder Cumming who played 332 times for the club.
“He didn't train much, but he was as strong as an ox. Sometimes you wondered how he could go out and do 90 minutes on the weekend after what he did from Monday to Friday.”
Friday helped Reading secure promotion for the first time in 50-years when they finished third in Division 4 in 1975/76 - but it all began to slip away following that season.
“He had a lifestyle significantly worse than George Best’s,” added centre-back Youlden.
“His lifestyle was outrageous to say the least. “
Shirt out, hair uncombed, no shin pads, asthmatic Friday was a far cry from the modern-day footballer – but he had the rock-star good looks, charisma and talent on the pitch that endeared him to so many.
Former manager Maurice Evans once said of him: “Robin was the best player I was ever involved with. He had an unbelievable talent and was a tremendous player. He was difficult to handle and did his own thing on and off the pitch.
“The crowd loved him and so did I. I remember pulling him to the side one day and telling him if he just settled down one day you could play for England.”
To which Friday replied: “Yeah, but I’m half your age and lived twice your life.”
n RAISE a Glass for Friday was arranged to coincide with Reading Museum’s free exhibition Bikes, Balls & Biscuitmen – Our Sporting Life, which is running from now until October 28.
By Jonny Fordham, Reading Post
30 May 2012
04 April 2019