Many people bemoan the fact that football today is without its characters and there is little doubt that one of football’s greatest characters is the late, great Robin Friday.
Born in Acton, London the troubled teenager spent years of his hampered youth with QPR and Chelsea which were sandwiched in between spells in prison.
Later drifting between odd jobs and lining out for non-league teams such as Hayes and Enfield before he was spotted by Reading boss Charlie Hurley in a FA Cup tie, who signed Friday on his first professional contract aged 22.
It didn't take long before Friday set the fourth division alight both on and off the pitch, scoring goals for fun which lead to him being voted Reading’s player of the season in consecutive years, he was most famous however for is off pitch antics which sometimes spilled onto the playing field.
Barred from every pub in Reading, turning up to training with a swan under his arm, kept a bottle of vodka in his sock, getting drunk before kick off, pill popping and smoking, an endless trail of female admirers and one curious incident involving Friday defecating into Mark Lawrenson’s training bag.
Reading tried to control his antics but he played as he trained. His performances on the pitch where simply unbelievable, his goals leading Reading to promotion to the Third Division in 1976, soon after First Division clubs began to sniff around, with Sheffield United and Arsenal scouting Friday several times but by this time his antics began to spin out of control and his drinking and recreational drug use had put serious pressure on his relationship with Reading manager Charlie Hurley resulting in a 1976 argument in which Friday said “ I'm half your age, but i've lived twice your life” soon after Friday was on the move to Second Division Cardiff City where he continued his goal scoring exploits for another season before he brought the end to a four year career at the age of 25.
Friday still continued his hell raising and hedonistic lifestyle spending years in and out of prison before finally his lifestyle caught up with him tragically passing away in 1990 at the age of 38.
Although many who have seen Friday play claim he could have been the greatest of his generation and see his story as one of wasted talent, I feel that someone like Friday is the shot in the arm that football needs, a proper swashbuckling rock star which we haven’t seen the like of since Vinnie Jones or Paul Gascoigne in the mid-90’s.
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