Robin Friday always made an impression no matter how briefly you saw him. Voted in Reading’s team of the millennium despite only being at the club for four years and voted as Cardiff City’s greatest all-time cult hero (above John Toshack & Robert Earnshaw) even though he only played 25 games for the club, Friday was an extremely memorable character.
Friday started out in non-league football and it was during this time that he worked on a construction site and nearly died after falling from scaffolding and being impaled on a metal spike, missing vital organs by inches, an accident that is in part blamed for his subsequently wild lifestyle.
Friday was initially reluctant to play full-time as it was less money than he was earning at the time, but Reading nevertheless kept trying to sign him and eventually got their man in 1973. In 135 games he scored 55 goals and provided countless assists, and it could have been a lot more had it not been for Friday’s injury problems that were partly bought about by his reluctance to wear shin pads and the opposition often resorting to kicking lumps out of him.
Friday was also the scorer of what has been labelled “the best goal never seen” against Tranmere Rovers, stood on the left hand side of the box as the ball came across to him and, leaping high in the air, catching the ball on his chest with his back to goal, spinning through 180 degrees and crashing the ball in to the net without it touching the ground. The internationally experienced Clive Thomas was refereeing the match and his reaction was to hold his face in his hands before telling Friday that it was the best goal he’d ever seen. In typical fashion Friday said he should come down more often as “I do that every week”.
Friday was famed for him somewhat unhinged personality, Cardiff fans best remembering him for scoring a goal against Luton by rounding goalkeeper Milija Aleksic then flicking a ‘V’ at the stranded custodian in retaliation at the ‘keeper’s earlier attempted foul on him. He also locked horns with Mark Lawrenson when the once-moustachioed pundit was playing for Brighton, Friday becoming agitated by his comments and kicking him in the face to earn a red card. However, still not satisfied, he then went and defecated in Lawrenson’s kit bag to seal his reputation as the ultimate “bad boy” footballer.
Friday also scored two goals against Fulham with a defence marshalled by Bobby Moore, running rings around the World Cup winner and causing Moore to utter a four letter in Friday’s direction, an extremely rare outburst from the usually cool Moore.
Friday charmed his many fans and is today fondly remembered around Reading and Cardiff. If you ever want a good football book to read I strongly recommend The Greatest Footballer You Never Saw, a fascinating read with lots more stories and insights into the personality of one of the game’s best “forgotten” players.