FLASHBACK: Super Bob

With all the current transfer talk surrounding Bradley Dack, it got me thinking.

Racking my brains for names of previous stars who’ve enjoyed success at Gills before going on to ‘bigger and better‘ things, with varying degrees of success.

Frederick Samuel Fox reportedly played for England shortly after leaving Gillingham in the 1920’s.

Steve Bruce, Tony Cascarino and  Gavin Peacock were notable success stories in the 1980’s.

Nicky Forster, Ade Akinbiyi, Jim Corbett, Nicky Southall, Marlon King, Nyron Nosworthy, Jason Brown, Simeon Jackson, Matt Jarvis and Paolo Gazzaniga all enjoyed their own purple patch at the Gills in the 1990’s and 2000’s.

But one name that I couldn’t get away from was that of a centre forward who was at times literally unplayable during a glorious year or so in Kent.

His song will forever be synonymous at the club, starting slowly and quietly before building to a crescendo of, what for me is, affection, admiration and plenty of memories.

Super, super Bob….

Super, super Bob….

SUPER, SUPER BOB, SUPER BOBBY TAYLOR!

Even now, as I write the words to this famous chant, I find myself humming it perhaps ever so slightly too loudly.

As hard as it may be to believe now though, his career at the Priestfield  – having arrived for half a million pounds in the summer of 1998 – got off to a pretty inauspicious start.

His first goal in the blue and black stripes came in his eighth appearance, by which time he’d already been labelled an overweight waste of money by some in the old Rainham End terrace.

A double at home to Wycombe in a 3-0 win helped to appease some, but it wasn’t until a cold November afternoon late in 1998 that he, somewhat instantly, became a fans favourite.

One season on from a fiery encounter with Fulham, in which an away fan was  tragically killed outside the Priestfield after full time, the West Londoners were in town again.

The feeling between the two sides, despite both managers’ best attempts in the lead up to the game, was obviously not great, and for 90 minutes it looked like the match would end 0-0.

In truth that would probably have been the best result considering the ill feeling, but Taylor was having none of it.

As the clock ticked over into injury time, substitute John Hodge escaped down the right, and as the ground held its collective breath, Taylor leapt highest through the hazy winter darkness to plant a thumping header into the roof of the net and claim the points.

The old Rainham End, in which I was housed, was shook to its very core in the ensuing pandemonium.

Super Bob had been created.

He netted three in his next three games to give him seven goals as 1998 turned into 1999, but from the New Year until his departure in November he simply went goal crazy.

Obviously he became known to the wider footballing public on Saturday 27th February 1999, an afternoon now firmly etched into Gillingham folklore.

Quite simply an ‘I was there‘ day if ever there was one.

In 48 astonishing minutes, he tore apart Burnley with a frightening display of finishing, hitting all five goals in a 5-0 thumping.

Such was the level of his performance, by the time he came off in the 81st minute even the Burnley fans – those left in the stadium at least – stood to applaud a striking master class.

I was only 16 at the time, and having not been able to see it live, I went for the next best thing at the time.

To this day I can still remember getting up early on the Sunday, rushing to the newsagent and purchasing every single newspaper and sports supplement I could get my hands on.

To this day they are still neatly kept in a folder with plenty more Gills related paper cuttings and memorabilia.

Taylor ended that season with 21 goals to his name, and his last of the campaign at the time seemed destined to send us to the promised land of the Championship.

We all sadly know what happened after his strike, but I’ll leave it as that as to not spoil this wonderful Robert Taylor love in.

The summer of 1999 had seen Peter Taylor replace Tony Pulis in charge of the Gills, and Peter certainly got his namesake scaling new heights.

The only downside to his scoring exploits was that there was obviously interest from bigger clubs, notably  Manchester City.

And this was before the days of the transfer window, so there was no escape even as September arrived.

In truth, he started the 1999-00 campaign almost as slowly as the previous, failing to find the target in his first four matches.

After this though, he simply couldn’t stop scoring, hitting such a vein of form that in the end him moving on was inevitable.

He netted four in four as August turned into September, and then a ferocious free kick at home to historical rivals Millwall was part of a run of five in three games in early autumn.

This set piece was just a hint of what was to come against Wrexham, as Bob hit a terrific treble in a 5-1 win, including a sumptuous curling free kick in front of the newly built Rainham End stand.

At the time I remember myself and some friends that I went to games with discussing the fact of how we would struggle to see a better free kick taker or a better hat-trick live.

Taylor emphatically answered those questions in the very next home game.

And this was no ordinary home game.

It was the first return to Kent of former gaffer Tony Pulis since his departure.

But then Robert Taylor – at Gillingham at least – was no ordinary player.

And quite simply, his display versus Bristol City was extraordinary.

Having been carrying a knock, he only entered the fray at half time, and with the game poised at 0-0 after an hour, he decided to take centre stage yet again.

His first strike was a thumping volley into the roof of the net from around 8 yards, but from there things just got ridiculous.

Just three minutes later he bent a beauty into the top corner from 20 yards to double the advantage, but being Super Bob he saved the best to last.

With the game in its dying embers, the Gills were awarded a free kick about 20 yards out, just right of centre.

Perfectly set up for a left footed strike.

Or so you would think.

Having had the ball rolled to him, Taylor bent it right footed over the wall from in to out, with sufficient top spin to allow it to nestle in the far top corner.

I told you, ridiculous.

But if you still don’t believe me go to 5 minutes 36 on the video attached.

Of course, hat-tricks in successive home fixtures was hardly keeping the vultures at bay, but such was the fun us fans were having watching we didn’t really care.

There was a real sense of ‘let’s enjoy it while it lasts‘, and boy we did that.

The Sky Sports cameras arrived  in town in mid November for the visit of Bournemouth, and Bob wasn’t about to pass up on a chance to impress on national telly, especially as the club were now fending off bids from all directions.

Two more poachers’ finishes added a little more to his value, and it was now clear that his departure was a matter of when rather than if.

His final goal for Gillingham Football Club came on Tuesday 23rd November at Scunthorpe in a 4-1 victory.

It was the culmination of a wonderful yet all too brief Gillingham career that lasted only around 15 months.

But he certainly left an indelible mark on all those with an affinity with the club.

Left foot, right foot, headers, penalties and free kicks, Taylor simply had the lot.

I have not since seen a player strike the ball with such pace coupled with such unerring accuracy.

Taylor never reached the same levels after leaving Gillingham.

He is simply the best centre forward I have seen pull on a Gills shirt in twenty odd years of watching them.

His career after departing never scaled the same heights, but 18 goals in just 19 Gills games in 1999 – and 39 Gills goals overall – marks him down as one of the modern day greats.

He may not have been on the hallowed Wembley turf in May 2000 when – one year on from gut wrenching heartbreak – the Gills secured promotion to the second tier for the first time ever.

He had, however, already played a very pivotal role.

‘Super, super Bob….

Super, super Bob….

SUPER, SUPER BOB, SUPER BOBBY TAYLOR!’

UP THE GILLS!!

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